Cities all over the world are experiencing a new phenomenon – gentrification. Rents are rising in urban areas, forcing out families who have lived there for generations.
Because it could mean you can’t afford to live in the area you grew up in.
In cities around the world traditionally working class areas suddenly seem full of vintage shops and “hipster” craft ale pubs. More importantly, local residents are being forced out due to rent increases. This is all due to gentrification.
In London, activists protesting against the gentrification of the East End attacked the Cereal Killer Cafe in Shoreditch, which charges £2.50 for a single bowl of breakfast-y goodness.
The protesters wrote online “we don’t want luxury flats that no-one can afford, we want genuinely affordable housing…. we don’t want pop-up gin bars or brioche buns – we want a community.”
Gentrification is defined as “the buying and renovating of houses and stores in deteriorated urban neighbourhoods by wealthier individuals”.
Yeah, because that sounds easy to understand. Not.
For those who don’t speak social geography: gentrification basically means wealthier people start moving into certain urban areas where housing is cheaper. This leads to a rise in rents and the cost of living which can sometimes mean people on a lower-income are forced out of the area.
The phrase was coined in 1964, by sociologist Ruth Glass who believed the gentrification process created “upper-class ghettos.”
“One by one, many of the working class quarters of London have been invaded by the middle-classes—upper and lower. Shabby, modest mews and cottages—two rooms up and two down—have been taken over, when their leases have expired, and have become elegant, expensive residences …. Once this process of ‘gentrification’ starts in a district it goes on rapidly until all or most of the original working-class occupiers are displaced and the whole social character of the district is changed.”
In London the 2012 Olympics brought at least £9 billion of investment to the east of the city in the form of new buildings and facilities.
Buildings once housing athletes have now been converted into flats – available to the public.
This renewal has spread with many companies, bars and restaurants popping up in the area. Areas like Shoreditch and Hackney are now seen as trendy areas to live.
However, some see the “renewal” of the East End as a bad thing. For example, half of the Olympic flats are supposed to be “affordable” yet as the Independent reports, not everyone believes they are. Employment in the Olympic borough of Tower Hamlets actually went down over the Olympic period, according to MP Rushanara Ali.
New York’s Harlem, a district once associated with “urban blight, crime, gangs, and drugs” according to the Chicago Booth magazine, is now home to “upscale delis, numerous banks, and that telltale sign of gentrification: fashion-conscious young men in knitted hats.”
People can’t decide for certain what causes gentrification. Some blame local councils for granting planning permission for expensive high-rise flats. Others think the government needs to do more to control rents increases.
Many link the rise of “Hipster” culture to gentrification. Creatives and artistic types generally don’t earn six figure salaries and so move to areas where it’s cheaper to live.
Individuals on higher pay grades also start moving to these areas, attracted by the “trendy” vibes created by the hipsters. As more wealthy individuals enter the area, prices start to rise.
Whilst some argue that hipsters are a symptom, not a cause of gentrification, they provide an easy target for those wanting to rally against changes to their area.
Families being forced out of the areas they grew up in does not sound good. “Upper-class Ghettos” also sounds rather dodgy. However, investing in an area does have its benefits.
Vintage shops, craft-ale bars and even cereal cafes create jobs and wealth. The tax paid by these companies is spent by local councils on improving the area.
It’s often claimed that gentrified areas also have lower crime levels. Which is a good thing, surely?
So, urban renewal is good for the area, but not necessarily for all the people who have lived there all their lives. Is there a better way of redeveloping the spaces we live in?
Gentrification is becoming a problem in our cities, yet there’s more to this than cafes which charge £2.50 for a bowl of cereal.
Join the debate and tell us in the comments below – is gentrification is good or bad? Or if taking action is more your thing;
Against greedy developers in the East End? You could sign this petition rather than taking a pop @ Cocopops. https://t.co/N4nBLZPIAm
— Audrey Gillan (@audreygillan) September 28, 2015