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Gentrification- not our problem?

posted 14 Mar 2013, 05:49 by Tom Hughes   [ updated 15 Mar 2013, 04:57 ]
Source: http://theorycity.files.wordpress.com/2011/04/picture6-7_tarlabasi-before-and-after.jpg
Above: Cleaner, neater... but better? Gentrification before and after

Gentrification is a process in which marginal, run down areas become trendy and popular, often led by an influx of young people, artists and graduates seeking a cheap, edgy, 'real' place to live and work. Those people, with best community minded intentions, set to work 'improving' the area- which rapidly changes the place, increases prices and forces local people out. The very character that attracted people in the first place is often lost in the process, and the gentrification bandwagon rolls on to another, cheaper and more edgy location. 

Sneinton has built up a significant population of "creative types" over the years and still appeals to young professionals and graduates, but somehow it has avoided the gentrification trap; according to blogger Jones the Planner, through a combination of civic responsibility (enough people loving it how it is and helping preserve its heritage) and basic, grinding poverty.

A recent conference in London run by the Centre for Local Economic Strategy came up with 8 ways to make gentrification benefit all:
  1. COLLABORATE BETTER. Build small civic groups bringing businesses, residents and the public and social sectors together
  2. Be ACTIVISTS FOR MORE SOCIAL HOUSING as a bulwark against the forces of the global economy
  3. CREATE SELF-RENOVATING NEIGHBOURHOODS in which local people lead and manage initiatives using mutual self-interest as the driver. Such neighbourhoods unlock the tapped resources in people’s skills, in land and buildings and regenerate ‘one patch at a time’.
  4. REJECT AND SUBVERT THE NEO-LIBERAL REGENERATION AGENDA
  5. KEEP PRESSURE ON AGENCIES to ensure jobs are made available to local people.
  6. CREATE A NARRATIVE FOR THE AREA. What’s (this area) going to be? If we don’t decide, the developers will decide for us.
  7. INVEST IN AND DEFEND LOCAL SERVICES.
  8. BE COMFORTABLE WORKING WITH RESIDENTS. Talk to people about what they love about where they live. Understand what people have and hold onto that.
Sneinton might not be facing a gentrification problem right now, but with the Creative Quarter on our doorstep, talk of the potential effects of raised rents in the Lace Market and beyond has raised some hackles recently. Organisations like Sneinton Alchemy must be aware in their dedication to tackle local problems like poverty, exclusion, the decline of our 'heritage assets' and the state of our streets and buildings, they are working in the interests of local people- if the result of the effort is that the area 'improves' but no longer serves it's existing population, what is the point?

The eight points above have been formulated in response to gentrification being forced on an area, but they would seem to make a great starting point in a community like Sneinton: helping to ensure that in improving the area we don't become vulnerable to the negative side effects of development.

Image source: http://theorycity.wordpress.com/2011/05/04/the-city-the-home-of-the-homeless/
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