The Southwark council responsible for public housing would call for the demolition of the post-WWII housing facilities in the region including the infamous Heygate estate. The housing was eventually torn down in 2014 resulting in a forceful eviction of people from their homes with less compensation compared to the contemporary market value. According to Tran (2011), to replace the estate are a new development that would offer cheaper and accessible housing for workers desperate to acquire homes. However, while this is what the council intends to do, reports claim that a significant share of properties that have been presold have so far gone to foreign investors. Heygate has been home to more than 3000 people who refuted the demolition plans on the ground that the living conditions there were still good and the housing facilities within the estate were in good shape as well (Moore, 2011). Heygate's enormous blocks were designed in the sixties and construction completed in the seventies. The buildings were considered futuristic at that time and offered the utopian ideal of communal life with a social hub for the beneficiaries of the post-war welfare. It can be argued that the Heygate renewal resulted in the forced displacement of an entire neighborhood of public housing tenants. The purpose of this dissertation will be on the impacts the forced evacuation threat, and the actual forced displacement has had on the public housing tenants from Heygate estate.
Review of Literature
Typically, gentrification transforms an area from what is predominantly low class to a middle or high-class locality. Globalization is linked with gentrification, and characteristically resulting in a shift in the economy, another primary feature is deindustrialization (Kearns & Mason, 2013). Gentrification also has a strong aesthetic and ethical dimension where it involves the reimaging of a place that was earlier on disregarded as low class. The movement of middle and high class into such areas that were earlier on overlooked is characterized by the refurbishment of the housing facilities and creation of consumption outlets for residents with substantial disposal income. Smith and Williams, (2013) provides that such activities revitalize a place that has undoubtedly experienced a significant decline in the facilities, population, and housing. In London for instance, the Heygate demolition is an example of this phenomenon with the local government combining efforts with private investors to revive the fortunes of a place. Such projects have become common in recent times especially in a time of economic restructuring and competition among cities in regards to investments and revenues.
While gentrification intends to develop an impoverished place and revive its resourcefulness, there are some adverse consequences it brings as well. An inevitable result of gentrification is that the displacement of low-income residents accompanies it. The process of displacement can be in various forms, but usually, the low-income households are left in conditions that make it challenging for them to maintain staying in the area concerned (Lees, et al., 2010). It is not unusual to find landlords in a dualist renters market or put differently, a casually structured private rental sector tentatively increasing the rent or evicting people since areas going into gentrification lacks rent control. According to LopezMorales (2011) the increase in rents is factored by the sudden upsurge in demand for housing and an influx of high-income households willing and have means to pay the higher rents. Alternatively, the increase in the value of land makes it more likely that landlords will try to sell their properties to high-income households or renovate to make them appealing to these individuals. Bounds and Morris (2006) conducts a study on gentrification in Sydney and Melbourne, Australia. The study employs qualitative methods and data is collected through interviews on the displaced residents. The study concludes that one theme was common from all the individuals that were interviewed. The main issue raised was the dramatic increase in rent that made it unsustainable for low-income families to maintain their homes and all this is attributed to the increasing number of high-income households.
Another research on the impacts of gentrification on the household affected is that they are often traumatized. One of the significant challenges for the evicted low-income families is finding a new place to stay that is affordable and adequate (Wachsmuth & Weisler, 2018). Usually, the evicted families will have to move to places that are not of the ideal standards of their previous homes or go to far places that lead to them losing the social ties they have built for many years. Jackson and Scott (2008) discovers that among the people interviewed in their research, the majority cites serial displacement caused by the nature of life in the new places they have moved to include rent increase. The serial displacement resulted in social and psychological problems. The research further mentions that for some people, the eviction has resulted in homelessness and new life in shelter homes which with no doubt is something that can be traumatizing.
On a similar note, Dooling (2009) in his research identifies feelings of grief and anger as the emotion that residents evicted from their homes hold. These feelings are particularly common among older residents who seem to be more vulnerable. In the study, both adult and younger people are interviewed to determine the effects of moving residence among them. One thing that stands out clear from this research is that moving residence did not affect both the older and younger residents of different neighborhoods. However, what affected these people is that this movement was carried out in a forceful way. More adverse effects are identified in this research that includes the death of older people who are forcefully evicted for the purpose of urban restructuring. Death rate are higher among forcefully moved adults when a comparison is made with that of people who move for other reasons.
Place attachment occurs as a familiar concept that is the result of displacement. As Manzo, et al. (2008) concludes in their study of gentrification and movement in the United States is that one of its notable effects is the disruption of place attachment and community ties. The researchers evaluate the impact of the HOPE VI program in the US where tens of thousands of low-income families were displaced. Manzo et al. assess the functioning and meaning of these societies before the eviction programmes destroyed them. Primary to the evaluation are the lived experiences of these residents. It is identified that the social functioning of these societies allowed the residents to form place attachment, where bonds are created for mutual support with neighbors which is the opposite of what is depicted of the distressed housing areas. Typically, the stronger the mutual aid, the stronger the social ties and the stronger the place attachment (Shaw & Hagemans, 2015). When such a bond between individuals residing in a given place is altered as a result of displacement, the impact can be distressing as the crucial social ties and way of life is lost.
The paper intends to take a qualitative approach to the collection of data on the impact of the displacement of public housing tenants. The study will employ semi-structured in-depth interviews often former Heygate residents who have at least resided there for more than five years. Recruiting these interviewees will be through the assistance of the Southwark council and their catalog or directory on the former residents of Heygate. In regards to the interviewees, the study will work with five men and five women. Of the ten interviewees, age will be considered so that the research gets the response from a variety of the age groups. However, generally, the study will work with the youth between age 25-35, adults between 35-50, and the elderly who are 50 and above. Since the study will be dealing with people who have long moved from the Heygate estate, the interviews will be majorly carried out through phone calls since geography will be a limitation here. In the case of the research, the interviews will cover some themes such as life at Heygate, the life in their new area compared to that of their former residence, perceptions on the new residence, social links in new place, and the health impacts of their eviction.
Some possible methodological limitations are identified in this study. In the first place, there is a possibility of limitation on the sample size. The number of units for analysis in this research will be rather small which might affect the significant relationship this investigation intends to establish. Such limitation occurs as a result of the difficulty in finding samples for this study as most of them are residents who were long evicted and had moved to various places. The lack of ready and available data is another limitation which is also a significant obstacle in the development of a meaningful relationship. The data will be quite hard to find on a similar ground that it is difficult to get the former residents of Heygate estate.
Bounds, M. & Morris, A., 2006. Second wave gentrification in inner-city Sydney. Cities, 23 (2), p. 99-108.
Dooling, S., 2009. Ecological gentrification: A research agenda exploring justice in the city. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 33(3), pp. 621-639.
Jackson, V. & Scott, L., 2008. Bulldozed: Innovative Strategies for Addressing the Mental Health Consequences of Gentrification.
Kearns, A. & Mason, P., 2013. Defining and measuring displacement: is relocation from restructured neighbourhoods always unwelcome and disruptive?. Housing Studies, 28(2), pp. 177-204.
Lees, L., Slater, T. & Wyly, E., 2010. The gentrification reader. London: Routledge.
LopezMorales, E., 2011. Gentrification by Ground Rent Dispossession: The Shadows Cast by LargeScale Urban Renewal in Santiago de Chile. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 35(2, pp. 330-357.
Manzo, L., Kleit, R. & Couch, D., 2008. Moving three times is like having your house on fire once": The experience of place and impending displacement among public housing residents. Urban studies, 45(9), pp. 1855-1878.
Moore, K., 2011. 'Muggers' paradise' the Heygate Estate is demolished. [Online] Available at: https://www.bbc.com/news/uk-england-london-13092349[Accessed 20 November 2018].
Shaw, K. & Hagemans, I., 2015. Gentrification Without Displacement'and the Consequent Loss of Place: The Effects of Class Transition on Lowincome Residents of Secure Housing in Gentrifying Area. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research.
Smith, N. & Williams, P., 2013. Gentrification of the City. s.l.:Routledge.
Tran, M., 2011. Anger surrounds demise of 1970s housing estate. [Online] Available at: https://www.theguardian.com/society/2011/feb/07/heygate-estate-demolition-regeneration[Accessed 20 November 2018].
Wachsmuth, D. & Weisler, A., 2018. Airbnb and the rent gap: Gentrification through the sharing economy. Environment and Planning A. Economy and Space, 50(6), pp. 1147-1170.
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