Gentrification in the 21st century: Timmy Odejimi explores the impact of gentrification on young creatives.
Always the talk of the town, however, discussing gentrification isn’t exactly “news” in today’s society. From subjects of rent and property prices to the audacity and cheek of landlords, the whole epidemic of a gentrified society has gotten out of hand.
The redevelopment of London’s inner-city areas has been praised by some as an ‘urban improvement’, while others simply see it as a ‘social cleansing.’
Despite the various opinions, gentrification is having a profound effect on the capital’s creative communities, more than most people think.
In the UK, the notion of gentrification began post Second World War, which gradually progressed through north London neighbourhoods such as Islington and Camden. However, it has now become a widespread disease that is out of control – or at least the public’s control.
When it comes to chats over coffee or lunch, gentrification or rather “social cleansing” is usually the hot topic along with extortionate rent and property prices.
Statistics and figures show that average house prices in London have risen by 19.3 per cent to £499,000 – surpassing the average full-time London salary of £43, 886 – according to the Office for National Statistics.
With various numbers highlighting the monster prices placed on average housing, there is no surprise that more and more young adults are moving out of the capital. Additional figures released by the ONS show that, in the year to June last year, 58,220 people – with ages varying from 28 – 39 – departed London with sights on a new adventure and brighter future.
As the rich continue to splash their money and buy out failing businesses, communities continue to increasingly deteriorate.
One of the many communities being heavily targeted is East London’s creative districts. From Shoreditch to Dalston; Bethnal Green to Hackney Wick, the list is endless.
Despite many artists still residing in the east part of the capital, some believe the community and creative vibe has dampened due to process of gentrification. East London-based painter José, claims that the gathering of artists has dropped and many creatives have been pushed out.
“Belsize Park and Hackney were one of the gathering spots, but what’s happened is the artists have been pushed out and the rich have come in”, he says.
Creatives, young and old, are simply not paid well enough in contrast to business sector professionals such as consultants, bankers and lawyers. The whole situation of today’s gentrified society goes back to the playground scenario – big bully vs. innocent kid – faced in schools across the world. In this case the rich corporate Canary Wharf individuals against the creatives struggling for their art.
As an artist, a creative work studio is essential. However, circumstances arise where you’re caught up in a predicament which eventually turns into an ultimatum. Occurring throughout London, affluent bankers and lawyers are moving into the trendy neighbourhoods; sparking increased rent and property prices and thus pushing creatives out so they cannot live or settle within their community.
Amsterdam-born photographer and Dalston resident, Violette Esmeralda, believes gentrification is pushing artists and creatives alike out of their hubs.
“I’ve been lucky to find a place with a fixed price, but if it wasn’t for that I would have been forced to move back to Amsterdam quite a while ago”, says Esmerelda.
Surveys show that London is the most pricy city in Europe; a frightening fact to say the least.
With cost of living/housing, the Dutch capital holds 14th place out of 54 in Western Europe rankings – a position Esmerelda agrees with.
“Over there [Amsterdam] housing prices are more regulated – the landlord is legally obliged to stick with the rent price you initially agree on – regardless of contract renewal.
“Here in London they [landlords] add 100 pounds to the monthly price every two years just because they can, which obviously put creatives in a tough situation considering we’re already struggling as it is.”
Data from the ONS (Office for National Statistics), show that rent prices increased in all English regions over the year to March 2015, with London’s rent rates increasing the most (3.2 per cent).
The severe rent and property prices in London, a city classed as the most expensive city in the world, has become a thing of laughter. Estate agent Rachel Smith, 26, admits that rent prices increase quite rapidly every season, with students and young creatives affected the most.
“The property market is one the busiest and biggest. Just like in fashion with a new collection each season, that’s the same with rent and property prices. It is mostly young clients, whether they’re buying or renting, that are usually affected the most by the price increase”, she says.
Anti-gentrification activists, such as young creative, bemoan the system behind it all, however they acknowledge its necessity.
Raleigh Fyfe, 22, graphic designer based in Clapton believes gentrification would be great if it just didn’t mean the rich continue bullying the less fortunate. “As a young creative, I believe the idea behind it makes sense to an extent, though I cannot stand by it if it continues to affect not just creative communities, but other communities around the capital.”
However the situation, it doesn’t seem gentrification is going anywhere. In any case, it’s here to stay for the long haul. Though this should not mean nothing can be done to cure the plague that it is considered to be.
It is evident the government need to intervene and offer more protection to many creatives, particularly the youths.
“It would be nice if there was a system, a government system that allows artists to exist in their frameworks which protects them from gentrification, but unfortunately we live in a capitalist society,” says José.
*Last updated: 28/11/2015