How the Process of Gentrification creates an Urban Regeneration Phenomenon in London Districts and Housing Estates?
Gentrification has experienced various changes in terms of its meaning and forms since the beginning of time when Ruth Glass in 1964 defined the term. The changes that occurred in the process of gentrification linked to changes in an economic system. Parties involved in this process consist of private developers and local councils that control the urban context of housing estates. Capital investment for a regeneration project of housing estates and districts in London set to improve better living standards for low income residents and increases a revenue but consequently different from its expectations. Regeneration involves the redevelopment of housing estates and urban districts that refurbishes an existing urban identity in accordance with contemporary architectural design.
The essay discusses the urban transformation in London due to gentrification and question how the process of gentrification creates an urban regeneration phenomenon in London districts and housing estates. The essay also examines how residents experienced the process of an urban regeneration that compromise with different types of gentrification regarding displacement to another housing environment in a negative context. The opportunity to explore perspectives of different writers and researchers views on gentrification and several case studies that explored the urban generation phenomenon. Writers and researchers expressed different opinions on gentrification in an urban architectural context.
Residents and local councils called the phenomenon of gentrification as an urban renewal in architectural spaces, due to policy of a change in the housing market that is recognized. The process of urban renewal is resulted as an acknowledgment of low-income existing residents living in urban areas where improvement is needed to bring change in certain areas to improve quality and standard of living for existing residents. Process of gentrification involves displacement of local residents in order to improve the household situations for upper class or residents with high income. Ruth Glass, a British sociologist, originated the term “gentrification” in 1964. Ruth Glass used this term to illustrate the urban change that brought into practice with help of an innovative and different procedure. The whole procedure changed urban districts in London and these changes first called as gentrification.
According to Ruth Glass;
“One by One, many of working class quarters of London have been invaded by the middle classes upper and lower….. Once this process of “gentrification” starts in a district it goes on rapidly until all or most of the original working class occupiers is displaced and the social character of the district is changed”. (Glass 1964: xviii-xix)
Gentrification of urban areas resulted improvements in areas through improving an existing structure of middle and upper class residents. Prospective residents with higher income attracted towards deprived locations as low-income residents lost their homes in the form of gentrification. Property developers working with local councils proposed an urban regeneration proposal that actually consists of a phenomenon in gentrification in the process. Regeneration is the term that came into existence when the British government created policies to regenerate existing council estates in order to develop mixed communities for better social housing (Housing Association, 2013). However, writers argue that the idea of regeneration is the same as gentrification where displaced residents cannot afford rent due to higher rates and forced to locate elsewhere (Fig. 1).
Fig. 1 – A Map shows a number of displaced residents in London, Savills 2011.
There are different views on gentrification and regeneration. Both the process of gentrification and regeneration developed locations in centralised cities for residents and communities. However, the selected areas aimed at building localities for middle and high-income residents. Through this, local councils and private developer invested in potential areas with excellent transportation links and location for the purpose of regeneration and reproduction (Madden, 2013). The urban redevelopment of London resulted in business life and location undergone remarkable changes in order to bring change to localities and remove history of working class residents.
The paper portrays different views of writers and researchers views on gentrification and analyse an overview of opinions in the literature review. This focused on London with disadvantages in the process of gentrification that creates an urban regeneration phenomenon in areas and social housing.
Regeneration is creating diversity in urban spaces but continuously increasing the number of displaced residents and threatening the features of communities that shared moments living together since inception. In ‘Remaking London: Decline and Regeneration in Urban Culture’, Ben Campkin (2013) viewed regeneration in urban areas with an economic prospective where building new neighbourhoods creates diversity in the area. Campkin provided detailed and comprehensive forms of urban regeneration in London with the consequences of regeneration in centralised areas of London. The focus of regeneration in London crafted distinctiveness and individuality according to contemporary trends of regeneration. Campkin also provided complete image forms of regeneration and provided recent history of regeneration in London (2013). The research demonstrates certain benefits of regeneration for new residents but easily criticized on the basis of regeneration that focused in London.
Local councils ignored the issue of existing residents that experienced displacement linked to gentrification. In ‘Estates’, Lynsey Hanley (2012) described the history of regeneration and housing plans in East London that gives a detailed account of a housing issue in East London that started before WW1. Hanley analysed a mixed kind of gentrification policies with a regeneration project in place. She also stressed how low-income residents left exiled and displaced and no longer in a capacity to afford affordable houses.
London challenged the concept of sustainable development of their economy and their status in social housing. According to ‘Sustainable London? The future of a global city’, Rob Imrie and Loretta Lees (2014) described the social housing experience in London where local councils made changes to create social housing, but not in behalf of residents who cannot afford homes. Imrie and Lees analysed the social housing and gentrification policies that affected the system in negative means and created inequalities among communities and inhabitants of city of London. The debate in this field developed an idea that the regeneration policies prove to be developmental and equal for all social classes to create equality as these social housing policies aimed at development and progress in residential communities.
Freeman (2006) analysed the process of gentrification in different areas including New York City and the experience of residents living in deprived communities. Freeman examined the process of gentrification as not advantageous. However, residents with such community value supports gentrification, as residents to a large extent requires an urban regeneration. In addition, Freeman (2006) suggested several ways to improve conditions of gentrified residents in order to remove negative impacts of gentrified communities.
In an article ‘Gentrification and the middle class remaking of inner London 1961-2001’ Chris Hamnett (2003) demonstrated different views and opinions about gentrification. Hamnett argued that gentrification is the term that can be best defined in terms of social and economic changes that brought into social housing policies. Process of gentrification and the changes associated with business and financial conditions that relates to income for middle or working class. In addition, Hamnett associated the process of gentrification as a change of a working infrastructure in the context of London (2003). The process of gentrification consists of displaced residents, but in a context of replacing displaced residents.
In ‘An Anti-Gentrification Handbook for Council Estates in London’, Lees (2014) defined the term gentrification that provided many examples in this regard. Lees explained the experiences of residents living in council estate with campaigns participating in central London. The guidebook compromises the removal of gentrification in social housing. The respondents in research featured in different campaigns participating in different council estates where existing residents faced evictions from social cleansing proposed by local councils displayed in a map (Fig. 2). However, Lees described eviction threats posed as a form of gentrification made from local councils (2014). The handbook also demonstrated as a tool to learn techniques to avoid gentrification from policy makers threatening to regenerate social housing. Furthermore, the book described ways to promote communal activities and strategies’ to prevent council estates under the policies of regeneration and gentrification.
Fig 2. A Map shows a displacement of Heygate Estate Residents to other areas of South East England.
These policies made in order to remove all the problems faced by different cities. Furthermore, Lees (2000) explored the meaning and definitions of gentrification based on the process emerged immediately after the period of recession and on the basis of 1990’s American and British policies of urban development for gentrification of different locations. These policies made in order to remove all the problems faced by different cities. Lees provided several suggestions for redevelopment and modernizing the process of gentrification. However, the progress in research and analysis of policies required some areas that need a special attention of different types of gentrification including super gentrification, minority gentrification and discourse on gentrification (2000). Lees pointed out that research methodology is one of issues that arises during research about gentrification, its types and effects on inhabitants and policies of authorities.
The emerging and new middle class is the part of divergence that is growing day by day in urban society. Ley (1996) analysed the development of a new middle class that has created by the process of gentrification. The overview of this new kind of middle class comprised of highly paid professional. Ley analysed the market conditions, demand and supply chain and the places of leisure in the inner parts of city that effected urban policies. Moreover, Ley has taken into account some of sties of Canada to conduct the research about gentrification and the development of new middle class (1996). The new middle class effected cities not targeted from local councils for regeneration and promoting a new culture through movements and affecting policies of inner cities. For the purpose of studying gentrification, Ley developed theoretical framework and provided detailed historical image.
In ‘Ground Control’, Anna Minton (2012) demonstrated that inner areas of Britain experienced tremendous change in context of property and re-construction of property in these areas. Properties now owned by private developers and used for generating profits, where buildings equipped with modern requirements and developed in the name of regeneration. However, Minton raised questions on the positions and impacts, positive or negative on local communities. Minton acknowledged that regeneration has changed society where design and structure of older communities and social housing system transformed in the 1980s under Margaret Thatcher’s government (2012). Conclusively, urban regeneration affected local residents that experienced displacement as the developed infrastructure provided a modernized image to local residents but with a negative impact due to the process of gentrification.
Guardian writer Owen Hatherley (2011) described the outlook of Heygate estate that under gone the process of gentrification and described a detailed image of the regenerated south part of London. Hatherley asserted in the paper that greenery and natural views removed because of gentrification. Residents are unhappy of the whole process that is the form of gentrification (2011). The public owned property is now in hands of private developers that transform existing communities with the assistance of local councils. Affordable housing is a term used in urban regeneration project in London but no guarantee if residents allowed to move back into newly designed social housing. Hatherley also developed the image of an urban regeneration effort from local councils and asked questions regarding the future of social housing. To conclude, the future will not much differ from old regenerated social housing and more displaced residents in these areas. The regeneration is nothing more than creating social communities and keeping low-income residents away from residential areas.
In an article, ‘Other geographies of gentrification” Progress in Human Geography’ Philips (2013) examined geographies of gentrification in places. Philips’ analysis set to improve urban societies and their features with traces of old urban societies and housing plans. Philips developed an argument that geographies of gentrification featured common rural areas in some urban societies but the possibility of being similar is low (2013). In addition, Philips specifically focused on gentrification in Britain and attempt to connect geographical features and similarities with each other.
The viewpoints discussed the process of gentrification extends to explore contemporary case studies across London where residents experienced displacement under the urban regeneration phenomenon.
Contemporary Case Studies
(IMAGE MAP OF AREAS AND ESATES THAT EXPERIENCED GENTRIFICATION)
Brixton, South London
Brixton is based in South London that experienced the process of gentrification. The views on gentrification as some people think that the process of gentrification is process of taking out souls (Davies, 2014). The process of gentrification in Brixton started in the 1970s and still on-going process in the area. Brixton is one of the cases that explored gentrification where a displacement of existing residents appeared outside the area. The innovation led by the process of gentrification contacted with an old culture of inner London with traditional markets, barbershops, and local cafes in London still exists. (IMAGE) Race and ethnicity and specially multiculturalism represented in Brixton as one of the features that attracts visitors outside of Brixton. However, the attraction towards Brixton does not depends on multiculturalism that exist in post gentrified areas rather places with a cultural diversity, and mixed traditions in this part of London is attraction for everyone (Mavrommatis, 2011).
Rents increased due to the process of gentrification that attracted middle class residents. The case of Brixton considered as successful but increasing rent prices in social housing created unaffordable properties for low income residents and thus an impact on its features of community living. Features of community living together and sharing commonalities no longer feature that shifted from places to inner London in the past decade (Flyn, 2013). The residents felt the process of gentrification brought private businesses in this district and lowered crime rate but process was uncomfortable.
The transition was not easy for the people living in these communities from decades and now forced to move their livings to other places. In the Guardian video, novelist Alex Wheatley (2013) lived in Brixton in the 1980s stated that gentrification removed reasonable schools attended by local residents for building private properties and out priced young professionals to purchase houses in the future. The local residents think Brixton explored weakness by this process as the locality became expensive for low-income residents and there is lower rate of integration in Brixton as compared to the past (Mondesert, 2013). Nevertheless, Brixton market boosted up by the process of gentrification and great modification offered, but also threatened by the increasing rents (Godwin, 2013).
Brixton is considered to be organic gentrification as the urban regeneration happened while represented the same old traditional beauty and features that maintained in a diverse culture. Gentrification is process that lead to evolution of cities and certain features of these cities such as invasion by outside businesses. (Ball, 2014) The diversity in Brixton includes different social classes that created a kind of socio-economic distinctions, but local residents blame gentrification for the reason of expensive rents and unaffordable amenities. Therefore, gentrification has created complicated image in Brixton, as there are more differences than any other gentrified localities in London.
Heygate Estate, South London
Heygate Estate based in South East London is an urban environment for developers as a purpose of regeneration where local residents slowed down the process of gentrification through negotiations. The discussion forum between developers, local residents and Southwark council authorities held and resulted in implementation of decision of regeneration over Heygate Estate. Local residents find dissatisfaction where a lack of preparation for an urban regeneration project forced to move away from the social housing estate (Lees, 2014). Consequently, the process of gentrification started to attract wealthy people with higher income to live in localities. The housing schemes announced by Southwark council failed to build on time except some residents. But, the rest of displaced families left with an option to resettle elsewhere through Southwark council searching scheme according to map designed by Loretta Lees (Fig. 3). Currently, most homes left empty due to low income resident had to move from these houses to other land leasers and private rented places (EAN, 2013). The state led gentrification that enforced a displacement in the process. In addition, Southwark council failed to compromise local residents in keeping their estate safe from the process of gentrification. Scraton (2013) referred Heygate Estate as an “Urban Forest” that raised issues and concerns due to the process of gentrification.
Fig. 3 – Displacement Map of residents living in Heygate Estate
Reality is different from theory presented by developers as local residents displaced with no benefits provided and, neither regenerated social houses affordable due to higher rents. (Londonist, 2014) In addition to displaced people from their property, the area has lost its natural views and greenery replaced by glass and concrete wall that disdains the concept of community housing (IMAGE). Process of gentrification is responsible for all the change in South London, as Hatherley (2011) argued no future in a range of gentrified areas rather than improving conditions of regenerated places. Local residents living in Heygate Estate expressed opinions that represent no difference in the process of gentrification.
The residents pushed away from Heygate Estate showed unhappiness with it due to the reason homes is being removed and proposed a favourable housing regeneration project. In a video, former Heygate resident Ivy (2008) explained how Southwark council regeneration’s proposal failed to compromise local residents in the area for new homes that never materialised in the concept of affordable housing. In addition, an interview with former Heygate resident Evelyn (2014) explained her issues with Southwark council regarding rehousing programme. Heygate Estate residents relied on temporary contracts for resident lived in the area for up to 8 years that are not automatically entitled to rehousing in the new urban regeneration project.
Local councils authorities represented a transition from trust to disloyalty while creating a compromising relationship with local residents in Heygate Estate. In a video, Heygate Estate residents Ivy and Gurlin (2014) persuaded local labour councillor Martin Seaton how undemocratic urban regeneration proposed failed to convince existing residents. Though over 300 complaints from local residents, Cllr Seaton expressed support of an urban redevelopment at the Heygate Estate planning application hearing in January 2013. The story indicates how Heygate Estate experienced the process of a state led gentrification where Cllr Seaton from the Labour Party created an Urban Regeneration Phenomenon for local residents to be displaced in a negative manner. Proposed social housing projects where local residents lived in Heygate Estate for decades are being displaced and homes abolished and featured no part in urban regeneration project (Walker, 2013).
Aylesbury Estate, South East London
Aylesbury Estate based in South East London experienced regeneration for long starting in previous century with the idea of mixed communities aimed at creation of a new middle class and better living conditions for working class residents. Property developers started purchasing land from local councils for urban regeneration projects. Gradually, Southwark council proposed a gentrification methodology that continued to handle low-income residents as an issue where investors expressed an idea of profit making schemes in South East London rather providing social housing (Hill, 2014). For this purpose, large number of houses being rebuilt and redeveloped as local residents issued assurance in moving back. However, local residents had issues with Southwark council as homes never maintained for them. On the other hand, local residents expressed concerned regarding living conditions and disadvantages of the housing regeneration plan. However, with the plan of regeneration implemented, almost 50% of homes were relocated back to the housing and others were displaced (Housing Association, 2009). Aylesbury Estate recorded a number of displaced local residents not large as compared to others but the issue of low compensation for leaseholders.
The state led gentrification in Aylesbury Estate, specified as an urban regeneration project that consists the idea of affordable housing but not affordable in real sense. Both developers and Southwark council promised affordable rents for low-income residents but affordable defined as 80% higher than market rent for a single flat (Lees, 2014). Promises of affordable housing and resettlement never materialised in real time for local resident rather complaint for resettlement.
In a BBC documentary, former Aylesbury Estate homeowner Beverley Robinson (2014) explained her struggle to save funds to purchase a flat in the Estate in 2008. 12 months later, Robinson received a letter from Southwark council that Aylesbury Estate set for demolition. In addition, Southwark council legally selected the Compulsory Purchase Order (CPO) system to evict Robinson from the property. The local residents almost forced to accept the proposal of an urban regeneration programme as left with the choice of accepting the proposition or living in a housing estate that required architectural renovation but unlikely to be constructed directly by Southwark Council. (Imrie & Lees, 2014). The process of gentrification occurred in Aylesbury Estate with proposed to purchase flats from residents, but below expectations.
Robin Hood Gardens, East London
As a public housing project, Robin Hood Gardens in the London Borough of Tower Hamlets consists of two hundred and fifty flats that are contained in two slab blocks facing one another across in an open urban space. It has faced profound criticism because it has been taken as a failed housing society in the recent years, where Robin Hood Gardens is not a viable solution to live anymore (Building Design, 2012). The procedure of gentrification in Robin Hood Garden is started by Tower Hamlets council proposed demolition of the project and will be replaced by a new mixed income-housing scheme (IMAGES). It will be a part of new larger master plan. (Municipal Dreams, 2014)
The process of gentrification and redevelopment in Robin Hood gardens consisted on an architectural idea of conserving the housing identity and heritage designed by architects the Smithson. However, arguments made that this process destroys heritage and identity of Robin Hood Gardens. 20th Century Society (2008) favoured the building to be listing, but the English Heritage stopped the momentum.
According to the English Heritage:
‘By the time the estate was opened, in 1972, it was already out-of-date and at the end of the high-rise, “streets-in-the-sky” movement – so it was not significantly influential’. (English Heritage: 2008:15)
Before demolition proposals, architects and historians championed Robin Hood gardens as an architectural identity of communal space, maintaining memories and building society based on urban designs. (Peter et al, 2014). The new urban regeneration project proposed to replace Robin Hood Gardens housing scheme as the “New Blackwall” project that consisted of 1600 new homes with associated community and commercial uses.
The community space built inheritance of Robin Hood Gardens with a vision that aimed to create sustainable attractive and comprehensive place for inhabitants to live in a city. The new homes proposed to achieve far above ground sustainability standards as well as blocking into a district heating system with the development and progress of the urban regeneration project. The design plan of the buildings designed to higher efficiencies with relatively small number of homes per floor and very munificent communal lobby areas to consent to resident attraction.(IMAGES) This project will provide the residents with community facilities and commercial properties. Gentrification of the old warehouse to new advanced style houses and development of social amenities brings economic benefit to prospective residents.
Existing residents living in Robin Hood Gardens promised to be returned, as the new development is aimed to attract a better class of people and foreign investors (Timstandfeld, 2012). However, existing residents refused to leave the social housing estate. According to the Guardian video, Gary Truman (2009) lived in Robin Hood Gardens for 30 years and experienced an urban transformation in the area. A collection of low-income families moved into Robin Hood Gardens as Truman noted his refusal to leave Robin Hood Gardens due to a strong communal atmosphere. However, resident Shopna Khan (2009) shared her agreed with Truman but opposed the idea of maintaining the building. Khan discussed how badly architectural spaces designed to accommodate a large family of five children in a two bedroom flat. Khan also explained how bad maintenance repairs occurred while living in Robin Hood Gardens. The process of a proposed gentrification in Robin Hood Gardens highlighted issues noted to Tower Hamlets council that conserving the building is not an option with overcrowded families concreted the driving force of residents being displaced to other areas in London.
Haggerston Estate, East London (Demolished in 2014)
The Haggerston estate is a red neo-Georgian former council estate, made up of many individual open blocks. It is situated in the heart of Hackney, where house rents and prices increased faster than several other London boroughs. Samuel House set as the block demolished in July 2014. In ‘Estate, Art, Politics and Social Housing’ Andera Zimmerman (2013) described Haggerston Estate built in 1910-30 that perceived as progressive social housing. The estate created for working class residents often called as prestige blocks. However, Haggerston Estate experienced gentrification in recent times in response to the residents’ voted in favour of a refurbishment project rejected by Hackney council due to preservation and maintenance costs (Hackney Council, 2007). A change came over with residents voting in favour of a replacement to L&Q housing association with complete gentrification. Though the process of under rapid gentrification demolished the blocks, the social housing infrastructure maintained as developers proposed an newly developed social housing regeneration project that is financed through increasing density and sale of private flats (IMAGES).
Andrea Zimmerman (2013) lived in Haggerston Estate for 16 years (1997-2013) and experienced an urban transformation changed nothing much in Haggerston estate since 1980s. Zimmerman (2013) also described how structure surroundings telling people to move out to other areas of London and Hackney council agreed on privatising spaces but residents losing social housing. The post urban gentrification explored in London as some old and some regenerated areas represented the past and present of London. The Haggerston estate is the place that transformed under the regeneration processes.
Residents promised and offered a flat in the newly developed project and they will be re-housed temporarily during the construction phase of the new project.
Zimmerman (2013) motivated to produce a film on Haggerston estate in response to a history of ‘neglect, decline and broken promise’ from Hackney Council. The film, ‘Estate: A reviere’ (2013) with the name of ‘I am here’ inspired Zimmerman to record narratives of existing residents living in Samuel House that produced the visual environment in a gentrified neighbourhood. Zimmerman’s photography project (2009) in Samuel House determined to resist effects a large range of residents. Orange boards appeared in a derelict Samuel House, replaced with portraits on the building. (IMAGES) Despite the negative process of gentrification in, beforehand Zimmerman’s concept transformed the architectural landscape setting in front of Regents Canal gave a visual character that resisted rapid gentrification. The concept of an instrumentalised art resists the narrative of an urban regeneration phenomenon.
The urban transformation of London grounded on the process of gentrification that started before WW1 in several housing estates and districts. The process of gentrification started by private developers to improve living standards and conditions for low-income residents in certain districts and estates. However, the process posed a threat to residents. The process of gentrification based on an idea of an urban improvement but low-income residents living in such areas displaced where residents cannot afford the gentrified houses as social housing shifted in private ownership. Low income residents replaced by middle class and higher income resident that attracted to a regenerated districts and housing estates in London.
Gentrification turned out to be an urban regeneration phenomenon played effectively in the process of regeneration where stages involved local councils working with government authorities to improve living conditions for low-income residents. Government authorities working with local councils agreed with private developers to start such plans of an urban regeneration that presented the idea of affordable housing. The idea consists of low-income residents buying reasonable properties in the housing market, but small portion of low-income residents returned to the same urban housing environment rather large portion of low-income residents left displaced. The process involved moving to other places in London due to the fact that affordable housing failed to be affordable for low-income residents. The newly designed properties are marketed at much higher rates than previous ones and the theory of improvement in living conditions for low-income residents never came into practice. (Madden, 2013)
The process of regeneration in districts and housing estates in London brought changes in districts and improved the urban environment and housing infrastructure. Improved housing infrastructure with contemporary designs entitled to improve living standards for newly settled residents. Nevertheless, districts compromised to displace low-income residents who lived in the area for decades with middle class residents. Writers expressed different views about gentrification and regeneration in different parts of London and have discussed negative impacts on local residents. The reinvestment in regenerating Heygate Estate presented by property developers and local councils that manifested the process of state led gentrification. However, writers highlighted a point that government support for developers promoting an urban regeneration project in districts asserted affordable housing in the process. Social housing marketed as affordable for low-income residents in areas such as Aylesbury Estate showed the concept of displacement of existing residents from housing properties. Brixton underlined as a district that experienced organic gentrification with more displaced residents with the inequality in class and economic difference. Robin Hood Gardens considered as a proposed gentrification after a series of protests and campaigns to maintain the housing estate, but local council appeal to an urban regeneration proposal. Haggerston Estate explored gentrification that consists of an urban regeneration phenomenon. Gentrified residents promised to resettle in a proposed refurbish housing, but financial costs indicated a need for demolition and present an urban regeneration process. Issues and benefits in housing estates and districts created negative decisions where writers explored in the process of gentrification stated as an urban regeneration phenomenon in London.
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