Attitudes to the new 'clearance gentrification'
I posted already about the emerging trend to mass clearance projects, for the
purpose of excluding low-income households. These ideas have several sources.
One is the attitudes to low-income groups in urban problem areas. Another is
the neoliberal view of cities as competitors in a global marketplace of cities
(seeking to attract investment). And plans for huge demolition and
construction programmes are related to a belief in the New Economy, or at
least to economic optimism, for the short and medium-term future.
Netherlands policy toward urban problem areas has been dominated in the last
10 years by attempts to change the population structure. The problems are
attributed to the 'unbalance' of the population - always meaning too many
low-income households. The answer was seen as the import of high-income
households, by subsidising new housing for them. In almost all cases, that
mean demolition of existing cheap housing. The presence of low income
households was, in the end, itself seen as a problem - especially when the
city was being assessed in terms of its 'competitiveness'.
This approach is familiar in Britain as well, as evidenced by these quotes
sent to the gentrification list......
head of 'Regeneration' for Southwark: "because social housing generates people
on low incomes coming in and that generates poor school performances,
middle-class people stay away"
head of housing for Newham: "What we have is a concentration of
benefit-dependent people in the area. Social housing attracts people who are
challenged economically who can't support local shops and services."
The recent change is, that these attitudes now apply not at neighbourhood
level, but at city level. And this means they are no longer limited to areas
with concentrations of problems. This is clearly related to the emphasis on a
city as a competitor with other cities (rather than being directed toward its
inhabitants). A new neoliberal belief system has emerged: the best way is to
summarise it as a list...
____cities exist to compete with other cities
____cities exist to be successful
____people exist to be successful
____successful (high-income) people are better than unsuccessful (low-income)
people: it is wrong to be low-income
____a completely successful city will be inhabited only by high-income households
____cities should strive to reduce the proportion of low-income households,
and increase the proportion of high-income households
____therefore cites should provide facilities for high-income groups, and
reduce facilities for low-income households
____exclusion of low-income households is a success in itself: it proves the
city has a good city government
____cities should not provide any low-cost housing: it will attract people who
are low-income and therefore undesirable in themselves, and it will weaken the city
This kind of policy obviously implies a faith in the continuation of the
neoliberal 'marketplace of cities' - and in the continued availability of
funding for the strategy.