Cereal Killer Cafe vs The Selfish Anti-Gentrification Mob

Anti Gentrification Mob

Hipsters can be irritating, yes, but launching a pogrom against them is more than a little bit fascistic

One of the unintended new side-effects of gentrification in London seems to be roving bands of self-entitled class warriors, presuming to speak for the whole city when really they represent only themselves, carrying out Kristallnacht style pogroms against businesses that are insufficiently tatty, cheap or “authentically” working class.

The latest victim is the Cereal Killer Cafe in Brick Lane, a quirky and charming (if thoroughly Hipster-like) establishment selling international breakfast cereals in weird combinations, which I happened to visit for the first time only last weekend.

From the Guardian:

Hundreds of protesters attacked a cereal cafe in east London on Saturday night, daubing the word “scum” on the shop window and setting fire to an effigy of a police officer.

Riot police were called in to defend the Cereal Killer Cafe in Shoreditch after it was targeted by a large crowd of anti-gentrification activists carrying pigs’ heads and torches.

The owners of the cafe, which has been seen by some as a symbol of inequality in east London, said on Sunday that the attack left customers including children “terrified for their lives”.

Now I’ll be the first to admit that hipsters and their fashions can be annoying, pretentious, infuriating even. But marauding up and down the streets at night wearing masks, carrying flaming torches and breaking windows in response? That goes too far. And yet it is precisely the sort of behaviour we encourage when we indulge in intellectually lazy talk about the supposed “evils” of gentrification – or “social cleansing” as some are now calling it, in an attempt to fill us with the same horror we might feel about ethnic cleansing.

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TV Debate – Is Gentrification Good For London, Or Social Cleansing In Disguise?

gentrification

 

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.