Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership

In response to mounting evidence of increasing income and wealth inequalities in western nations pointing to the emergence of new and intense socio-economic, ethno-cultural, and spatial divisions in many cities, a large, pan-Canadian interdisciplinary group of researchers began to study the policies and programs used to improve human well-being in urban environments.

The Temporary Neighbourhoods of Homeless Youth in Shelters: Their perspectives on, and the implications of, social-spatial polarization (2013-2015)


Our partnership focuses on urban inequality and socio-spatial (i.e., neighbourhood) polarization in six Canadian metropolitan areas: Vancouver, Calgary, Winnipeg, Toronto (including Hamilton and Oshawa), Montréal, and Halifax. With our partners we are exploring:
  • (1) trends in urban and neighbourhood change since 1971;
  • (2) processes responsible for these changes;
  • (3) the consequences of change that lead to inequality and polarization;
  • (4) policy and program options that address inequality and thereby improve human well-being and urban environments. Socio-spatial inequality and polarization are pressing global issues, yet difficult to understand, because they exhibit distinct national, regional, and (especially) local forms.
We are particularly interested in understanding changes that result in cities that are sharply divided between wealthy and impoverished neighbourhoods.

Our artistic partner Project: Humanity explains their work
with the NCRP (Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership) project.
Filmed by: Allison Olivares and Sandra Gonzalez Edited by: Lin Rocha

Youth Perceptions of Violence, Safety, and Schooling in One Gentrifying Neighbourhood in Toronto (2016-2020)


In 2008, the Toronto District School Board (TDSB) launched its speciality high schools initiative that offered focused programs on subjects like dance, drama, science, sport, and the International Baccalaureate (IB) program. One of the key consequences of these specialty programs is that students are no longer limited to their local school and can apply to attend these specialized schools across the city. This has resulted in young people living in one area, choosing to attend school in another area, and perhaps taking on a part-time job in a third different area.

Students playing the value line game
Collage of news articles and images created by students in Toronto
Map of Toronto

Focus on safety

One such “specialized (IB)” and “optional attendance” public high school within the TDSB and it further carries the distinct designation of "Global School" was exposed to a series of violent incidents in 2015.

A mapping of these incidents revealed a paradox: gentrification results, in part, in better property values, increased income, reduced crime - all indicators of a “better” quality of life. This spate of violence completes the community revitalization plan.
Absent from the media coverage and reporting of these incidents were the voices of youth, creating an impetus for a second part to the NCRP project.

NCRP II examines the socio-spatial perspectives of youth with respect to violence, safety, and security and how it may affect their access to opportunities, resources within schools and beyond. We are specifically interested in examining the spatial movements of particular youth who “float” between neighbourhoods as they navigate important life functions. Such a study offers implications for civic belonging and engagement at both a neighbourhood and municipal level.

Research Questions

How do youth perceive questions of violence, safety, schooling and belonging in one gentrifying neighbourhood in Toronto?
  • How are youth experiencing the contradictions between processes of gentrification and being a 'global' school alongside signs of youth unsafety and school conflict?
  • How do youth understand and negotiate their student identity in a neighbourhood context of insecurity and lack of safety?
  • What understandings can be gleaned about the diverse neighbourhoods that young people navigate daily (home, school, work, extra-curricular) and their sense of civic belonging and engagement?

Research Team

Primary Investigator: Dr. Kathleen Gallagher, Distinguished Professor – OISE/University of Toronto

Consultant: Dr. Gillian Parekh, Assistant Professor – York University

Community Partners: Toronto District School Board and Regal Heights (Pseudonym) – a public high school in Toronto’s East end

This project is funded through a sub-grant from the Neighbourhood Change Research Partnership (NCRP) Grant through the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council of Canada