Skip to content

Gentrification is a global problem. It’s time we found a better solution

September 30, 2016

First come the artists, then the cranes. As the kamikaze pilots of urban renewal, wherever the creatives go, developers will follow, rents will rise, the artists will move on, and the pre-existing community will be kicked out with them.

Such is the accepted narrative of gentrification, a term first coined more than 50 years ago by the German-born British sociologist Ruth Glass to describe changes she observed in north London – but it is a phenomenon that has been at the heart of how cities evolve for centuries.

Gentrification is a slippery and divisive word, vilified by many for the displacement of the poor, the influx of speculative investors, the proliferation of chain stores, the destruction of neighbourhood authenticity; praised by others for the improvement in school standards and public safety, the fall in crime rates, and the arrival of bike lanes, street markets and better parks

There have been many upsides. But the consequences of the rate and scale of change, the displacement of poor by rich, the loss of workspace and the hollowing out of neighbourhoods by buy-to-leave investors, is now frightening even the most ardent promoters of trickle-down regeneration.

Brownfield developments have too often resulted in lifeless dormitory blocks: clone-town apartments built without the social infrastructure of the corner shops, doctors’ surgeries, pubs and primary schools needed to make viable places to live. Projects that were planned as mixed-tenure neighbourhoods have seen their “affordable” housing quotas relentlessly squeezed out, thanks to the clever accounting of viability consultants and well-paid planning lawyers

My own view is that the best solution to mitigate the impact of the almost inevitable tide of urban gentrification is a tax on the value of land, which would capture the value of improvements for the local community, rather than lining the pockets of investors…

A land value tax shifts this dynamic. Rather than taxing property, it taxes the value of the land itself – determined by its location, not what is built on it. The rise in value that results from neighbourhood improvements is therefore captured and returned to the community, to be reinvested in the area…

Are you experiencing or resisting gentrification in your city? Share your stories in the comments below, through our dedicated callout, or on Twitter using #GlobalGentrification…(more)


How to get involved: Share your stories with us and a selection will be featured on Guardian Cities, which next week will be hosting a special series focusing on gentrification around the world.

You can either contribute using the form online, or using GuardianWitness (just click on the blue “Contribute” button). You can also follow Guardian Cities on Twitter and Facebook to join the discussion, using the hashtag #GlobalGentrification.


No comments yet

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: