Today, I will be back on the Headline London panel on London Live TV, debating whether gentrification is a good thing for London or an insidious form of social cleansing.
My overall take is that gentrification and the urban renewal it brings are a positive phenomenon, leading to the revitalisation of communities, the opening of new businesses and amenities, and increased economic growth for the neighbourhoods concerned. We do, though, have to consciously work to mitigate the negative side effects.
At present, we have a cycle that goes something like this:
1. Area is identified as relatively poor and un-redeveloped
2. Neighbourhood becomes attractive to creative types and young families
3. Hipsterisation and gentification begin
4. Improvements lead to rent and house price increases
5. Wealthier people arrive, displacing hipsters and original residents
6. Neighbourhood’s prosperity causes the cycle to begin again in adjoining areas
We need to do more to arrest the cycle at the point after young creative types and families move into an area and begin the process of gentrification, but before the inevitable rent/price hikes force all of the existing residents out. And you can’t do this without looking at the broader question of nationwide housing supply, where none of the main political parties have anything meaningful to say. For the Tories, it is not in their interests to allow a big increase in the housing stock, because the stagnation/fall in house prices would hurt their core voters. And Labour barely believe in home ownership at all, and only seem interested in building new social housing in furtherance of their goal to make us all clients of the state.
Achieving a balance means compromise and accepting that the pricing out of some long-term residents is the inevitable cost of urban redevelopment, but tempering this harsh truth with innovative solutions of keeping neighbourhoods viable for lower-income people. This means we have to be less squeamish about things like “poor doors” in new buildings, where some facilities are reserved for full price paying homebuyers.
Finally, we need to understand that short of buying your own property, no one has the inherent “right” to live in a certain area, especially if taxpayers end up subsidising them to do so. We already have a progressive tax system in London where wealthier citizens contribute more. Yes, it is in everyone’s interest that neighbourhoods are mixed, but Londoners can only be expected to pay so much to ensure that this happens.
I will be on London Live TV’s Headline London show today, from 1230-1330 UK Time, participating in a panel discussion in which we will debate this topic.
You can watch on Sky 117, Virgin 159 or Freeview 8 from 1230 onwards.
You can also watch online here.