Show Kerry Miller some stark new data that suggests his inner-city neighbourhood is getting poorer and he scoffs politely.

Hey there, time traveller!
This article was published 19/5/2015 (2437 days ago), so information in it may no longer be current.

Show Kerry Miller some stark new data that suggests his inner-city neighbourhood is getting poorer and he scoffs politely.

"It sure ain’t getting richer," shrugged Miller, who has lived in West Alexander for decades and is the program manager at nearby Rossbrook House, a neighbourhood mainstay.

Despite decades of anti-poverty programs, most of Winnipeg’s poorest neighbourhoods have become poorer in the last 30 years, according to new research done by the University of Winnipeg’s Institute of Urban Studies.

Meanwhile, Winnipeg’s small number of rich enclaves — Tuxedo, River Heights, Charleswood and others — have seen incomes rise further above the citywide average.

Incomes in Tuxedo are now 5.3 times higher than those of the poorest census tracts — West Alexander, Logan and Centennial.

"For every neighbourhood that saw incomes increase, two neighbourhoods declined," said Jino Distasio, director of the IUS.

The growing income gap is a no-brainer to Miller, but it’s the first time academics have crunched the data over time to track income inequality neighbourhood by neighbourhood. Called The Divided Prairie City, the new research, co-authored by Distasio and urban geographer Andrew Kaufman, is slated to be released Wednesday. It’s one of eight similar mapping projects in cities across Canada, and the first phase of a three-year project.

How neighbourhoods have fared compared to the rest of the city

Comparing a neighbourhood's average income with the average income of the whole city gives us an idea of its relative wealth. By comparing average neighbourhood incomes relative to the citywide average income in 1980 and 2010, the IUS study shows how many neighboorhoods got poorer compared to the rest of the city.

The map below shows the change in average incomes, relative to Winnipeg's average income, between 1980 and 2010. Zoom into your neighbourhood to see how it has fared compared to the rest of the city. If you can't see the map, click here.

Sources: Institute of Urban Studies, 1980 census data and 2010 taxfiler data. Original map data courtesy of Andrew Kaufman and Dr. Brian Lorch, Institute of Urban Studies.

Incomes in the area around Health Sciences Centre shrunk a further 20 per cent below the citywide average between 1980 and 2010. Miller says it’s not that existing residents are suddenly making less money; it’s that there has been a wholesale change in the area’s population. When Miller grew up, Centennial and West Alexander were home to working-class families, often of Ukrainian, German or Portuguese descent, who owned their modest homes. As those owners passed away and their children moved to the suburbs, the homes were bought as rentals, prompting a new cohort of people with lower, less stable incomes to move in.

"They’re certainly more transient," said Miller. "They’re moving in, staying for six months, doing the midnight move at the end of the month."

Kerry Miller talks about how he's seen his inner-city neighbourhood changing.

Miller says fewer than half the homes on his street are owner-occupied.

Other residents, including Ronald Porteous, stop short of saying Centennial, Logan and West Alexander are getting poorer, noting it’s hard to tell since several local social service agencies are hard at work.

"People know how to get by," said Porteous, a homecare nurse who lives on Ross Avenue. "Nobody’s going hungry around here."

Ronald Porteous says social agencies help make sure no one is going hungry.

Also surprising is the shrinking number of middle-class neighbourhoods in Winnipeg. One-quarter of middle-class neighbourhoods saw incomes decline to below-average amounts between 1980 and 2010. Quintessentially middle-income neighbourhoods such as Whyte Ridge, Silver Heights and Richmond West saw average incomes shrink.

"I’m a little bit surprised by that," said Linden Woods resident Chad Griffin, an account manager on paternal leave with his two children.

Linden Woods has seen more condo and apartment construction, especially along the periphery, which could have nudged average incomes down. But Griffin, out walking with 10-month-old Desiree Tuesday afternoon, had a theory similar to Miller’s — the slow transformation of the neighbourhood as original homeowners age and move on.

Chad Griffin sees how homes are being bought by a new generation of owners.

He says there are very few young families like his in Linden Woods, and many homes are owned by the original owners who bought new in the 1980s and did few major renovations. Now, homes are slowly turning over to a new generation of owners, some being sold for a reasonable price because they need work on windows, fences or dated kitchens. That could be allowing young families with lower incomes to buy into a desirable neighbourhood in the process of a second-generation transformation.

Winnipeg’s income gap isn’t as pronounced as it is in other cities, including Toronto. But Distasio says the data raise questions about the effectiveness of three decades of concerted intervention by all three levels of government to help rebuild poor neighbourhoods. Despite that, and the best efforts of a network of community groups, the marginalization of the poor is still dramatic and growing, said Distasio.

Winnipeg is still a doughnut city, with wealth trickling to the outer suburbs and outside the Perimeter Highway while poverty is concentrated downtown and in the North End.

In Toronto, Montreal, Calgary and Ottawa, the reverse is true. Well-off young professionals and affluent homeowners are concentrated in the core, while poor residents tend to be clustered in inner suburbs.

Despite Winnipeg’s recent debate over racism, Distasio and Kaufman found that neighbourhoods sorted themselves based on income, not race.

In other cities, such as Toronto, Montreal and Ottawa, more neighbourhoods could be sorted by race, including large neighbourhoods of South and East Asian immigrants. Winnipeg has far fewer of those, despite a decade of pro-immigration policies.

Interactive map by Inayat Singh. Map data courtesy of Andrew Kaufman and Dr. Brian Lorch, Institute of Urban Studies.