The Idea of Gentrification and does it help areas such a Brixton
My idea of Gentrification is when areas like Brixton that has been left neglected for decades, classed as no go area, high crime rate, high unemployment and lack of housing, yet it has a close nit community where people can actually afford to shop, rent properties, open small businesses and youngster grow up being able to stay within the area if they chose to do so, yet suddenly the area is being renovated, advertised as the best place to live and everything is geared toward a certain influx of people who are seen as more affluent and rich residents who then begins to out price and out sourced the area. Ethical/ racial balance also begins to show changes. Household with lower budget feel neglected and betrayed through the vast development of unaffordable and very expensive properties being erected all over the area, with businesses closing down due to high rent so cannot afford to stay after having their businesses for many, many years.
The area is given more publicity to attract and generate more people from middle class and elite with higher incomes, who then begin to spill over into the communities and set the property values, renting very expensive and keeps rising dramatically over a period of time.
You will also see bigger investors coming into the community and new developments taken part all over the area that mainly leads to communities being displaced, thereby seeing migration from the area of those on lower income who cannot afford to stay. Many other areas just like Brixton were previously, classified as very dangerous, crime ridden and unlivable and not good enough for the middle class and elite to live, we now see the same people, now suddenly finding the area to be desirable through only one way that is gentrification that leads to urbanization.
Why has Brixton become the target of Gentrification
Brixton back in 1880 was agriculture land until 1860 and 1880 when the railroad and trams arrived, it was gentrified in order to attract the rich and wealthy middle class big posh housing was then built along the major road in order to bring the rich people to Brixton as it was linked via the Chatham rail main line and in 1888 the first electric lights were built in Brixton in the now know Electric Avenue surrounded by large expensive houses along main road. There was also a class divided into class as the middle class and high earner were put in houses around the major roads and the lower income families were put to live behind railroad and commercial street areas.
Brixton started another change in 1925 when the working class started to replace the middle class and a lot of the big houses were turned into lower rent boarding houses and flats. Brixton was now attracting more and more new residents with it cinema, market, theatre, pubs and had become the new shopping capital of South London, with the their large department stores which are Morley etc and other stores and major retailers.
Brixton came under fire from the bombing in World War 11 which led to a crucial housing crisis and decay. The council decided to do a slum clearance and started to build council housing in 1940’s and the 1950’s which saw many immigrants from Ireland and the West Indies moved into Brixton, many from the Windrush generation.
I recall Brixton back in the 80,s after the riots in 1981. It was still a place that everyone came to do their shopping, to buy their music from places such as Red Records, to go to Woolworth and most of all to go to the markets, hang out eating patties and drinking rum punch as the sound of music especially reggae filled the air. It was still the place to feel at home as you watch the flock of people doing their shopping and avoiding old ladies pulling trolleys over your foot. The main scenery in Brixton during the 80’s was that of stalls selling Caribbean food such as yam, green bananas and many other foods from the Caribbean. Mass of hair shops selling wigs etc. and many hairdressers, barbers, Caribbean takeaways was the main culture that was showing until the Council Materplan of Brixton in 2009 came into place and Tesco moved from Pope Road to Arce Lane in July 2009, was the first sign of changes on the way, and become realistic in 2019, are seeing overpriced properties, family run businesses going under due to quadrupled rent and being replaced by new chain stores.
Link to Future Brixton Masterplan 2009..
Many who previously left Brixton is now finding it hard to return to live or even set up a business due to the expensiveness the area has become. Also many of the young generation who have grown up and lived in Brixton all their lives, feels dissolute at the prospect of not being able to stay in their own community, as they feel unwelcome, and eventually priced out.
Quote from a young woman. “This is not the Brixton, I know, grown up in all my life. It feels like I am being forcibly removed, with my culture that was created completely vanishing.” Another quoted from a young man. “People are being forced out by high rent and unaffordable house prices along with universal credit which is probably a part of their plan to move people out to the countryside such as Stoke on Trent and Peterborough and burdening those Council’s with people from Lambeth & London problems, it sucks”.
Brixton coming into the last 5 years has seen many changes such as the Voice Newspaper, disappeared, replaced by luxury apartments and trendy cafés/restaurants that’s only seem to be focusing on catering to certain clientele. Just opposite Brixton Village that leads unto Sommerleyton Road is a £100million development to the old Peabody housing estate, with very little affordable houses amongst some social houses. To further establish the area the Oval House Theatre will also be moving from the Oval into the area opposite the Brixton Village.
Brixton is now known as the trendiest place to live with its vibrant mix of socializing, music, bars, events, and it multicultural ethnicity, mixture of different nationalities that when around the tube station, it sounds like you have stepped out of Heathrow International Airport due to the vast languages that is spoken around that area but yet local communities cannot afford to socialize especially on a weekend as its overcrowded with credit card wheeling middle class ravers who can afford to pay the high charges as gentrification steps in. House prices has rocketed with people paying outrageous prices as properties are being sold for double the price, showing a staggering 76% rise since the Brixton Masterplan 2009 and businesses push to the limit of no coming back. Brixton being the main strategic and cultural centre in Lambeth, is generating an increase in population yet even with gentrification on the door step the high rate of unemployment and increase in homelessness still prevails.
This is a link to an interview with Solomon Smith of Brixton Soup Kitchen, on Gentrification of Brixton.
The main market known as Brixton Village, creates the ambiance in the heart of Brixton but has seen the biggest sign of gentrification as many businesses has closed making way for influx of trendy café, bars, restaurants who are willing to pay the asking price of £40,000 per year for lease.
Brixton still remains highly protected with listed buildings that gives it that authentic and historical look , even regeneration and gentrification cannot demolished such as the Lambeth Town Hall in Acre Lane, which has now been given an upgrade costing an estimated £104 million, along with the new Civic Centre, that were part of the Councils Master Plan to urbanized the area. This also means removing the prominent and iconic building Olive Morris House, likely to turn into luxury flats, (also erasing the memory of the Olive Morris who Lambeth, honoured in 1986 by naming the building after her) no doubt be unaffordable to the local community.
Further down behind Brixton Academy you have Stockwell Park Estate and the Skate Park (once called notorious and no go area) now seeing luxury apartments which is changing the area.
Why this sudden change of Brixton? Is it the easy proximity to West End, the City, St Pancras International Station for Euro Star, fast Victoria Line and overhead train links and Vauxhall regeneration of high rise luxury apartments, the American Embassy that this image is offering a certain attraction to middle and high purchasing power that is leading to the fatal blow to the communities of Brixton and pushing out the working class out the neighbourhood.
One aspect that created controversy on gentrification is the arches in Brixton owned by Network Rail and housed many small businesses. Network Rail new venture to renovate with an £8million upgrade has seen many traders still being evicted even after a petition of 30,000 people supported them. Many are unable to return on completion due to the higher rent that they say are unaffordable putting many out of business and had to take compensation in 2016 and leave. Some moved somewhere else with very few returning to join the elite purchasing power that has outweighed the lower earners who feels displaced and abandon as they are pushed farther away where rent are more affordable.
One trader from the arches Mr A said “I have to return to my native country after having my business here for over 25 years and it is devastating” Further quote by a traders said “The arches, once community backbone for small businesses has been moved by Network Rail and the Council, hence evicting our community.
Other business around Brixton has closed down due to Landlord wanting properties back such as the long standing over 30 years, 414 Night Club in Coldharbour Lane, now a prime spot for a new venture. One former worker quoted “they don’t want any black businesses in the area anymore, so they are taking it all away little by little”.
Further business that looks to go to gentrification is SW9 Bar in Dorrell Place after investor Miraj bought the Superdrug site in front for a staggering £76million with monies borrowed from Lloyds Bank, to build luxury 96 room hotel. Owner Alan Culterhouse of SW9 Bar told Brixton Blog in February 2017 when he was first approached by lawyers from the developers. “They told me there was no point even consulting a lawyer of my own,” he says. They said they had the money, resources and experience behind them to make pointless any resistance to their plan to terminate his lease with compensation that falls many tens of thousands short of his own view of what would be appropriate”. Another 250 room hotel is set to be also built along Brixton Road in the old DHSS office with the front entry where the shop Barnados now lives. The original businesses such as Marks & Spencer, Morley Store, Boots and Superdrug has now being joined by new additions like TK Maxx, Pret Manger, Costa, The Department Store, Premier Inn Hotel.
Link from Brixton Blog article.
On the other hand can gentrification really help an area such a Brixton to progress in the future.
A link from Telegraph’s writer Zoe Strimpel in November 2016
Another link from Brixton Blog Linda Quinn in January 2018 article and documentary on Film Maker Shaun Duncan
A quote from Shane Duncan on gentrification “I realised the place I called home was changing fast and I wanted to make a film that reflected that – I wanted the people that were blind to the fact, to now be able to see.”
And a response by Beatrice Gorman about the article in the comment section. “I don’t see many Jamaican posters on here who bought property for two grand in the 60s in Brixton and then sold them for 850k to white professionals moaning much do you? Black people didn’t just live in social housing – in fact, those arrivals in the 50s bought properties. My street was nearly all black in the 70s and the last black family moved out and sold for 900k last year. Nice payback, and not the fault of white people”.