Saturday, 12 October 2013

The gentrification of our towns and cities

Yesterday on the ever excellent Novara FM Aaron and James discussed gentrification and how it is changing the face of the Britain we know. You can listen back to yesterdays show on Novara at The definition from Wikipedia on gentrification is as follows “Gentrification is a shift in an urban community toward wealthier residents and/or businesses and increasing property values, sometimes at the expense of the poorer residents of the community.[1] Gentrification is typically the result of investment in a community by local government, community activists, or business groups, and can often spur economic development, attract business, deter crime, and have other benefits to a community. However, despite these potential benefits, urban gentrification often, intentionally or unintentionally, is generally believed to result in population migration as poor residents of a neighborhood are displaced by wealthier newcomers, though studies have shown this not necessarily to be the case.[2] In a community undergoing gentrification, the average income increases and average family size decreases. Poorer, pre-gentrification residents, who are unable to pay increased rents, and property taxes, or afford real estate, may be driven out. Often old industrial buildings are converted to residences and shops. New businesses, which can afford increased commercial rent, cater to a more affluent base of consumers—further increasing the appeal to higher income migrants and decreasing the accessibility to the poor. Often, resident owners unable to pay the taxes are forced to sell their residences and move to a cheaper community.[3][4] Political action, either to promote or oppose the gentrification, is often the community's response against unintended economic eviction.[5] However, local governments may favor gentrification because of the increased tax base associated with the new high-income residents, as well as other perceived benefits of moving poor people and rehabilitating deteriorated areas.[citation needed]” A fantastic piece carried out by The New economics Foundation who are a little hit and miss me find but often come up with some cracking investigations and works have unearthed some startling statistics in Islington and how this is going to affect people long term. “Poverty is deepening and inequality is widening in Islington. After five years of economic uncertainty, public sector cuts, and now welfare reform, lower-income residents are under more pressure than ever. The gap between the wealthiest and the rest is growing as house prices and wage polarisation squeeze middle-income families. By 2020, Islington will be a starkly polarised and unequal borough. Despite these challenges this report shows that local actors can make a difference in the face of change. It identifies key areas in which action can make a positive difference to the lives of Islington residents, now and in the long run. This report is about poverty and inequality in Islington. Through interviews with low and high earners in the borough, as well as statistical analysis of key trends, Distant neighbours explores: • how life has changed for Islington’s lower-income residents during a period of economic uncertainty, public sector cuts, and welfare reform. • what inequality looks like in Islington, how people experience it, and what the consequences are for all of us. • how current trends will continue into the future and what Islington might look like in 2020. • what can be done locally to address poverty and inequality. In contrast to its image of boutique shops, top-end restaurants, and a thriving night life, Islington has long been a borough of entrenched poverty and wide inequalities. In 2008, Cripplegate Foundation’s report Invisible Islington painted a rich picture of the lives of the borough’s lower-income residents. It showed how people were struggling with worklessness, debt, social isolation, and poor physical and mental health. Our research suggests that over the last five years poverty has deepened and inequality has widened. • Poverty is intensifying in Islington. There have always been lower-income residents living in Islington, struggling with poverty. Today, life is much harder due to five years of economic uncertainty, public sector cuts, and now welfare reform. People on low incomes feel insecure. They feel they have no control over their lives. They fear destitution. Social isolation and mental ill health are worsening. Child poverty is particularly high, and likely to grow. Finding work is not always the answer to poverty in Islington. Our research shows that the London Living Wage (LLW) is not enough for the majority of household types in Islington. • Middle-income families have been squeezed out of Islington. Islington is fast becoming a place where middle-income families can no longer afford to live. The middle market in homes is disappearing as house prices soar. Wages are also stagnating, especially for middle- and lower-income earners. This means that middle-income families have been squeezed out of the borough and only certain groups on middle incomes – single people and couples without children living in flat shares – will be able to stay. • By 2020, only the wealthiest will be able to afford to live in Islington. We predict that by 2020 a family will need to earn more than £90,000 a year to afford market rents in Islington. House buying will be out of reach for almost all but the very top earners. This will leave Islington polarised, with very wealthy families at the top, a youthful, transient and childless sector in the middle, and those on low incomes at the bottom, living in social housing. The social consequences of living in an economically polarised borough which are revealed by the research – residents leading separate lives, lack of understanding between groups, and social alienation – are likely to grow. The issues raised in this report are both wide ranging and complex. However, action to address poverty and inequality in Islington is possible. Cripplegate Foundation, keen to learn about residents’ experiences of poverty and inequality and thus inform its future work, commissioned this report. Based on our findings we identify three broad areas for action. These range from opportunities for immediate local action, to longer-term preventative measures, to advocating for wider change beyond the borough. • Make a difference today. The most direct and immediate way in which organisations such as Cripplegate Foundation can address the issues raised in this report is through local action. Building on the success of the initiatives developed after Invisible Islington, Cripplegate Foundation could make a difference today by investing in mental health and well-being initiatives, supporting initiatives to reduce social isolation the borough, enabling lower income families to access alternative forms of credit, and supporting young people to develop their capabilities. • Invest upstream to prevent poverty and inequality. Cripplegate Foundation could play a role in ensuring that valuable preventative work continues in Islington. This could best be achieved by partnering more closely with universal service providers, such as General Practitioners (GPs) and Registered Social Landlords (RSLs), and by working more collaboratively with local residents. • Advocate for change beyond Islington. Cripplegate Foundation can use its position as a respected local foundation to advocate for change within and beyond the borough. This could be approached on an issue-by-issue basis, including: affordable and decent quality housing; secure and well-paid jobs and apprenticeships; and access to credit, building on the successful work of the Islington Debt Coalition.” Clearly I am going to agree with James and Aaron from Novara FM who suggest communism being the route out of this mess but in the right here and now we need resistance to all this. Big parts of London for example are coming no go zones for the working class. A lot of people are moving south from the north in London and further east too the old docklands areas are now full of high rise posh flats and offices where before it was good solid working class communities. We can see the changing face of London under our very eyes we must organise to stop this happening in any way we can. There are a lot of difficulties in organising any sort of resistance to this but to spread solidarity and draw people into the struggles must be a start for me. The answer oh just build more homes isn’t necessarily helpful here as there is good housing all be it in need of upgrading here but poorer communities are not being allowed to stay and are having to be forced out. A culture of resistance in communities is clearly needed to combat this kind of attack. This is not going to go away and whilst capitalism is here and the transient inter capitalist class who are always on the move exist we will always have this issue.

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