Documentary: There Goes the Neighbourhood

Exploring the consequences of gentrification in Verdun

A traditionally working-class neighbourhood, Verdun has seen a recent surge in incoming upper-class residents due to the area’s gentrification.

High-end restaurants, new condos under construction, and suspicious rent increases mark the area. Notably, many tenants face renovictions—a process where they are forced out of their homes under the guise of their apartments requiring renovations. The landlord’s intent is to use the renovations as justification for significant rent increases.

In October 2020, Time Out magazine named Verdun the 11th coolest neighbourhood in the world—a title that raised alarms on the severity of the borough’s gentrification. The ranking exposed the pressing situation of long-time residents who find it difficult to keep their homes as rentals prices continue to grow.

Wellington St.—traditionally the poorest of the three sectors of Verdun—has seen pricier restaurants pop up over the past few decades, making it harder for lower income residents to afford dining out. Organic food, for example, has made an entry into the neighbourhood through restaurants and grocery stores. 

Storefronts on the street have also experienced a change in recent years. While places like Renaissance thrift store and Dollarama still exist, for sale and “à louer” signs line the many streets of the borough. New higher end businesses are sprouting all over the street. 

The physical changes of Wellington Street are mirrored in the housing situation of the borough. With new condos on the rise and duplexes and triplexes merging to form single unit homes, rental prices have skyrocketed over the last few decades. 

Long-term Verdun tenant Chantal Jacques is concerned that she’ll no longer be able to afford to stay in the borough she grew up in.

“I’ve looked recently just for the fun of it to see, like, if I have to move how much I’d be paying,” she told The Link, “I’m looking at potentially triple the amount for the size of my apartment.”

Jacques’ landlord, like many, has asked  her to vacate her apartment so she may make renovations to her unit; a move Jacques says will justify raising the rental price of the unit significantly. 

The transformation of Verdun’s housing and commercial facade has sped up exponentially in recent years. With the creation of Verdun beach, easy access to the city’s metro system and its proximity to downtown Montreal, the borough is an “it” place to be for the city’s wealthier residents. A neighbourhood once created by working class citizens is no longer affordable to its original residents.