For places like Hackney, rising rent, swanky wine bars and niche coffee shops have been some of the many effects of gentrification. The recent anti-gentrification protests in Brixton highlight the growing frustration of local residents with the effects of gentrification, specifically the lack of affordable housing. In Brixton, protesters compared gentrification to the “social cleansing” of working class urban communities, promoting inequality rather than tackling it. So, how does gentrification promote inequality in urban communities? Sociologist Ruth Glass coined the term gentrification to describe the “displacement of working class communities” in urban areas and their replacement with more affluent communities, due to large-scale public and private investment. Sound familiar? Gentrification is part and parcel of the regeneration of disadvantaged communities and neighborhoods. This is what has taken place in Islington, Camden, Hackney and now Lewisham.
Some councils partner up with private housing associations to regenerate communities, who eventually price out long-term residents with new trendy shops, cafes and properties. However, communities are growing frustrated with the rising cost of living in these areas due to increased investment from private organisations. According to the recent Office of National Statistics report, private sector rents have risen by 2.4% in London in 2014, compared to 1.3% in the rest of England. The average rent of 2 bedrooms flat in London is £728 per month, which more than half the average monthly salary .
Gentrification doesn’t really tackle the issues affecting disadvantaged communities; instead it displaces these communities and replaces them with another. Long term residents are being priced out of their communities, with council tenants given the option of relocating to cheaper parts of the city or taking up government fresh start schemes moving to Milton Keynes, Luton and Slough, far away from their communities, work and families. The government needs to take action now to prevent communities from being taken advantage of by private investors. Austerity policies are not the answer, as cuts to public spending exacerbate issues affecting these communities such as crime and poor educational aspiration. There needs to be policies in place to protect lower income residents from private investors through rent caps, which will allow them to stay in their communities and benefit from regeneration.
By Safia Abdullah, part of the action/2015 youth network
For more information on the action/2015 campaign and youth click here. The action/2015 Youth Panel is co-facilitated by British Youth Council, BOND, Islamic Relief, Progressio and Restless Development and Y Care International.