Domicide in the Liveable City: The Gentrification, Demoviction, and Redevelopment of Heron Gate in Ottawa, Canada

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Crosby, Andrew Alan




The aim of this dissertation is to investigate the social relations of rule and resistance surrounding gentrification, eviction, and the financialization of rental housing. Contributing to scholarship in critical urban sociology, this research troubles the notion of urban liveability by examining socio-spatial processes of home unmaking at a key site of revitalization and redevelopment in the City of Ottawa. Heron Gate is a large rental neighbourhood owned by one real estate investment firm. Around 800 people—predominantly lower-income, racialized households—have been evicted and displaced from the neighbourhood since 2016, leading to the emergence of the Herongate Tenant Coalition to fight the evictions and confront the landlord-developer. Two theoretical threads guide this research project: settler colonial property relations and domicide, the deliberate destruction of home. Within the context of the City of Ottawa aspiration to be North America's most liveable mid-sized city, this research interrogates how discourses of improvement are mobilized alongside practices of home unmaking in the development of settler colonial cities, as well as how domicide is resisted. This project engages from the standpoint of political activist ethnography, a methodological approach that aims to produce knowledge from an activist perspective and that is useful for social movement struggles. Through the Heron Gate case study and engagement with the Herongate Tenant Coalition, this research sheds light on the investment strategies of apartment investors—including demoviction and intensification—as well as tactics that they deploy to attempt to demobilize tenant opposition. The research further demonstrates the role of municipal governance actors in facilitating gentrification initiatives, and how gentrification is produced through discourses of improvement—such as liveability, revitalization, and community wellbeing—that work to unmake homes, communities, and homelands for some (marginalized, racialized, and Indigenous populations), and remake homes, communities, and homelands for others (affluent, white, settler populations), contributing to how we understand the evolution of racialized property relations in settler society. The significance of this research is that it informs a broader understanding of the financialization of rental housing, larger impacts on affordable housing, and the role that grassroots tenant movements can play in defending their buildings and neighbourhoods.


Social Structure and Development
Sociology - Theory and Methods




Carleton University

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