Gentrification, Displacement, and the Impacts of Council Estate Renewal in C21st London

Lead Research Organisation: University of Leicester
Department Name: Geography

Abstract

England's council estates are facing a 'new' urban renewal that threatens to repeat many of the mistakes of post-war urban renewal, which disrupted local communities and exacerbated the social problems slum clearance was meant to solve. Now it is large inner city estates that ministers are slating for demolition and redevelopment as new 'mixed communities', in which social housing is interspersed with luxury developments sold on for profit at market prices.

With the nation's highest land values and greatest housing pressure, London is at the forefront of this 'new' urban renewal. While proponents of estate renewal see it as a way to address deprivation on socially polarised estates and increase the housing supply without public funding, critics charge that it amounts to gentrification by stealth insofar as estate renewal will inevitably see middle class professional groups displace from the inner city the low income and working-class populations that council housing has long provided for.

Despite worries, even from Boris Johnson, about the prospect of 'Kosovo-style social cleansing' from inner London, the overall extent of both direct and indirect displacement of working class populations from London has yet to be ascertained. Moreover, little is known about the consequences of estate renewal schemes for those involved, despite widely-voiced concerns that this may be disrupting and breaking-up cohesive and resilient working class populations.

This research will address gaps in knowledge about gentrification, displacement and the impacts of estate renewal in London. Working closely with tenants groups and other local stakeholders, it will combine large -scale statistical analysis to measure the scale and patterns of gentrification and associated displacement of working/servicing class populations from London with more intensive, case study methods to document the impacts of urban renewal schemes on individual estates, their residents, the communities across the Southeast to which they are being displaced, and the new 'mixed' communities emerging on redeveloped council estates in London.

As well as contributing to academic knowledge about the processes of gentrification and displacement, the research will also make a tangible impact on 3 major groups of beneficiaries that we will engage with in different ways.

First, residents of council estates facing urban renewal programmes will be supported with an advice handbook and other support to help them organise to ensure that future estate regeneration schemes are conducted in ways that benefit, rather than displace, existing residents.

Second, developers/Registered Social Landlords involved in estate regeneration will receive a systematic assessment of the impacts of London's estate renewal schemes. This will enable future redevelopments to be planned so as to mitigate displacement and other negative impacts, both on estate residents and their communities in London and on the recipient communities to which estate residents have often been displaced.

Finally, the project will also help shape the future policy agenda in the UK and beyond through a series of planned policy engagement activities and briefings, conducted in collaboration with the GLA, to inform the specific policy guidance and practices involved in council estate renewal planning,

To reach more general public audiences research will also be publicised through social media (e.g. Twitter) and through an associated website and blog which will link to research outputs. In addition we will work with David Modell (see letter of support) on a Channel 4 documentary on gentrification and displacement due to council estate renewal in London, and the research will also be fed through to Off Stage, so that they can work on a theatre production (which as in their previous production will include tenants themselves) (see letter of support).

Planned Impact

This project will provide vital evidence about the scale of the displacements being caused by new, ongoing programmes of urban renewal on London's council estates and the wide-ranging impacts--on residents, on source communities, and on the places to which those displaced by redevelopment have been decanted.

As detailed in our Pathways to impact plan, research is designed to make a tangible impact on 3 major groups of beneficiaries that we will engage with in different ways:

1) Residents of council estates facing urban renewal programmes will be supported with an advice handbook and other support to help them organise to ensure that future estate regeneration schemes are conducted in ways that benefit, rather than displace, existing residents. Engagement work here will be facilitated through our close collaboration with project partners from the London Tenants Federation and Just Space, while the involvement of Platform 7 in an 'art-intervention' will help engage communities beyond London indirectly impacted by displacement from estate renewal.

2) Developers/Registered Social Landlords involved in estate regeneration will receive a systematic assessment of the impacts of London's estate renewal schemes. This will enable future redevelopments to be planned so as to mitigate displacement and other negative impacts, both on estate residents and their communities in London and on the recipient communities to which estate residents have often been displaced.

3) Local, national, and international policymakers will be helped to shape future policy agendas on estate renewal and urban regeneration through a series of planned policy engagement activities and briefings, conducted in collaboration with the GLA.

Publications


10 25 50