Group C – Conflict: Notes on Gentrification and Hackney


Here are the notes I have taken from two secondary resources last week:

-‘I love Hackney / Keep it crap’ – Hannah Jones


-Michael Rosen and Iain Sinclair are both local residents, writers and public figures, and have both been involved in public arguments with the local authority over regeneration and change in the borough (HACKNEY)


-For many of my interviewees, Rosen and Sinclair had come to symbolise a particular form of middle-class gentrification. The relationship of middle-class gentrifiers to the places they inhabit in the inner city (and specifically in Hackney) has been discussed at length elsewhere.2 Very often, there is a conclusion that many middle-class inhabitants of poor and ethnically diverse areas enjoy living there because they can choose to opt in and out of the excitement of multicultural inner-city life. That is, they are able to claim an affinity with what they perceive as ‘exotic’ or ‘different’, and thereby increase their cultural capital (knowledge of others, superiority over suburban ‘normality’) while remaining able (by virtue of their economic capital) to retreat into more privileged and safer environments.

-Author’s discussion:

– First, the negotiations over the meaning of Hackney are not separate from sociological analysis; they are not carried out in a closed environment, to which social theory can be applied from the outside. They might be understood as ‘public sociology’ as outlined in Chapter One, where sociological imaginations are applied outside the academic arena, and research participants are able to draw on sociological resources to negotiate their own place within government.

-Second, many interviewees refer to a group of gentrifiers who are against (a particular type of) gentrification, and who are trying to protect a nostalgic past which maintains some of the difficulties of living in Hackney which made their own journey so ‘pioneering’ – and also exclusive (and therefore provided profoundly greater cultural capital).

-> THE AUTHOR FOCUSES – on how (and why) debates about the future of Hackney, and about processes of regeneration or gentrification, are played out through emotive narratives that call on ideas of authenticity of place and of voice. (p. 107)


What is Hackney?

-Hackney is an inner London borough in the north east of the city, 18.98 square kilometres of land,3 3.3 square kilometres of green space,4 247,000 people (LBH, 2012b) in 101,690 households (LBH, 2012a). 36% of the population is White British and the 30% of households speak a main language other than English (LBH, 2012b). 42% of the population aged 16-74 have a degree or equivalent qualification, and 20% of the same group have no qualifications; both of these are higher proportions than the London average (LBH, 2012b). House prices rose 176.6% between 2000 and 2005 (LBH, 2006a), the average house price is £426,470 (20% higher than for London as a whole and more than two and a half times the average for England and Wales) (LBH, 2012b).

The average male life expectancy is more than a year shorter than the London average (LBH, 2012b). Hackney was the only inner London borough without a tube line until the London Overground opened in 2010, and was one of the five London boroughs to host the 2012 Olympics.

Hackney is consistently ranked among the top four most deprived areas in the country (Noble et al, 2009). In 2009 78% of residents agreed that people from different backgrounds get along well in the area. (Ipsos MORI, 2009, p 39)

-Hackney has enormous strength and great opportunities. We are in the centre of London, one of the world’s most thriving cities.The people who live here have come from many different ethnic backgrounds and brought cultural diversity and vitality to the borough. The population is young, so has real prospects to improve its life chances. The borough itself is, in many respects a good place to live, with busy vibrant areas, strong communities and attractive open spaces. But many of the benefits of growing prosperity in the capital have not extended to us. While other parts of London experience pockets of deprivation, every ward in Hackney is among the 10 percent most deprived wards nationally. There are many problems facing us: poor skills and attainment levels, high mobility, a weak transport system, high levels of crime and poor environmental conditions.

Increasingly Hackney is also experiencing a polarisation of its community between richer and poorer groups while those with moderate incomes choose, or are forced, to live elsewhere.This polarisation can only harm the prospects for our borough. It makes it increasingly difficult for people to see pathways out of poverty – to become economically active, successful and stay in the borough. It makes it more difficult to recruit to the jobs which are needed to service our community. (LBH, 2006b, p 3)

-Hackney is well known for being one of the most diverse areas in the country. It is a place where you can walk past Turkish supermarkets, Jamaican takeaways, fish and chip shops or Nigerian restaurants on one road.It is an area where mosques, synagogues and churches lie within five minutes of each other. Living in Hackney means having diversity at your fingertips…. For me, Hackney is a microcosm of multicultural Britain and there are many lessons the rest of the country could learn from community relations here. (Abbott, 2008)


-In my interviews with policy practitioners in Hackney they were very aware of the negative discourses that they felt still dominated outsiders’ views of Hackney as a place of crime, deprivation and squalor, the typical sense of the abject inner city.The feeling that this portrayal was something to fight against was strong in my research interviews, but finding explicit examples of such depictions is not a straightforward task.The place has absorbed the connotations of the abject inner city to such an extent that it is unnecessary to spell this out in national discourse – a reference to Hackney in an article on knife crime, teenage pregnancy or street gangs, it seems, is sufficient to set the scene of fear, neglect or immorality.


-In Abbott’s account, Hackney is proposed as standing notfor the dangerous inner city, but as “a microcosm of multicultural Britain” from which others should learn.This is Hackney as the safe and celebratory multicultural ideal that as I argued in ChapterTwo is one way various actors have tried to reposition Hackney in the wider geographic and political imaginary.


‘I love Hackney. Keep it crap.’

Laura was a senior officer whose work was partly related to a recent publicity campaign based around the slogan ‘I Love Hackney’. This began with an exhibition at Hackney Museum drawing on locals’ memories of the borough, drawing together multiple narratives of place.A striking aspect of the exhibition was the use of a logo based on the ‘I Love NY’ iconography,9 replacing Hackney in the motif, and later available on badges, mugs, sweatshirts, bags and other items. […] This campaign was very popular, inside and outside Hackney – although perhaps only with certain people. When wearing my ‘I Love Hackney’ badge, people asked me (elsewhere in London) if I’d ever been there. Other people have reported seeing them worn in Brighton and Oxford, by middle-class Hackney exiles.The logo was thus worn as a fashion item, while also used as a more traditional municipal message, on posters promoting falling crime rates and encouraging recycling, and as the theme for a local photography competition celebrating the borough and what people loved about it.10

-In the interview extract above, Laura was grappling with the Hackney brand as it related to national policy makers, rather than residents […]. Initially concerned that national policy makers may have a negative, outdated or inaccurate view of the borough, Laura’s speech quickly turned to excitement about the potential for developing the brand.When she questioned whether the emotion that was drawn on by the Hackney brand was ‘accurate’, and began to talk about turning to the future rather than the past, Laura was describing the move that she and others had made for the local authority with the rebranding ofHackney.Bytakingthegutreactionandemotionaldraw,connected with the fear and desire of the inner city, and harnessing it to ‘the future’ as symbolised by the 2012 Olympic Games, regeneration and the ‘vibrancy’ that is so often invoked in the positive profiles of the borough,the statement‘I Love Hackney’uses the edginess of Hackney’s prior associations to evoke much stronger affective ties than might come from a simple narrative of improving public services.


-While the local authority and other agencies of governance (London Development Agency, Olympic Delivery Authority, Visit London tourist authority) have packaged ‘edginess’ as an attraction for residents, business investment and tourists, there is a vocal group of residents (writers, poets, artists, political activists and others) making their own claims to speak for the authentic place and to champion this ‘edge’ in a different way. Part of the defensive struggle for the authentic claim to love Hackney has been a tendency among some elected politicians and local officers to label as the ‘Keep Hackney Crap brigade’ those who term the council’s regeneration as gentrification (or, occasionally, ‘gentricide’ or ‘regenocide’), as in this interview with Joe, a senior politician in the borough

– see p98-99 for Joe’s speech


-Jules Pipes – 2009 – article in the Guardian – Pipe’s comments were in response to a newspaper article written by the local poet and political activist (and former children’s laureate) Michael Rosen, who had criticised the nature of the regeneration of the Dalston area of the borough, and the local authority’s role in it. Rosen’s piece was subtitled ‘Regeneration has become a byword for New Labour’s disregard for democracy and slavish devotion to business’(Rosen, 2008a). Pipe countered that Rosen’s ‘ill-informed stance against the Dalston development is just the latest example of the “Keep Hackney Crap” mentality so beloved of the borough’s far left contingent’ (quoted in Hill, 2008). In this exchange, the argument was much more clearly about the question of political and economic choices as to ‘how best to bring prosperity to inner-city neighbourhoods’, as Hill pointed out (Hill, 2008).Yet the rhetorical power of affective language, and in particular the label ‘Keep Hackney Crap’, was unleashed as another way of confronting these debates through the lens of attachment and devotion, as well as through the oppositional framing of nostalgia and progress.

-the iconic ‘I Love Hackney’ badges became parodied by the independent production of badges bearing the slogan ‘Keep Hackney Crap’.


a struggle over what it means to ‘love’ Hackney– keeping an affection for the ‘crap’, or wanting to improve and change the place in some way.

Improving for Whom ?

Michael Rosen and Iain Sinclair – the two have rather different positions in the struggles over meaning in Hackney.


-Michael Rosen, on the other hand, has long been active within left- wing politics.The article that embroiled him in the argument with Mayor Pipe outlined above was published in Socialist Worker,and he has produced artistic as well as journalist work on political themes, in particular criticising regeneration projects such as the model seen in Dalston

-The dilemmas of how to improve local quality of life without thereby becoming subject to market processes that produce this demographic change led to evident frustration for many.

-The sigh of relief at ‘no sense of regeneration here’ may refer to some kind of distaste for a cleaning-up seen as antiseptic and inauthentic, but coupling this with an apparent celebration of the ‘bristling’, ‘steel-shuttered’ scene of young drug dealers heading for an early grave undermines this romanticism (similarly the drawing on another mythology of place, a conflict-hardened and depressed image of Belfast).This is the reading of many council officers and councillors such as Joe and Sam, who feel that Sinclair and other critics are sitting pretty in the ‘nicer’ parts of Hackney, wanting to preserve the picturesque poverty elsewhere for their own inspiration, without caring about the people who live in the majority of the borough.


-In Sinclair’s dreams of Hackney, the ‘unnoticed and unrequired ruin[s]’ should be cherished (Sinclair, 2008b). For him, their renovation was a tragedy, profit conquering aesthetics, with Olympic legacy building as a driving force. Although he might argue that he was defending creativity and urban energy, it is easy to respond that this was self-indulgent in comparison with meeting pressing needs for affordable housing and decent services. But while mourning the loss of ‘every previously unnoticed and unrequired ruin’, he also recognised that some of the work of turning them ‘to profit’ had been done by the ‘impoverished artists and free-livers’ themselves. While Sinclair is nostalgic for the waste and ruin of a haunted landscape, he also recognises that this nostalgia is his subject, and that as it becomes built on and over-written, the material for his own writing expands.


-As an author,Iain Sinclair’s main concern is much different from that of local authority officers, politicians or other policy practitioners. He and his work have become embroiled in political negotiations, and one reason for this is that brand and narratives of place leach between municipal campaigns, political movements, cultural artefacts and commercial development, as, more deliberately, have Michael Rosen’s interventions.

-Some months after the ‘I Love Hackney’ campaign was established, the reopening of Gillett Square11in the Dalston area of Hackney as a renovated urban space was greeted by the elected Mayors of London and Hackney, 200 saxophonists and an audience for an afternoon of celebratory music and dance. It also attracted a group of protesters with signs declaiming the ‘gentricide’ or ‘regenocide’ they felt the new space represented, with its repaved square and ban on public drinking. Their view was that the square’s renovation was a privatisation of public space and another stage in the transfer of wealth and power from poor to rich, and in this process a neutering of some form of authentic Hackney-ness (Ben, 2006).


-The protest at the opening of Gillett Square was recalled by several council officers and elected members as typical of privileged gentrifiers wanting to preserve a sense of urban grittiness at the expense of those without the cultural and economic capital to insulate them from its ill effects. More than one council officer described to me a group of teenagers telling the protesters that they (the teenagers) were glad that the place was now “safer, more well-lit”.

-Gillett Square is in Dalston, the area of Hackney where poet Michael Rosen lives, and one undergoing rapid change associated in particular with the arrival of a new link to the Tube system, the opening of new cultural and entertainment venues and large-scale housing developments. Michael Rosen has been outspoken about these changes, the subject of his public spat with Mayor Pipe outlined above, and with comments published in Time Out:

A demographic dream grew in the heart of the large white building: they could change the way Hackney is … families out, young professionals in. Migrants’ shops out, chain stores in. Blink and you’ll miss the rising of another block of loft- style apartments … Manhattan … studio … modern living etc…. A train linking Hackney to Croydon is on its way, reminding us that the great white building will preside over the Croydonisation of Dalston and no one really knows what the Olympics will bring. (Rosen, 2007)


As more people “who look like them and sound like them” gain access to Hackney’s inner London exoticism, it undermines the rarity and value of the cultural capital they have amassed through an exclusive association with the place. Rosen acknowledged that these attitudes existed, but distanced himself from them (again, they were the absent others who defined the speaker’s position as an authentic Hackney resident). For Rosen, such people were something of a sideshow: “THE problem” is the way in which urban change is progressing within a neoliberal capitalist framework.

-Although Rosen pushed for greater attention to the preservation of older urban environments in Dalston in particular, he argued that this was not an outright opposition to urban change, but that he favoured more community-led and less capital-intensive development. He contrasted this to the local authority model of reliance on the capital and leverage available within the parameters of local government power and the vagaries of the property market. Rosen went on to describe an altercation with a council official in which their contrasting visions of Hackney collided: p106


-Rosen’s question – “improving for whom?” – is at the centre of these narratives and counter-narratives.

            –The local authority practitioners I spoke with saw the renovation of Gillett Square as benefiting local young people (those who were reported as being pleased about better lighting, paving and security), albeit relying on elements of private investment and public–private partnership to do so

            –Michael Rosen (and, we might presume, the ‘gentricide’ protesters) emphasised the role of ‘very large private capital’ profiting from something that ‘nobody has asked for’.

            -Protectinv area from the homogenising and excluding forces of capitalism.Rosen sensed that he and the local authority representative he encountered “were talking two completely different languages”. But I would suggest that the mutual incomprehension was not so clearcut. While Rosen and others were not championing poverty, nor were the policy practitioners I interviewed uncomplicatedly championing gentrification or free market logics. And people in both ‘camps’ were aware of, if not comfortable with, the ways that their own fortunes were implicated in the positions they took in these debates.

Brand and Cultural Capital


-The marketing literature distinguishes branding as a distinct approach to selling a ‘product’ that is not about a fundamental change in the product or an association with a simple abstract emotion, but attachment to a narrative (Holt and Cameron, 2010). Lury suggests that not only have brands become used as a way of organising the role of emotion in brand relations (between consumer and product), but that the use of brands relies on a shift in which ‘[i]nstead of a desire to keep up with the Joneses, consumers are believed to be more concerned with finding meaning in their lives’

-The reappropriation of brand myths can be thought of as a form of trading in cultural capital (Bourdieu, 1986), where identities or meanings that are otherwise seen as abject become a source of cultural capital for those people who are able to adopt appealing aspects of the identity, while avoiding abject connotations

-Skeggs suggests that the logics and techniques of branding are used in popular culture to commodify the culture and experiences of working-class British people, making identification with these ‘products’ an asset for middle-class people, which they can trade on as cultural capital (see also Skeggs, 2004). In the case of Hackney (and other places like it), the power of ‘edgy’ branding allows a place that is seen as dangerous and uncomfortable to be appropriated by those whose existing economic, cultural and social capital enables them to escape any actual danger, while profiting from association with local myths.


-But some residents took exception to this as a potentially disingenuous ‘sanitising’ of local difference, packaged to appeal to ‘the middle class’. Their response, in the form of various rebranded cultural artefacts, was to declare their allegiance to another imagined version of the borough under a defiant slogan ‘Keep Hackney Crap’.This second type of claim to ‘Love Hackney’ (as ‘Crap’) could be a claim to authentic knowledge similar to that outlined above – it’s not crap, or ‘one person’s crap is another’s gold’. But another, more ironic version of this reappropriation of the Hackney brand is that by identifying with a place seen by others as dangerous,‘dour’ or down-at-heel, people gain a sense of excitement and edginess without actually being exposed to any danger.

-Philo and Kearnspose a confrontation between accounts of place and history produced ‘in the name of an urban-based bourgeoisie’, and those ‘in the name of those “other peoples” of the city’ (Philo and Kearns, 1993, p 26; emphasis added).Their assumption is that each of these groups speak for themselves, and are in competition, so that the stories of ‘other peoples’ are always silenced by the bourgeoisie. But all of the accounts provided here are accounts made in the name of the disempowered and marginalised, by middle-class urbanites. Philo and Kearns’ model can only really work when histories of the working class, women, ethnic others, sexual minorities, disabled people and other marginalised groups are seen as uninteresting,irrelevant or threatening by those with greater power to command narratives of place.


-As the ‘Keep Hackney Crap’ badges, the artists who ‘can’t believe their luck’ at ‘such visible horror’ of urban development, and the people who ‘think they discovered Hackney in 1975’ show, one aspect of the attachment to Hackney is to seek to protect the cultural capital it accrues by keeping this capital scarce.That is, something is only ‘edgy’ as long as most people still despise it (and the edgy people remain ahead of the crowd). Such a logic has been identified in more straightforward analyses of trends and marketing (see, for example, Thompson et al, 2006), but differs from the more general findings of studies such as Butler (1997), Butler and Robson (2003), May (1996) and Reay (2008), which uncovered a more explicit desire to enjoy observing ‘otherness’ while maintaining a definite distance from it.14

-The difficulty is that so many of these claims to Hackney and its myths are rooted in claims of certainty, certainty of being right and of others being wrong. Even complexity and flux become reified by appeals to ‘diversity’, or claims that Hackney has ‘always been a place of change’. The success of London’s bid to host the 2012 Olympics is widely attributed to its foregrounding of the internationalism and multiculturalism of East London (Vertovec, 2007, p 1025;Wetherell, 2008, pp 306-7). One of the central motivations for making the bid was to attract funding to this deprived area of the city (Evening Standard, 2008).


-The local politicians and officers might benefit by ‘improving’ the place – in their careers and reputation as well as their community- minded goals. And the artists make (and recognise that they make) a good deal out of it too, as noted by Iain Sinclair above. Academics (including myself!) are, of course, no less exempt from this, with Hackney’s potency as an area of diversity and change, inequality and political history (and often personal associations) drawing a variety of scholars to produce studies embedded in the area.

The Birth of Gentrification’ – Loretta Lees:


P- 3

-Sociologist Ruth Glass coined term ‘gentrification’ in 1964 – ‘a slippery term, the problem being amplified by the preponderance of numerous alternative labels for gentrification’.

-NY and London as case study – ‘By choosing examples of classical gentrification from two different cities and countries, we demonstrate the necessary preconditions for gentrification and the contextual differences between these places’

-gentrification is an economic, cultural, political, social, and institutional phenomenon


 -Ruth Glass used the term ‘gentrification’ to describe some new and distinct processes of urban change that were begin- ning to affect inner London; the changes she described are now known as those of ‘classical gentrification’

-Term – ‘rooted in the intricacies of traditional English rural class structure, the term was designed to point to the emergence of a new ‘urban gentry’, paralleling the 18th- and 19th-century rural gentry familiar to readers of Jane Austen who comprised the class strata below the landed gentry, but above yeoman farmers and peasants’


-The term is also ironic in that it makes fun of the snobbish pretensions of affluent middle-class households who would still prefer a rural, traditional way of life if given the chance (just think of all those classic gentrifiers’ homes with stripped wood floors, Aga stoves, open fires, and natural wood and material furnishings).

-Glass identified gentrification as a complex urban process that included the rehabili- tation of old housing stock, tenurial transformation from renting to owning, property price increases, and the displacement of working-class residents by the incoming middle classes.

-1860’s – Hausman urban reforms in Paris – gentrification

-But the emergence of gentrification proper, we argue (contra Clark 2005), began in postwar advanced capitalist cities (Boston, NY, London…) – Post-war reconstruction in London (Urban planning, brutalist architecture…)


-both the United States and the United Kingdom, for some time now, has refused to use the term ‘gentrification’, even when its policies were exactly that.

-Neil Smith: A number of other terms are often used to refer to the process of gentrification, and all of them express a particular attitude towards the process’. (ex: NY Homesteading)


-Glass: the process by which working class residential neighbourhoods are rehabilitated by middle class homebuyers, land- lords and professional developers. I make the theoretical distinction between gentrification and redevelopment. Redevelopment involves not rehabilitation of old structures but the construction of new buildings on previously developed land.

-1980’s – the term ‘gentrification’ found in dictionnaries:

-The 1980 Oxford American Dictionary defined ‘gentrification’ as the ‘movement of middle class families into urban areas causing property values to increase and having the secondary effect of driving out poorer families’

-the 1982 American Heritage Dictionary defined it as the ‘restoration of deteriorated urban property especially in working-class neighborhoods by the middle and upper classes’.

-The 2004 American Heritage Dictionary has altered that definition only slightly: ‘the restoration and upgrading of deteriorated urban property by middle class and affluent people, often resulting in displacement of lower-income people’.

-The 2000 Dictionary of Human Geography: gentrification The reinvestment of CAPITAL at the urban centre, which is designed to produce space for a more affluent class of people than cur- rently occupies that space. The term, coined by Ruth Glass in 1964, has mostly been used to describe the residential aspects of this process but this is changing, as gentrification itself evolves. (N. Smith 2000: 294; emphasis in original)

-As cities sought ways to reimagine themselves out of deindustrialization, urban water- fronts were redeveloped, hotel and convention complexes were built, and retail and restaurant districts developed. These were deliberately constructed as middle-class spaces in the central city.


-Classical gentrification (original term used by Ruth Glass): disinvested inner-city neigh- borhoods are upgraded by pioneer gentrifiers and the indigenous residents are displaced. Working-class housing becomes middle-class housing.

-See case-study: Barnsbury, London

-As in the United States, the suburbanization of London was facilitated by the state. Abercrombie’s Greater London Plan (1944), which became the blueprint for the postwar reconstruction of London, institutionalized the valorization of the suburbs and the devalorization of the inner city. This was further entrenched by the 1952 New Town Development Act, which exported 30,000 Londoners to expanded towns such as Bury St. Edmunds. The properties they left behind rapidly went into multioccupation.

-In postwar London, the demand for housing was greater than the available supply, but the pressure caused by demand was differential throughout London. In Barnsbury the pressure was great due to its large stock of privately rented accommodation located minutes from central London.


-The rapid tenurial transformation that occurred in Barnsbury between 1961 and 1981 is quite striking; owner-occupation increased from 7 to 19 percent, furnished rentals declined from 14 to 7 percent, and unfurnished rentals from 61 to a mere 6 percent (UK Census).

-Hamnett and Randolph’s (1986) ‘value gap thesis’ (see Box 2.2) emphasizes the political and institutional context shaping the actions of developers, landlords, buyers, and renters in central London at this time. It was the ‘value gap’ (the relation- ship between a building’s tenanted investment value and its vacant possession value, the former being a measure of the rented building’s annual rental income, and the latter a measure of the property’s future sale price when it is converted into owner-occupation—the landlord sells off the building when the gap widened sufficiently) and its attendant tenurial transformation that was the main ‘producer


-The middle classes were a captive market, and building societies were releasing more funds to inner-city property. The turning point for Barnsbury was associated with the 1957 Rent Act, which decontrolled unfurnished tenancies during a time of increasing home ownership. Before the act, rents were controlled at an arbitrary level, and the act was introduced to alleviate the poor condition of housing and its poor investment value. It allowed the landlord to change the market price of any property let after the act, and those with security of tenure lost it if they moved out of their con- trolled tenancies. The act made it legal, in London houses with a rateable value of over £40, to give most rent-controlled tenants six months to quit after a standstill period of fifteen months, or they could increase the rent. As a result Barnsbury suffered many cases -of winkling, where tenants were forced to leave because of bribery and harassment.

-Rachmanism refers to the unscrupulous tactics of the landlord Peter Rachman, who operated in London in the 1960s (see Green 1979). His name is synonymous with winkling at this time. The Rachman exposé came out of the Profumo sex scandal of 1963, and led to the Milner Holland Report of the Committee on Housing in 1964. Land- lord David Knight was Barnsbury’s Rachman. He evicted a twenty-three-year- old teacher from her flat on Barnsbury Road. She had reported him to a rent tribunal to get her rent reduced, and in response he cut off her electricity, locked her out, and threw out her belongings.

-The Greater London Council (GLC) eventually jumped on the improvement bandwagon, too, and developed its own brand of ‘welfare win- kling’. A group of houses in Cloudsley Street and Batchelor Street were bought by the GLC for £90 each in 1966 and 1970, rehabilitated, and re-let to high- income tenants at £15 a week.

-Hamnett and Randolph’s (1986) ‘value-gap thesis’ (explaining why different parts of Barnsbury gentrified at different times) – In Barnsbury lease reversion assumed a particular importance for the gentrification process. Different properties in the area belonged to different landowning estates and their leases closed at different times, depending on when the estates were built. […]. the private landlords, who were to profit from the flat break-up in central London after 1966, when private rented flats were sold into owner occupation and gentrification. Developers and private individuals waited in anticipation. The London Property Letter (February 1970) circulated amongst estate agents referred to Barnsbury as a “healthy chicken ripe for plucking”

àGentrification process danger – private properties sold to individuals who take advantage of the situation of middle-class.


-The 1969 Housing Act demonstrated a new commitment from government to rehabilitation instead of just renewal. The act provided local authorities with the power to allocate discretionary improvement grants. The improve- ment grants were £1,000 and £1,200 for conversions. As the grants had to be met pound for pound by the improver, they automatically favored the more well-off improver or developer and aided the gentrification process in Barnsbury. Initially there were no restrictions on the improvement grants; as such, a property could be sold immediately after rehabilitation/conversion with vast profits being realized. In 1971 56 percent of all Islington’s improvement grants went to the wards of Barnsbury and St. Peters, revealing the extent of renovation activity in the area at this time. Williams found that up to 90 percent of those properties sold by estate agencies in Islington in the 1960s were of rented property converted into owner-occupation. By 1972 nearly 60 percent of Barnsbury’s housing had been rehabilitated, and the new households consisted predominantly of middle-class owner-occupiers. House prices had risen significantly over this period: for example, a house in Lonsdale Square which had cost £9,000 in 1966 cost £18,000 in 1969 and £35,000 in 1972 (nearly a fourfold increase in just six years). In 1974 Islington Council placed restrictions on its improvement grants so that applicants had to remain in their improved property for at least five years after rehabilitation.

-Other government schemes which aided the gentrification process were the designation of parts of Barnsbury as a General Improvement Area and a Housing Action Area. The former aimed to encourage voluntary action in improving areas of private property by providing higher grants for properties and encouraging local authorities to undertake environmental improvements, and the latter sought rapid improvement through voluntary action by increasing the improvement grants allocated to these areas.


-Space was one exemplar of class difference. Pitt (1977) mentions four houses in Lonsdale Square: two contained single-family middle-class owner-occupants, whilst the other two provided accommodation for forty-eight single working-class tenants in the furnished rented sector.


-By the late 1970s, property speculation had dampened significantly as gentrification became firmly anchored in Barnsbury. In the 1980s, larger conversions were replaced by smaller-scale conversions, for example the conversion of single-family townhouses into one- or two-bed flats

-Case-study: Park Slope, New York City (skipped)


Early Stage Models

-The early stage models of gentrification developed in the 1970s and 1980s to both explain the process and predict the future course of gentrification mirrored Glass’s definition of classical gentrification and generally described the changes as a filtering process in the manner of some of the early ecologists

-Clay (1979) produced one of the first major studies of gentrification– he found that private urban reinvestment had occurred in all of the largest U.S. cities in the late 1970s. Most of the American gentrified neighborhoods that he found were at least seventy- five years old, the houses were usually Victorian and occupied by working-class families, and some properties were abandoned.

-Stage 1: [A] small group of risk-oblivious people move in and renovate proper- ties for their own use. Little public attention is given to renovation at this stage, and little displacement occurs because the newcomers often take housing that is vacant or part of the normal market turnover in what is often an extremely soft market. This pioneer group accepts the risks of such a move.

Sweat equity and private capital are used almost exclusively, since conventional mortgage funds are unavailable. This first stage is well under way before it receives any public recognition, although even at this early stage the grapevine is spreading the word. The first efforts are con- centrated in very small areas, often two to three blocks. The first group of newcomers usually contains a significant number of design profession- als or artists who have the skill, time, and ability to undertake extensive rehabilitation. (In Boston, San Francisco and other cities, respondents suggested it was the homosexual community who made up the popula- tion. They seek privacy and have the money and the taste to take on this challenge. One observer suggested that “Smart money will follow homo- sexuals in cities.”)

-Stage 2: few more of the same type of people move in and fix up houses for their own use. Subtle promotional activities are begun, often by a few percep- tive realtors. Small-scale speculators may renovate a few houses in visible locations for resale or rental. Rarely does a large speculator come in at this stage, because capital for investors and residents is still scarce. Those who come in at this stage seek units that are relatively easy to acquire—vacant buildings owned by absentee landlords, city-owned or tax-foreclosed properties. Some displacement occurs as vacant housing becomes scarce. Those who come in stages one and two will later be considered the old-timers in this new neighborhood. If the neighborhood is to have its name changed, it often happens at this stage. New boundaries are identified, and the media begin to pay attention to the area… . In some neighborhoods mortgage money becomes available, but the loan is more often secured by other property, given by the seller, or given for a relatively low percentage of the total investment. Renovation spreads to adjacent blocks.

-Stage 3: At this stage major media or official interest is directed to the neighborhood. The pioneers may continue to be important in shaping the process, but they are not the only important ones. Urban renewal may begin … or a developer … may move in. Individual investors who restore or renovate housing for their own use continue to buy into their neighborhood. The trend is set for the kind of rehabilitation activity that will dominate. Physical improvements become even more visible because of their volume and because of the general improvement they make to the whole area. Prices begin to escalate rapidly.

Displacement continues. …

The arrivals in this third stage include increasing numbers of people who see the housing as an investment in addition to being a place to live. These newer middle-class residents begin to organize their own groups or change the character of the pioneers’ organization.

The organized community turns outward to promote the neigh- borhood to other middle-class people and to make demands for pub- lic resources. It turns inward to exert peer influence on neighbors and to shape community life. Tensions between old residents and the gentry begin to emerge. Social service institutions and subsidized housing are resisted with passion. Protective or defensive actions against crime are taken. If the new residents, especially the most recent arrivals, are less tolerant of lower or working-class behavior, these tensions may become serious. Banks begin to greenline the area, looking for spatial patterns of reinvestment and then making loans to middle-class buyers and investors within the limited area. …

The popular image of the process of change at this stage is clearly gen- trification and is treated as such by the media. The neighborhood is now viewed as safe for larger numbers of young middle-class professionals.

-Stage 4: larger number of properties are gentrified, and the middle-class con- tinues to come. What is significant about the new residents is that more are from the business and managerial middle class than from the profes- sional middle class. …

Efforts may be made to win historic district designation or to obtain other stringent public controls to reinforce the private investment that has taken place.

Buildings that have been held for speculation appear on the market. … Small, specialized retail and professional services or commercial activi- ties begin to emerge, especially if the neighborhood is located near the downtown or a major institution. Rapid price and rent spirals are set off. Displacement now affects not only renters but some home owners as well. Additional neighborhoods in the city are being discovered to meet the increasing demand of the middle class. While some controversy emerges, especially related to displacement, relatively little is done to dampen middle-class reinvestment.

-Clay based study on USA… And contra the new policy ideas about gentrification and social mixing in the United Kingdom and elsewhere stage 3 suggests not harmonious mixing but actual conflict!


Gale (1979) formulated a classic gentrification model that underlined class and status distinctions between old and new residents in a gentrifying neighborhood. Gale’s model of classical gentrification emphasized population change in terms of the displacement of former working-class residents.

The gentrifier type is described by Gale as follows:

The most typical such household is childless and composed of one or two white adults in their late twenties or thirties. College educated, often possessing graduate education, the household head is most likely a professional or (less commonly) a manager. The annual household income … is likely to range between $15,000 and $30,000 (the US median was about $14,900 in 1977) with several resettlers earning more than $40,000. (1979: 295)

–> The differences between Clay’s (1979) and Gale’s (1979) stage models of gentrification indicate how different emphases and interests in gentrification research lead to different ‘pictures’ or ‘stories’ of the process

-one of the reasons that stage models of gentrification were developed was to cope with the temporal variations in gentrification that were already apparent in the 1970s. Gentrification stage models were designed to represent gentrification in an orderly, temporal, sequential progression.

The pioneer gentrifier works in the cultural professions, is risk oblivious, wants to pursue a nonconformist lifestyle, wants a socially mixed environment, and rehabilitates his or her property using sweat equity. Then more risk-conscious mainstream professionals move in, some with young families. Realtors and developers start to show an interest, and as property prices increase the original residents might be pushed out. Over time, older and more affluent and conservative households move in, attracted to what is now a safe investment. Eventually, gentrification is seen to stabilize at an endpoint of mature gentrification.

Rose (1984) was one of the first people to question the way that gentrifi- cation was being conceptualized. She was concerned about the generalized descriptions of typical gentrifiers and typical gentrified neighborhoods. Rose (1984) criticized stage models for lumping together different processes and effects; she preferred to see gentrification as a ‘chaotic concept’ in which different actors, housing tenures, motives, and allegiances coexisted. For Rose, ‘the terms “gentrification” and “gentrifiers” … are “chaotic conceptions” which obscure the fact that a multiplicity of processes, rather than a single causal process, produce changes in the occupation of inner-city neighbourhoods from the lower to higher income residents’