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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Income polarization and the emergence of a low income SkyTrain corridor in Metro Vancouver, 1971-2006 Jones, Craig E.


Income inequality is on the increase internationally, in Western Anglophone nations, and in Canadian cities. In Metro Vancouver, broad processes of socio-spatial polarization in the region have led to the emergence of a low-income corridor that follows the SkyTrain Expo Line rapid transit alignment from East Vancouver to North Surrey. Within this low-income corridor there are processes of significant and varied neighbourhood change. The population of Metro Vancouver continues to expand, with this growth largely fueled by immigration. In order to accommodate population growth, increased residential density and transit-oriented development near SkyTrain stations has become a common public policy prescription. A mixed-methodology was pursued in order to conduct research at three geographical scales. At the scale of the Vancouver region, quantitative analysis is employed to discover associations between the demographics and the housing stock of neighbourhoods, and the average incomes of census tracts as well as changes in average incomes. At the sub-regional scale of the low-income corridor, semi-structured interviews were conducted with 14 key informants. Finally, at the local scale, two neighbourhoods were selected for further study. Four focus groups were conducted with a total of 26 residents of two neighbourhoods within the low-income corridor. The key findings of these methods are generally complementary. At the regional scale, the Vancouver CMA has seen an increase of income inequality. The socio-spatial polarization of neighbourhoods is a consequence of income inequality and these processes are strongly associated with visible minority status, immigration, and apartment unit dwellings. These three factors are central to understanding the emergence of, and dynamics in, the low-income corridor. Policies which encourage high-density development near SkyTrain stations in the low-income corridor have increased development pressure; particularly so for one district of affordable rental apartments which is largely occupied by recent immigrants of visible minority status. I urge scholars conducting research in urban income inequality to incorporate mixed methods and multi-scalar analysis into their research design. In doing so, our findings will be enriched, textured and challenged, and our projects made stronger.

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