Media Releases

Income gaps have widened in Greater Montréal, report finds

April 11, 2013

TORONTO, ON — Income dis­par­i­ties between Mon­tréal-area neigh­bour­hoods have increased in the past three decades, though not as dra­mat­i­cal­ly as in Toron­to and Van­cou­ver, a new report shows.

While most Greater Mon­tréal neigh­bour­hoods remain mid­dle-income, their share slipped from 64% to 55% between 1970 and 2005, the report finds. On the Island of Mon­tréal, the share of low-income neigh­bour­hoods grew from 22% to 37%. In the off-island sub­urbs, poor neigh­bour­hoods jumped from 3% to 19% of the total and the share of afflu­ent neigh­bour­hoods rose slight­ly (15% to 18%).

Researchers Damaris Rose and Amy Twigge-Mol­e­cey of INRS Uni­ver­si­ty tracked how well neigh­bour­hoods were doing in terms of their res­i­dents’ aver­age incomes com­pared to those of Greater Mon­tréal as a whole.

The peri­od they stud­ied saw dra­mat­ic changes affect­ing urban growth and the social sta­tus of many neigh­bour­hoods. When Canada’s finan­cial cen­tre shift­ed to Toron­to, it took with it many of Montréal’s most afflu­ent res­i­dents. Tra­di­tion­al man­u­fac­tur­ing indus­tries col­lapsed, but Mon­tréal rein­vent­ed itself as a knowl­edge- and cul­ture-based econ­o­my, which has fuelled gen­tri­fi­ca­tion of the inner city. With the rise of the fran­coph­o­ne mid­dle class, the out­er sub­urbs mush­roomed. With big changes to immi­gra­tion pol­i­cy, mid­dle-class areas became more diverse, but the pover­ty map of Mon­tréal also looks dif­fer­ent today as low-income new­com­ers clus­ter in post-war apart­ment dis­tricts.

Com­ment­ing on the find­ings, Rose says that it’s time to retire the clas­sic “dough­nut hole” metaphor used to describe the pat­tern­ing of wealth and pover­ty in Greater Mon­tréal. Gen­tri­fi­ca­tion has bro­ken up old pover­ty con­cen­tra­tions and cre­at­ed some new pock­ets of afflu­ence in the cen­tre. Sur­round­ing the urban core is a ring of post-war sub­urbs where pover­ty has become entrenched, with con­sol­i­da­tion of a large clus­ter of low­er-income neigh­bour­hoods in north-east and south-west Mon­tréal. Pover­ty has also grown in Longueuil and parts of Laval. Mean­while, zones of afflu­ence are expand­ing in in parts of Laval and the North Shore and in the east­ern part of the South Shore, while con­tract­ing on the West Island.

The report is the most recent pub­li­ca­tion of the Neigh­bour­hood Change Research Part­ner­ship (NCRP), a 7‑year study fund­ed by Social Sci­ences and Human­i­ties Research Coun­cil of Cana­da (SSHRC). It is based at Uni­ver­si­ty of Toron­to and also includes Van­cou­ver, Cal­gary, Win­nipeg, Toron­to, and Hal­i­fax. Pre­vi­ous NCRP reports show that Toron­to and Van­cou­ver have fared much worse than Mon­tréal since 1970 in terms of increas­ing income con­trasts between neigh­bour­hoods and shrink­age of mid­dle-income neigh­bour­hoods.

“Unlike these more polar­ized cities,” says Rose, “neigh­bour­hoods that are rel­a­tive­ly sta­ble, where a major­i­ty of res­i­dents have mid­dle incomes, are still found all over Greater Mon­tréal.” Rose attrib­ut­es Montréal’s rel­a­tive suc­cess to an array of fac­tors, includ­ing afford­able hous­ing, strong com­mu­ni­ty ser­vices and good pub­lic trans­porta­tion in most poor neigh­bour­hoods on the Island—not to men­tion that Canada’s top 1% are large­ly absent from Mon­tréal!”

She warns, how­ev­er, that Mon­tréal can’t afford to become com­pla­cent. “The expan­sion of con­tigu­ous zones of pover­ty and afflu­ence rais­es spa­tial-equi­ty chal­lenges with impli­ca­tions for hous­ing and trans­porta­tion pol­i­cy,” she says, adding that it’s cru­cial for the region’s new “tran­sit-ori­ent­ed devel­op­ment” (TOD) to ensure that afford­able rental hous­ing is built in the new high-den­si­ty tran­sit hubs planned for the out­er sub­urbs.

The NCRP team will soon be updat­ing their find­ings to 2010, for Mon­tréal and the oth­er five cities.

For more infor­ma­tion, vis­it:  Neigh­bour­hood Change Research Part­ner­ship


For more infor­ma­tion, con­tact:

Damaris Rose, Cen­tre Urban­i­sa­tion Cul­ture Société, Uni­ver­sité INRS. Damaris.Rose@UCS.INRS.Ca, 514 499‑4028

Emi­ly Par­adis, Project Man­ag­er, Neigh­bour­hood Change Research Part­ner­ship,, 416–946-0218