Gentrification versus Working Class Neighbourhoods


By URBACT, on July 6th, 2010

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Darinka Czischke, Thematic Expert of the URBACT SUITE project gave the last of this season’s series of lectures sponsored by the European Housing Forum in Brussels on the 29th of June. It was in fact the 4th lecture organised under the theme “Changing Lifestyles, Changing Climate – The role of Housing in the EU”.

The lecture and debate which followed focussed on a wide-ranging examination of gentrification as an urban phenomenon – and the many facets which influence, or are influenced, by this dynamic in our cities. The question of how to live together in socially diverse cities was set alongside the values which can follow a process of gentrification (regeneration, creation of new opportunities) as well as the costs which can result in terms of population displacement and functional mutation. Important links were identified with densification, consequences of sprawl or compact city, and with the notion of social mix, does proximity bring integration or simply co-existence? A pertinent categorisation of “Urbanites”, “Suburban leavers” and the “Trapped” highlighted the tensions being experienced in terms of socio-spatial segmentation or integration in many of our urban contexts. Furthermore the relationships between social mix, (housing) tenure mix, income mix and functional mix were considered in relation to the negative associations which often prevail between low-income concentrations and housing tenure – generating residualisation and stigmatisation of social housing neighbourhoods and communities. The role of gentrification in improving or aggravating such trends proved to be a vibrant subject of discussion.

The presentation was also illustrated by examination of well-chosen though northern European cases drawn from Darinka Czishke’s research experience both in the London School of Economics and with CECODHAS. Utrecht provided two contrasting examples in Hoograven and Leidsche rijn together with a revealing analysis of 5 London neighbourhoods. The topic covered here is one which particularly parallels concerns shared by projects in the URBACT “Quality Sustainable Living” area of expertise but certainly not exclusively. So it may be interesting to consult the powerpoint presentation which will appear in due course on the EU housing Forum website and/or make contact with Darinka Czishke via the SUITE project website.

It is the intention of the European Housing Forum to produce a report based on the material covered by all 4 lectures in this series and this should appear for general consumption in the autumn of this year. So for those interested to learn more I would advise – “watch this space!”

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Philip Stein
Thematic Pole Manager

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