Social And Economic Implications Of Gentrification

Do you know anyone who lives on a council estate?

Or a low income area in general? Maybe you yourself do. Now, what if I were to tell you that you have to move out soon because rents are getting too expensive, and you can no longer afford it. Why are your rents increasing? Because your area is being invaded by the middle class. Today I will be discussing the social and economic implications of gentrification, specifically in London. If you didn’t already know, the correct definition of gentrification is the process of renovation and improving areas or houses so that they conform to middle class taste, subsequently displacing lower class communities. It is not a new concept.

The term was coined by Ruth Glass in 1964 whilst she was explaining what was happening in London at the time. Undoubtedly, gentrification follows four stages. The first stage consists of middle class citizens moving into lower class neighborhoods. This may be to buy a house, possibly to renovate it, and sell it for more later. Or to open a business. This is an extremely common occurrence, and it’s possible that some of you may have done it before, not thinking twice. The second stage includes the area catching the media’s attention. Unfortunately, rents begin to increase causing displacement for the lower class as they simply cannot afford their properties anymore. The third stage consists of the area getting the middle class and above attention, they start to recommend the area to others, claiming it as an ‘up and coming’ and ‘promising’ area. Banks start to chip in, then the government to improve the area, potholes that have always been there are suddenly being filled- weird. There is now a drastic increase in police and security, because we all know that middle class lives are more important. Developers begin to buy plots of land. Now we’re onto the fourth stage- the area becomes even more wealthy. Properties become vacant and there’s an even bigger increase in displacement of the lower class. This process spreads like a disease and nearby areas begin stage 1 or are already on stage 2.

Undeniably, this is a substantial issue. Researchers are beginning to believe that there is a 5th stage of gentrification, described as ‘super gentrification’; this ocurres when development of multi million pound properties begins. Billionaires start investing causing vacant properties as we all know that those billionaires arent buying the houses to live there, but to proffit off them. Once warm family homes have been turned into cold proffit generators. The area becomes a market for the top 1%. Businesses in the area are no longer viable because no one actually lives there. Examples of this are Chelsea and Kensington. There is currently a property crisis in London. No. It’s not because there aren’t enough houses to suit the large population, it’s because they’re all too expensive.

What is the government doing about this you may ask?

Well, not a lot. The government is extremely guilty of approving regeneration projects, such as demolishing council estates like ‘Heygate Estate’ in Walworth which included 1214 houses that got demolished from 2011 to 2014. Over 1200. Interestingly, in recent years, social housing has had a drastic decrease. Undoubtedly the government panders to gentrification. Some refer to this as ‘social cleansing’- the large-scale removal from an area of members of a social category regarded as ‘undesirable’. Why are these low income communities ‘undesirable’? Blatant classism.

Now, gentrification is not only to be blamed on the government, but to the citizens of London themselves too. Think back to the first phase of gentrification- individuals moving into low income neighbourhoods, either to buy a property or open a business. Now I’m not saying to not move into low income neighbourhoods. What I am saying is that if you’re planning on doing that, don’t do it for the sole purpose of renovating the house and making a profit. Furthermore, if you’re opening a business there, it may seem like common sense, but make the prices suitable for the area. An expensive coffee shop does not fit into a lower class area! All you’re doing is attracting the middle class.

You may think that doing this helps the area and brings culture. The only ones youre helping are the middle class. Consequently, making your own community instead of helping the low income community that already lives there and alienating them.

Lastly, this brings me to Grenfell Tower. You may have already heard about the Grenfell Tower fire, but did you know the primary cause was gentrification? The fire began on the 16th of June, 2017. The main reason the fire spread was due to the external cladding on the building: aluminium sheets bonded to a central plastic (polyethylene) core. The cladding was added in 2015 to 2016, when the building went under renovation. The cladding was for heat and energy efficiency, but mostly to improve the external appearance of the tower block.

There were alternatives with better fire resistance but they were turned down due to the cost, even though the tower was built by one of the richest boroughs in London and bought by the council. The residents often expressed their safety concerns before the fire, but they were ignored. Horrifiyingly, in 2015 an independent assessor found 40 serious fire safety issues. Yet no action was taken. These included: the lack of fire sprinklers, expired extinguishers and the fact that corridors were allowed to fill with rubbish. 74 people died, possibly more, because the government wanted the tower block to look nice on the outside. Not to mention that there are still buildings in the UK with this cladding.

The rich are currently displacing lower class communities and in some cases killing them to make London look attractive. Right in front of our eyes. Act now or it will be too late.