Gentrify – ‘To renovate or improve a house or district so that it conforms to the middle-class taste’
Gentrification has become a common feature in London in the past decade having become increasingly rampant and wide spread. It is a trend seen in ‘urban’ neighbourhoods, which sees a shift from away from the BAME community way of life to one that reflects a more affluent neighbourhood.
This change has already occurred in regions such as Dagenham, Barking, Lambeth, Camden, Islington, Tower Hamlets, Greenwich and most recently Brixton which is in the process (I would urge anyone to go and take a look for themselves, there is a clear divide between the vibrant west Indian market and the Ritzy Cinema bar minutes away from each other).
My question: is gentrification good or bad?
Here are some of the positives:
- Boost in the Local Economy: With wealthier residents comes higher incomes, and with higher incomes comes more money for community and business investments. Greater investment, produces more job opportunities for the wider community.
- Lower crime rate: The Gentrification process involves new property development and greater ownership of existing properties, this means there are fewer vacant properties which as usually a magnet for criminals. Additionally, increased local government tax revenue (from higher incomes, and property tax) results in more law enforcement.
- Funding: An increase in tax revenue also translates into increased funding for public goods e.g. parks, infrastructure, public schools etc.
However, are these benefits shared between old and new residents alike? Who reaps the majority of this increased economic activity?
To answer these questions, we go on to look at the negatives:
- Pushed out: A recent study by Dr Rae an expert in urban deprivation, showed the ‘apparent dispersal of London’s poorest residents over a little more than a decade’. This is evidence that lower income Londoners are moving further afield.
- Rising house prices: The average price of a house in London stands at more than half a million pounds. With these sorts of figures low income people are made even worse of when gentrification causes their rent to increase.
- Demolition of local business: It’s almost certain that gentrification will result in popular local businesses (often the heart of the region) being replaced with chain stores with an upscale in prices.
Some people see gentrification as a form of social cleansing, where lower income residents are forced out of their neighbourhood due to lack of income. Understandably many feel unfairly treated, so much so that they actively protest against it. Going back to my example of Brixton, right outside Brixton station you will see signs with pleas to stop evictions and compelling artwork to ‘#savebrixtonarches’
By Toro Kehinde
Twitter & Insta: Toro_ox