Gentrification is the improvement of housing in an area that was formerly poor and run-down. It is mainly carried out by the residents themselves in a piecemeal way. Individual home owners make repairs and improvements to their own property and, over time, if enough houses are improved, the nature of the whole area improves and draws in more people with the money to invest in their own properties.
As the standard of the housing improves so does the wealth of the neighbourhood. This, in turn, attracts different kinds of business – shops and services with a more up-market appeal. ‘Greasy spoon’ cafes might be replaced by trendy coffee shops, local pubs by wine bars or gastropubs, heap grocery stores by delicatessens, charity shops by estate agents, and so on, and the value of all the property in the areas goes up
Newington Green in North London is one small area that has been gentrified since the 1990s. The influx of professional people into this once run-down area has led to the development of the Newington Green Action Group, to improve the public spaces in the area.
Is gentrification always good?
But not everyone necessarily benefits from gentrification. What happens to the former residents of the areas that become gentrified?
If they own houses that they can sell, they obviously make a profit, and the decision to sell and move is theirs alone to make.
But many of the residents of such areas are in properties that they rent. They might include many single-parent families, unemployed people, low earners, retired people, recent immigrants, mentally ill people and so on. It might well be that their landlords see a greater potential profit I selling their houses to incomers or in developing the properties so that they can be let at much higher rents.
In some cases they probably put pressure on tenants to move out of their homes – a process known as displacement. Studies (including one carried out by the National Census authority) have suggested that 2-10% of tenants renting houses in the UK are harassed each year by their landlords or by people thought to represent landlords.