Gentrification is increasing throughout London and marginalised minority residents are at special risk. The communities they have created, the dynamic culture that London is known for and the social wellbeing of society’s most vulnerable, including women and children, is threatened by rising rents and crowding out. JAN Trust was created from the needs of these communities and if they are destroyed, we will be destroyed too.
Gentrification, the process of crowding out low income households by increasing high rents in a neighborhood, is damaging for all but the wealthiest of communities. Poorer people, immigrants and refugees are increasingly under threat from being displaced. When rents in their neighbourhood are increased they are forced to find housing elsewhere, in an even worse quality than those they live in now. They are scattered across the city and isolated from their old communities.
The process of gentrification in London is not a new phenomenon, but it is becoming more common. Social improvement in London is always something to aim for, especially in these areas that need it most, but it should be for the people in these communities, not as an excuse to get rid of them. London has undergone massive socio-economic and infrastructural change since the 1980’s, but this has often happened at the expense of the poorest communities.
These communities are inhabited by the most marginalised in our society. They are home to ethnic minority, immigrant and refugee communities who are placed or pushed into the most deprived areas. The Trust For London shows that poverty and deprivation in the capital disproportionately affects those from ethnic minority backgrounds. Here, communities build thriving neighbourhoods, full of solidarity and culture. Women and their children who rely on the community networks for support are particularly at risk.
The process of gentrification in Brixton is a perfect example of how a BAME community is pushed out, and how part of London’s culture dies with it. What was once a thriving enclave of entrepreneurial Windrush migrants, is now a trendy and expensive area. Minority business owners and dwellers have been pushed out by rising rent prices and their community networks scattered to the winds. They are replaced by those with more money seeking to live in the vibrant community these people suffered years of hardship and marginalisation to build. As time passed, authentic business died and were replaced with high street shops and inauthentic replicas of Caribbean culture. The controversial ‘Brixton Pop’, and the redevelopment of the Arches, shows this clash between ‘Old’ and ‘New’ Brixton. The distinctive culture of Brixton is being lost to hipsterism. Not only does gentrification destroy the support networks vulnerable people have tirelessly fought to create, but the whole of London loses an important dimension of its vibrant culture and atmosphere.
In Battersea too, the process is underway and threatens a strong community of Somali, Afghan and Syrian refugees who have called this part of the city their home. Many vulnerable women and children live in this area. Communities and organisations have built up over the years to help support these women, but if people are forced to move out, they will no longer be able to access these much needed networks.
With the sale of the Battersea Power Station to foreign capital investors the council of Wandsworth are complicit, if not actively encouraging this kind of development. Commitments to affordable housing have been betrayed, and those who need the investment are being moved out rather than helped. The Mayor of London himself Sadiq Khan criticized the council for rushing through the sale, and decreasing the development’s commitment to affordable housing in the area by 40%. Battersea is in much need of regeneration, not gentrification. The area surrounding Battersea Power Station is scattered with very deprived communities and has recently been victim to serious issues such as knife crime. Tackling poverty is vital here, but councils seem more interested in vacating the victims rather than helping them.
All low income and BAME communities across London are threatened by this, as council increasingly put financial gain above the safety, social wellbeing of their most marginalised inhabitants. Gentrification is well underway across multiple London boroughs, including our own. Haringey has been threatened with gentrification in recent years, but has faced serious opposition from residents, who see the damage gentrification can do. After much protest by residents, the ‘Haringey Development Vehicle’, a joint venture between the local council and private developers to ‘regenerate’ the area, was stopped. However, in December last year a new proposal for development in Tottenham was passed which will build 131 council homes, but 899 unaffordable ones. This shocking disparity in affordable and unaffordable housing is characteristic of gentrification. A few affordable homes go almost nowhere to addressing the housing needs of residents. As more ‘desirable’ renters move in, rent increases more, and those who needed the houses in the first place, are slowly and silently crowded out. These places are in desperate need of social investment for the benefit of these minority and low income families, not for the rich.
30 years ago JAN Trust was created to support these very minority communities in North London. By working to strengthen and support these communities we keep women and their children safe. We offer them guidance and support from sexual violence, offer them chances to be empowered and educated, and keep the whole community strong in the face of Islamophobia, and resilient from the threats of radicalisation. Our work, and these stable community networks, are absolutely vital for the safety of these women and our society as a whole.