Earlier studies of Canadian inner-city gentrification, especially in Toronto, project an image of the process as being emancipatory: a middle-class reaction to the oppressive conformity of suburbia, modernist planning and market principles. This paper, a case study of gentrification in South Parkdale, Toronto, questions this image by illustrating the role of local context in theory and policy and the consequences of gentrification for vulnerable inner-city populations. Once a desirable residential neighbourhood, South Parkdale experienced disinvestment following the construction of the Gardiner Expressway in the 1960s and also experienced further problems in the 1970s and 1980s following the deinstitution-alisation of psychiatric patients from adjacent hospitals. Discharged patients suffered from a shortage of affordable housing options, and many ended up in substandard rooming houses and bachelorettes, of which South Parkdale has a disproportionate share in Toronto. The neighbourhood's sporadic gentrification since the mid-1980s has intensified in recent years, as the City of Toronto is regularising and licensing the neighbourhood's low-income housing â€” a major concern for tenants who fear that landlords will use recent provincial legislation on tenancy to attract wealthier residents into their improved buildings. This paper examines this situation with qualitative evidence and argues that gentrification in South Parkdale, driven and managed by neoliberal policy, is far from an emancipatory process and argues for an interpretation of gentrification that looks beyond the experiences of the middle classes.