The Downtown Eastside does not need social mix

City council members, business people and developers want to move richer people into the Downtown Eastside. They call this having a “social mix” or an “income mix.” They want more condos in the area. Some assume that people are poor because of their behavior. They think if poor people see more rich people, the behavior of the poor will change. They don’t know how hard it is to deal with deep poverty, homelessness, illness and addiction. Others assert that the DTES would be “healthier” if it had a “social mix” or an “income mix”.

Social mix policies are ok on new land where no one is displaced. But new research shows they are bad for low-income communities like the Downtown Eastside. Research shows that people in poor neighbourhoods are poor because they have low incomes. They aren’t poor because they are surrounded by other low-income people. Research shows that over the long term low-income people fare better when they can stay in their own neighbourhoods. If they are pushed into richer neighbourhoods they lose their friends, services and supports. Research also shows that richer people don’t automatically help the poor get better jobs and education. They often organize to push out the poor people and their services. And research is also showing that when the rich move into a poor neighbourhood there is very little genuine “social mixing.” What happens is more like clashing.