A Young Gentrifier’s Guide to the Mile End

Joe Bagel
Joe Bagel
Feb 16, 2018 · 9 min read

Welcome to the Mile End, baby! Home to artistic luminaries like Grimes, Mac Demarco, and Arcade Fire…until they decided Montreal was too cold and all moved to the US. But don’t despair: just because Mile End’s hipster royalty have graduated to greener (and less frostbitten) pastures, doesn’t mean you can’t namedrop them repeatedly whenever you meet someone from a different city. After all, you’re a Mild Ender now. What’s the point of paying inflated rent without being able to brag about your proximity to a scene you never actually participated in?

Now that we’ve established our hipster credentials, it’s time to give you — the new, or perhaps prospective Young Mile End Gentrifier — a guide to gentrifying your neighbourhood in the most practical way. Forget about reading rags like MTLBlog or Eater that only give you circumspect advice on how to bleed the soul out of your neighbourhood. With the Young Gentrifier’s Guide (Y.G.G.), you can accelerate your hood’s gentrification process so it reaches its Final Gentrification Form (aka condos and banks), thereby catching up with all the other cool, hip, and prohibitively expensive North American metros: New York, Vancouver, Toronto, Austin, Portland, Denver, San Francisco, Los Angeles, New Orleans, etcetera. Let’s get started.

Step 1: make the pitch.

So you wanna move to the Mile End. The neighbourhood with the highest density of musicians in Canada. Except there’s one problem: you’re not a musician. And you don’t know any musicians either… so how are you going to find a roommate? How are you going to find a place to stay??? Lucky for you — you don’t need a roommate to live in the Mile End. No, these days, you need something much simpler than a roommate: you need a trust fund. Ask any Mile Ender, they’ll tell you a trust fund is easy to find. The best trust funds come with at least a million dollars in assets, but you can probably survive with a few hundred thousand, for now. The best thing about having a trust fund in the Mile End is that you can stretch it really far. When your parents ask you suspiciously why you want to live around “all those damn French people” instead of getting an apartment in Bushwick or Trinity Bellwoods like a normal person with a trust fund, just tell them you are a wise investor. The numbers don’t lie: in the Mile End, you’ll pay a mere $2000/month for your trendy one-bedroom loft apartment — instead of $4000, like a sucker.

Step 2: save $2000 a month.

Congratulations, you just saved $2000 a month. That was easy! And all you had to do was move to the Mile End. (Haha. Who are we kidding. You are not going to save $2000 on rent by moving to the Mile End. You are going to spend those rent savings on cocaine and Uber Eats.) Which introduces the first problem that every Young Gentrifier faces when they move to the Mile End: how am I going to make up all the savings I just wasted on cocaine and Uber? Thankfully, there are plenty of ways to save $2000 a month in Montreal… as long as you aren’t working an actual job—like a sucker. No, the best way to save $2000 a month in Montreal is to let your money work for you. And the best way to work your money is by playing the real estate game. There are several real estate options available to the Young Gentrifier: the easiest, of course, is to just buy a condo. Condos are great because they give you all the perks of having an apartment, except you have to pay hundreds of thousands of dollars for them. If that seems like too much of a commitment, you can start by renting your apartment on Airbnb. Renting your apartment on Airbnb is great, because it gives you all the perks of having a condo, while also giving you the perks of having a roommate pay all your rent.

Step 3: deal with the haters.

The only problem with renting your apartment on Airbnb is that your neighbours and landlord might start to complain. Your neighbours will complain because your guests are drunk American tourists who keep saying “I love Montreal it’s so European. I love Montreal it’s so European.” Your landlord will complain because they realize they could make way more money Airbnbing the apartment to these drunk American tourists, instead of you. At this point, your landlord might even threaten eviction. Thankfully, Montreal gives tenants a bunch of protections against their landlords. Which is good news for you, but bad news for your landlord, whose new condo you rent on Airbnb.

Step 4: get an intern.

The bad thing about having a trust fund (and an Airbnb loft that pays your rent) is that now, you just have SO MUCH free time. You have so much free time, it’s crazy. How do you spend all this free time? By hiring an intern, of course. Interns are great: it’s like owning a slave, but without having to feed them. Interns are also much more educated than your typical slave… many even have university degrees! However, despite their degrees, interns still need life experience. And this is where you can help them. You can teach them all the valuable life skills you’ve learned so far, like finding a trust fund, while also teaching them to fetch coffee and answer your emails.

Step 5: manage expectations.

At this point, your intern might start causing trouble. They’ll start asking you for “payment”. You’ll tell them you can’t put a price on valuable life experience. Still, they might threaten to quit, which would suck, because then who would clean your Airbnb? The great thing about Montreal, though, is that if your intern quits… where would they work instead? Especially if your intern only speaks English. In which case their only job alternatives are, roughly: stocking shelves, washing dishes, answering phones at a call centre, or selling “coffee” at Café Cléopatra. Ask your intern: do you really want to sell “coffee” at Café Cléopatra?

Step 6: apply for a government grant.

Oh god. The intern called your bluff. I guess you’ll just have to pay them. But where will their paycheque come from? Surely not from your trust fund or Airbnb savings — as that would contradict Step 2. Thank heavens for the Government of Canada, which has always been a friend of people in need, who also have trust funds. Before applying for a government grant, though, you should probably obfuscate your job title. (If you don’t have a job title, just call yourself an “entrepreneur”.) Tell the government you run a cool organization like a tech startup, or a magazine, or an NGO that helps children in Haiti. Even if your NGO doesn’t help children in Haiti, the government won’t know the difference! Never feel bad about taking government handouts, either: it’s a Montreal trust-fundie rite of passage. Even young Leonard Cohen took a government grant — and his trust fund was enormous!

Step 7: brunch.

Now that you’ve secured a government grant and given a few shillings to your intern, you’re faced with a new problem: how to spend the remaining 85% of your grant? Do you invest in that condo? You should invest in that condo. Before you invest in that condo though, take time to celebrate your success so far. Get brunch at a cool, Instagrammable restaurant, like Larry’s, where you will spend $9 on a small bottle of beer and $3.50 for buttered toast, plus tip. Sure, this might seem like a “steep price” to pay for a small bottle of beer and mediocre toast, but you’re a Young Gentrifier now: paying more for less is your civic responsibility. Remember — you’re not really paying for the food, or the drinks. You are paying for the experience. And if an experience isn’t Instagrammable, well, then, was it really an experience at all? How else do you expect to improve the Mile End’s Instagrammability, unless you yourself join with other Young Gentrifiers in supporting the Mile End’s most Instagrammable businesses?

Step 8: call the cops.

Unfortunately, not everybody will share your taste. Some people (like that greedy intern of yours) might even want to hang out at places that AREN’T Larry’s. Dive bars, art cafés, or — worse! — an underground venue. Underground venues let you listen to live music, bring your own beer, and indulge in whatever Trotskyist hoopla people get up to when they haven’t been brought up to have good taste or manners (or a trust fund.) This sort of delinquency can no longer be tolerated. Not in your Mile End. Which is why you should avail yourself of the Young Mile End Gentrifier’s most cherished institution: the SPVM. Tell the SPVM whatever you want: that these places are too noisy, that they’re not paying their taxes, that they are improperly licensed, or that they are recruiting grounds for ISIS. If the police officer doubts your story, don’t worry. Just tell them that you have a trust fund. They’ll put your complaint to the top of the queue. What’s better: these bohemian “businesses” usually don’t have much cash — so they won’t be able to hire a lawyer to fight your complaints. They’ll be forced to pay a fine, close up shop, and get replaced with a more respectable business. Like a vape shop. A gym. Or one of those bougie furniture stores.

Step 9: go commercial.

Why didn’t you invest in that condo like I advised you to earlier? Now it’s too late: all the Young Gentrifiers reading this article have already bought condos, put them on Airbnb, and now the market is saturated! Real estate values are going through the roof! Mile End rents are skyrocketing! And here you are, reading this valuable advice, without actually acting on it. What a waste. You could have been rich. Now you’ll have to settle for commercial real estate. True, commercial real estate does have some advantages: for one, there’s lots of commercial real estate available now that you’ve bankrupted so many businesses with your incessant cop-calling. For two, you were going to have to invest in commercial real estate anyways, since you need an office to convince the government you actually run an NGO (that may or may not help children in Haiti.) The ultimate advantage of commercial real estate, though, is that unlike residential real estate — you don’t have to worry about rent control. Which means you can jack up your tenants’ rent whenever you feel like it. Just like what’s happening to Mile End cesspools like Boris, Cagibi, Laika, and Divan Orange. Who are finally getting priced out! That’s the cost of neighbourhood progress: after all, if we didn’t force them to close, where would we put all the bougie furniture stores?

Step 10: enjoy the spoils of victory.

You’ve evicted the Trotskyists, the bohemians, the vagabonds, and the beatniks. Even your intern had to move to Hochelaga… but hey… there’s a metro for a reason. Now the Mile End is a Young Gentrifier’s paradise: there are fifty-six banks, countless condos, and Larry’s got so popular it started a chain. The safety and quietude of the Mile End has been restored. More Americans tourists want to visit the Mile End than ever before — your Airbnb has never been so booked! You just hope that your landlord isn’t serious when he says he might sell the building to a new bitcoin startup.

Step 11: move to Moose Jaw.

Congratulations. You have gentrified your neighbourhood so thoroughly that even YOU can no longer afford it. Larry’s got bought-out by a bank, your coffee shop became a skyscraper, and your old apartment is— nope, not a bitcoin office! the bitcoins all crashed! — yet another bougie furniture store. I guess you’ll just have to move to Moose Jaw. Now the bad thing about moving to Moose Jaw is that it’s Moose Jaw. There isn’t anything to do in Moose Jaw. Also, everybody in Moose Jaw will hate you, because you’re from Quebec. However, there’s one silver lining to getting gentrified so spectacularly, you have to move to Saskatchewan. Now, whenever one of your Mile End buddies calls to complain about the weather, you’ll be able to say “wellllllll, if you think the weather’s bad therrrrrre, guess what it’s like in MOOOOOSE JAW!

Joe Bagel is a freelance writer and editor. He used to live in the Mile End, but now he’s busy gentrifying Saint-Henri instead. For more of his jokes, tweets, stand-up appearances, and updates on his Great Montreal Novel, follow him on Medium and Twitter.

Joe Bagel

Written by

Joe Bagel

Semi-literate writer.

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