Addressing the roots of gentrification, one brick, one story, at a time

Groundstory / Histoire de Terrain is a collective impact initiative with a mandate to uncover and address the drivers and adverse ripple effects of gentrification on the arts, including growing income inequality, increasing geographic segmentation/polarization by income, loss of affordable housing and vital community spaces, and involuntary socio-spatial displacement of artists and other lower-income households and small businesses from the Greater Toronto-Hamilton Area, and other communities across Ontario.

For decades, artists have been commonly implicated in traditional debates around the facilitation of gentrification and displacement. However, recent research indicates that the “standard arts-led gentrification narrative is too generalized or simply no longer applicable to contemporary arts-gentrification processes.” (Grodach, Foster & Murdoch, 2016).

Groundstory will detail, and respond to, these evolving narratives.


Groundstory seeks to answer such complex questions as:

a) Mapping drivers and impacts of the arts in contemporary gentrification and displacement

What are the contributing factors to gentrification? What neighbourhoods are gentrifying? Who are the most impacted by gentrification (by culture, ethnicity, region, income, etc)? Where are displaced residents and businesses of gentrifying neighbourhoods moving to? What sacrifices are being made to stay where they are, either by choice or by lack of viable housing/spacing alternatives? Are municipal plans being activated in affected communities to respond to these displacements and migrations? Do the roles of individual creative industries, and even specific businesses and venues, change in different regions and neighbourhoods across Ontario, including film/media, visual, performing arts, etc? If so, what are the factors that are driving these differences? Are there positive changes to local, regional and provincial economies due to gentrification? Are there linkages and connections to gentrification trends in other regions nationally and globally?

b) Interventions and policies that can mitigate the growth of income inequality and arts/non-arts displacement in major urban centres

Pressure-testing the effectiveness of emerging and traditional responses to the ripple effects of contemporary gentrification, including: developing multilateral charitable, land value, foreign investor, and vacant property taxation policies; municipal zoning and economic, urban, and cultural planning strategies; national and municipal housing policies, development and maintenance of social housing and co-operatives; laneway suites; storefront theatres, DIY/makerspaces, pop-up studios, creative entrepreneur hubs; diversity and inclusion strategies; tenant’s unions; community land trusts; decent work and fair-pay policies; arts income averaging; low or universal income assistance; and others.

c) Means of connecting independent and silo-ed stakeholders toward a sustainable approach

How may diverse partners come together to implement a shared agenda and theory of change? To what degree can non-profits, business, government, artists, and arts organizations play a shared leadership role in addressing gentrification that cultivates greater connections, collaborations, shared strategies and resources? What strategies, knowledge, and resources already happening or available on the ground can be brought together to deepen impact for collective benefit? How may those most impacted by the ripple effects of gentrification be engaged in the initiative? What tools and methodologies are necessary to sustain a positive shared measurement / impact evaluation process?


With generous funding from Ontario Trillium Foundation, the first stage of Groundstory invites impacted residents and cross-sectoral leaders from the arts, business, non-profit, and government to come together to cultivate consensus and urgency to move forward with a multi-year collaboration. Spanning Winter 2018 to Spring 2019, major activities for stage one include:

  • Convene cross-sectoral stakeholders, and identify who else needs to be involved
  • Define the Leadership Committee and its role
  • Develop a common agenda
  • Establish a theory of change and shared measurement approach
  • Map the system/landscapeand build a strong case for change
  • Identify what data (and what gaps in data) exists
  • Community outreach and engagement to attract participation.


Groundstory is initiated by ArtsPond / Étang d’Arts. Founded as a grassroots entity in 2014 and incorporated as a non-profit in 2016, the mandate of ArtsPond/Étang d’Arts is to incite positive systemic change in Canada’s arts and culture sector through innovative collaborations on-the-ground and in-the-cloud.

Stay tuned for updates on Groundstory‘s cross-sectoral partners. Want to get in involved? Reach out to Project Manager Jessa Agilo at hello@groundstory.ca.