A while ago, mention Brixton and people were probably going to talk about its West Indian community, good boozers and reggae. Mention it to someone from your parents’ generation and they’ll probably remember the 1981 riots and make little concerned noises. But now you’re more likely to hear about Brixton Village – the pizza at Franco Mancas, the Honest Burger Co. and the time you your friend Jessie Ware and Julio Bashmore sat outside a bar – than you are all that other stuff.

Since moving to Brixton me and my mates have had plenty of conversations about the looming gentrification and what it means for people living here. We’re under no illusion that we’re part of it, living in a right-to-buy ex-council flat bought up by a wealthy owner who works in the City.
 
One friend said that gentrification couldn’t happen in the same way here as it has in Park Hill in Sheffield or areas of East London because the community here is so much more rooted. But the presence of the aspirant Brixton Village has already changed the local area and demographic noticeably. Private rents are going up, new flashy flat buildings are cropping up everywhere and planning applications for multi-million pound hotel developments are well on the way too.
 
A new hotel in the area would provide jobs, bring in money from outside London (and the country) and encourage new businesses. The face of Brixton might start to look a bit different, but the people would more or less be the same. People that have lived here for generation, who call Brixton their home and intend to for the future as well. That is, if you protect housing.
 
But that’s not happening. Hyperlocal stalwart, the Brixton Blog, is running a campaign to save tenants as Barratt Homes seeks to marketise rents at a new development on Coldharbour Lane. If the plan goes ahead, those living in social housing would be liable to pay 55% of local rates which, as Brixton gets hipper and hipper, means they lose out.
 
Some politicians might regard gentrification as an economic necessity, one sleight of the invisible hand of the market. But it’s not. Gentrification happens because councils, planners and businesses want it to.
 
And gentrification doesn’t simply mean improvement. To gentrify means “to improve (a neighbourhood) by gentrification” – a word that itself means the "buying and renovation of houses and stores in deteriorated urban neighborhoods by upper or middle-income families or individuals, thus improving property values but often displacing low-income families and small businesses." So it’s not just improvement. Like improving Eliza Doolittle in My Fair Lady or improving someone’s pronunciation in elocution lessons, this kind of improvement has definite class connotations: the working-class becomes middle-class, and they’re bloody well better for it.
 
An area gets marketised, rendered middle-class and the flotsam and jetsam get moved on somewhere else. Shops start appearing with rustic bread loaves, chic cup cakes and ironic slum café-style furnishings. It’s already happened all over London and all over the country.
 
Gentrification can happen anywhere because – in the eyes of the investor – money comes before welfare. With social housings lists now reaching up to 4 million people, councils opening up rents to market rates and local government using welfare as a threat – isn’t it time we campaigned to protect tenants, not alienate them?

You can sign a petition here to save fixed, genuinely affordable tenancies in Brixton here. Join the campaign!


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