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How do I get in touch with them? Do they want to sell? But you know the same questions are being asked of everyone all around here. And not everyone is going to say no. As Nguyen spoke, runny-nosed toddlers fiddled with coloured blocks, while their parents, all recent immigrants, tried to focus on an English as a second language class. But the lively streetscape here masks a threat to what could very well be the last island of diversity in a city swamped by the flood waters of global capital. Residents claim that threats, intimidation, rampant eviction notices and strategic neglect have become common.
So too have tenant protests and rent strikes, where slick corporate offices find themselves occupied by hundreds of angry tenants demanding redress. Those protesting, however, are the lucky ones. In a city famous as a landing pad for immigrants, many recently-arrived residents, often without either English or an understanding of Canadian legal protections around tenancy, simply pack up and leave. The only reason these companies bought these properties is so they can turn over the units.
Parkdale has become one of those neighbourhoods, following a familiar script. Indeed, Akelius, the Swedish investment firm that now owns many thousands of apartment units throughout Europe, made that exact comparison about Parkdale in its most recent annual report.
Depending on the night, you could see a scuffle in the whiskey aisle, an arrest, or a fistfight or overdose in its parking lot; often, there would be a solicitation for a low-priced trick from one of the prostitutes who routinely patrolled its perimeter. Once, I was witness to a tooth being knocked out, one homeless man to another, over an allegedly stolen beer.
In one of the few good news stories to come out of Parkdale recently, the city is trying to acquire the site of the store, now closed, to build affordable housing. In a country like Canada , where we speak smugly of social safety nets and institutionalized humanity, here was a place that made it feel like that was all talk. In the late s, Parkdale could be chilling: group homes housed hundreds battling mental health and addiction issues; the less fortunate were left to the precarious realm of government rent subsidies and dilapidated, poorly-maintained rooming houses — or, just as often, the street.