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Photo by Brian Hatherly.

Winnipeg neighbourhoods have become increasingly divided based on income and roughly a third of the city’s middle-class neighbourhoods have disappeared since 1980, an expert in urban planning and urban studies recently told a group of Riverview residents.

“And that is a tremendous blow,” said University of Winnipeg professor Jino Distasio following his talk. 

He gave a presentation at Riverview Community Centre this past Friday as part of a speaker series in the neighbourhood.

“For every neighbourhood where we’ve seen an increase in income between 1980 and now, we actually saw two neighbourhoods go down between 1980 and now,” said Distasio. “It’s really problematic from my view, really, with respect to the concentration of deepening poverty in our city.”

Statistics Canada numbers from the 2016 Census for the Winnipeg census metropolitan area show higher incomes concentrated in Winnipeg’s suburban neighbourhoods and surrounding municipalities while below-average incomes are found mainly in inner-city neighbourhoods and pockets of north and south Winnipeg.

2016 Census of Winnipeg population. (Source: Stats Canada)

Distasio said Winnipeg isn’t alone; the same thing is happening in other cities across the country.

“It’s neighbourhoods like Riverview where we see an actual concentration of wealth and we see less variation and it’s that concentration, again, that is not alarming but it’s just this sign that our Canadian cities are changing where neighbourhoods are of one type of income,” he said. “So if you’re in some of our inner-city neighbourhoods, you’re in a very broad area of low income. 

Point Douglas activist Sel Burrows said quality of life has improved in his neighbourhood but income inequality remains a concern and impacts quality of life.

“It’s massive,” said Burrows. “If people don’t have enough money to buy a car so they can get places – we’d love to have better transit of course – then they’re cut off from a huge amount of the community. They can’t go to the park."

“We know that we live in a society where more and more people have less income. The people at the bottom half of the income scale and asset scale, are not keeping up as well as they did in the past and those at the top are just rowing in their assets and their incomes are just increasing massively in our society.”

Burrows suggested creating more summer job opportunities for youth as one way to provide a pathway to better paying jobs.

Distasio, meantime, said there’s no easy way to create the perfect neighbourhood but he said addressing income inequality through education and existing community resources would help lift more families and individuals out of poverty while addressing the deepening income divide across neighbourhoods. 

“We want to see a more mixed area,” said Distasio. “We want to see communities that have a range of amenities, a range of options for people of all incomes but that they have a good quality of life.”