The Well-being of Low-income, Monolingual-Chinese Senior Residents: The Impact of Disinvestment and Gentrification in Vancouver’s Chinatown

Author/s: Sophie Fung

Creation date: 2016 

Senior supervisor: Karen Ferguson

Keywords: Commercial disinvestment; gentrification; Chinatown; well-being; Chinese seniors

Geographic focus: Chinatown, Vancouver; Vancouver, British Columbia; Canada

Research question/s: How has disinvestment and gentrification in Vancouver’s Chinatown neighbourhood impacted the well-being of its low-income, monolingual-Chinese senior residents?


As in other North American inner-city Chinatowns, Vancouver’s Chinatown has undergone more than a decade of disinvestment and is now experiencing rapid gentrification. Supporters of revitalization efforts in Vancouver’s Chinatown have praised the changes that have taken place since Chinatown was widely accepted to be a dying neighbourhood in the early 2000s. However, little is known about the impact of these changes on the socioeconomically disadvantaged Chinese residents who have lived through Chinatown's transformation. Given that urban changes affect people differently depending on their class and race, the experiences of vulnerable residents of Chinatown demand greater attention to ensure their well-being is not jeopardized


Using the City of Vancouver’s Healthy City Strategy as a framework for measuring well-being, Fung interviewed 12 non-English speaking, low-income seniors who live in Chinatown. She found that while some revitalization projects of the 1990s added value to these seniors’ lives, the addition over the last five years of trendy, high-end boutiques, cafes and restaurants has negatively affected their  quality of life. However, Chinatown continues to play an important role in the well-being of low-income, elderly Chinese-only speaking residents. Fung concluded that the neighbourhood’s existing social and physical infrastructure, along with its culturally and linguistically appropriate services and goods, requires protection from gentrification to ensure that these vulnerable residents can thrive in the community.