Mapping displacement through lived experiences

Countermapping transit-induced gentrification in Kitchener-Waterloo, Ontario

Brian Doucet, Faryal Diwan, William Turman, Neelu Mehta and Aleksandra Petrovic

Published in Issue 4.2 // The Long Read

Keywords: Displacement, gentrification, lived experiences, renoviction, counter-mapping, Waterloo Region


This article seeks to enhance our understanding of the role transit infrastructure plays in shaping patterns of gentrification and displacement by directly engaging with residents living along a new light rail transit (LRT) line who are affected by these processes. Displacement is difficult, if not impossible to statistically measure, yet much of the literature on transit-induced gentrification relies on quantitative analysis. Our approach is based on a collaboration between academic and non-academic partners that assembles, analyses and amplifies the experiences of marginalised residents in order to shift planning, policy and political conversations about the nature of change within our region. Through interviews with approximately fifty low-income residents living along a new LRT corridor in Waterloo Region, we analyse patterns, processes and experiences of displacement and the loss of already existing affordable housing. This information has been mapped to produce narratives that counter the dominant views which have celebrated an urban revival along the LRT corridor. Our research emphasises the need to incorporate lived experiences of displacement into central positions within the debates that make and shape cities.

Brian Doucet is the Canada Research Chair in Urban Change and Social Inclusion and Associate Professor in the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo, Ontario, Canada. His research uses a variety of qualitative methods to critically examine gentrification, displacement and long-term changes in cities.

Faryal Diwan worked during this research as a Social Planning Associate at the Social Development Centre Waterloo Region (SDCWR), Kitchener Ontario, Canada. She has conducted many of the interviews for this research and led the development of the Oral History project.

William Turman is a graduate of the Master of Arts in Planning at the School of Planning at the University of Waterloo. During this research, he worked closely with colleagues at SDCWR. His research interests are community engagement in urban spaces and communal housing, and social equity in affordable housing.

Neelu Mehta has a PhD in Geography from India, along with GIS courses from Ryerson (now Toronto Metropolitan University) and ESRI Certificates in GIS. She has been actively involved in her community for more than 18 years to support local schools and with the other community development projects. For this research, she prepared the Displacement map of Kitchener and Waterloo.

Aleksandra Petrovic s the Executive Director of the Social Development Centre Waterloo Region, Kitchener, Ontario. Her community based research work over two decades relies on qualitative, peer-based and theatre techniques in the areas of immigration, anti-poverty, women’s rights and housing.

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