quinta-feira, 6 de outubro de 2016
We are building our way to hell’: tales of gentrification around the world
We are building our way to hell’: tales of gentrification around the world
From community displacement in Mexico City to tourism-triggered evictions in Lisbon and crazy rent hikes in Silicon Valley, our readers shared stories of gentrification happening in their cities – and the initiatives trying to tackle it
Guardian readers and Francesca Perry
Wednesday 5 October 2016 12.07 BST
Amsterdam, the Netherlands: ‘When scarcity is applauded, that’s very wrong’
“Here gentrification happens very quickly. Every month some ‘nice’ restaurant or shop opens. The old name of my neighbourhood (Kinkerbuurt) was changed and rebranded to ‘Hallenkwartier’. I would enjoy many of the changes if I knew others could enjoy it as well. But poor people have to leave, social housing is sold off, and rich people and tourists move in.
There was a squatting action, a demonstration and protests against the rebranding of the neighbourhood. I have seen posters and banners on houses. But the city council is just selling off social housing. Waiting time for a house in this neighbourhood used to be eight years, now it is 18 years. The biggest ruling party has even worse plans; they want to give the social houses only to working people, saying jobless people should leave the city.
I can’t believe what Amsterdam has become, it was very different 10 years ago (I’ve lived here for 22 years). Generally rent is easier to control with rent caps than housing prices, so this ideal of having property should be discouraged. We have a great tradition of social housing corporations in the Netherlands – some cities had 50% social housing. Now the whole way of thinking is about extracting money, not creating communities. When prices go up, they say ‘the market is doing well’. When scarcity is applauded, that is very wrong.” (Pieter Voogt)
Montreal, Canada: ‘New restaurants can’t be located near existing ones’
“Various parts of Montreal have been experiencing gentrification. In Saint-Henri, a former manufacturing neighbourhood, urban renewal has been very contentious, particularly with regards to the commercial strip, Notre-Dame Street, becoming well known as a restaurant district. The borough council has just introduced a new bylaw restricting the number of restaurants on the strip, imposing a 30-metre restriction, whereby new restaurants cannot be located within 30 metres of an existing restaurant.” (Giovanni Paquin)
Silicon Valley, US: ‘$1,000 a month rent hikes are not uncommon’
“Gentrification has been business as usual for Silicon Valley for decades. My entire family has left over the years to more affordable places for the working class. Today gentrification is even more extreme thanks to Google headquarters being here. Every time there’s a boom in Silicon Valley, something like six times more jobs are created than homes built. People are casually displaced every day and $1,000 a month rent hikes are not uncommon. We have hundreds of people living on the streets now in RVs.
In the end gentrification will create huge social unrest and we shall all – rich and poor – suffer the consequences
Mountain View should implement policies that restrict office growth unless it correlates with commensurate housing growth. City councils are hesitant to advocate that way because they’re scared a company like Google would leave and go to another city. The Mountain View Tenants Coalition is now campaigning for ballot measure V, which is a rent control law. We collected 7,311 signatures in a monumental community effort.” (Daniel DeBolt)
Bath, UK: ‘Gentrification will create huge social unrest’
“In Foxhill, 544 homes are being threatened with demolition by a ‘social housing landlord’ who is also a developer: their plans would result in a loss of 241 social homes. Owners would be forced out of the city. Tenants would be rehoused in the area but probably with much higher rents. The prospect of seeing our lovely peaceful village-type estate being demolished and replaced with upmarket homes at top market prices is creating anxiety and illness. A petition by our Foxhill Residents Association opposing the demolition was submitted to Parliament. A lot of residents hope the project will not receive planning permission.
There are 6,000 people on the housing waiting list in Bath, so a project that would create a loss of social homes is not acceptable. The people who keep our city running are needed and need homes: what will Bath do if the dustmen, the waiters, the chefs, the nurses, the childminders, the recyclers are forced to live outside of this expensive city? In the end gentrification will create huge social unrest and we shall all – rich and poor – suffer the consequences.” (Frieda Buckley)
Praca do Comercio square Baixa district central Lisbon Portugal Europe
‘Lisbon’s historic centre has suffered a growing gentrification process.’ Photograph: Alamy
Lisbon, Portugal: ‘Landlords evict people to start tourist businesses every day’
“I live in Lisbon’s historical centre, which has been suffering a growing gentrification process in the last four years with rising tourism and no regulation for short-term rentals. Rent prices are now completely unaffordable. Entire blocks of homes are being converted to short-term rental apartments and hostels. Landlords are evicting people to start a touristic business every day.
We need new laws that encourage landlords to choose long-term renting, instead of short term or leaving apartments vacant. We should also have rent controlled apartments and a centralised office, like in Paris, that decides a price ceiling for every rental apartment in the city.
This is a turning point. The city is becoming an entirely segregated, exclusive place. Local and national governments are doing nothing to stop this happen. The issue of gentrification has been dismissed or called collateral damage. Some activist groups have been stirring the waters, but it is very difficult to fight the power of money especially when it’s supported by government.” (Catarina)
Newcastle, UK: ‘I want to believe that cities can be both regenerated and inclusive’
“Twenty-five years ago there were riots near where I live, in the west end of Newcastle. Fifteen years ago there was talk of demolition. Now, after regeneration efforts, we’ve got cleaner streets, reduced crime, and a revived local economy - due in no small part to immigration, by the way. The housing crisis is a scandal. But conflating it with regeneration, and damning cafes, cycle lanes, enterprise and opportunity as ‘gentrification’ runs the risk of undermining efforts to make places better. It also lets our policy makers, whose actions are making matters worse, off the hook. I want to believe that towns and cities can be both regenerated and inclusive.” (Jo Ellis)
‘What does it mean to build a new Chicago? There is already a Chicago here.’ Photograph: George
Chicago, US: ‘I’m afraid of the day when the stores, the people, the library are all gone’
“You can’t live on the north-west side of Chicago without talking about gentrification. There is a lot of action being taken to counteract it. From civil disobediences on the luxury towers being constructed on Milwaukee Avenue to rallies against evictions throughout the neighbourhood, gentrification is one of the most contentious issues facing our city.
The push for affordable housing is coming from the community, not elected officials. Mayor Rahm Emanuel has a slogan called ‘Building a new Chicago’; what does that mean? There is already a Chicago here. There is obviously an agenda to gentrify and attract tourists to make Chicago a ‘global city’. We should be subsidising affordable housing, instead of downtown hotels. We need rent control and eviction laws. As a lifelong resident of the north-west side of Chicago, I’m afraid of there coming a day when I don’t recognise my neighbourhood, when the stores, the people, the library are all gone. That gets to the root of gentrification: this loss of familiarity and home.” (Lynda Lopez)
Buenos Aires, Argentina: ‘Most people have to move away when they start a family’
“Vivo en un barrio (Palermo), que se fue transformando de un barrio familiar hace 20 años atrás a una atracción turística y muy caro, donde un apartamento es prácticamente incomprable. El gobierno de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires no hace absolutamente nada por esto, y en todo el perímetro de la ciudad existe una aumento del valor muy superior al del ingreso, lo que origina que la mayoría de la gente cuando forma una familia deba mudarse lejos ... o vivir amontonada en pocos metros cuadrados. La existencia de vivienda social y la construcción de casas construidas especfícamente para familias en vez de apartamentos de lujo, ayudaría evitar la gentrificació.” (Raùl Enrique Rodriguez)
(“I live in a district (Palermo) that has transformed from a family district 20 years ago to a tourist attraction and is very expensive, where an apartment is practically unaffordable. The city government has done absolutely nothing for this, and the surrounding areas of Greater Buenos Aires have increased in value far exceeding people’s incomes, meaning that most people have to move away when they start a family, or live piled up into a few metres squared. The existence of social housing and the construction of family homes instead of only luxury apartments would help prevent gentrification.” Translation by Natalie Pilato)
Berlin, Germany: ‘Rent caps and Airbnb restrictions need to be more strictly enforced’
“While gentrification in Berlin is harder to recognise than in New York or London due to the low base from which rent prices started at, the percentage increases are extreme. The city has taken some steps to keep prices down (for instance by capping rent increases) but this has also ignited the popularity of Airbnb and similar sites, where renters can take advantage of these laws by paying low rents themselves, but making huge profits through short-term rentals. This then takes a number of apartments off the market, increasing rent prices and shortages.
An acquaintance has rented four flats at a low rate, and rents them all out through Airbnb. It’s become a very profitable full-time job for him. The city has put some restrictions on the amount of days you can rent your property, but these are apparently easy to evade and not well enforced. The city is still catching up to the use of new technologies. Rent caps and restrictions on Airbnb are a start, but they need to be more strictly enforced.” (Daniel)
Somerville, US: ‘We need more community control of land’
“Gentrification is out of control here in Somerville, Massachusetts. Property values are increasing at an average of 10% per year, condo conversion and rent increases are rampant, and new development is pricing out small businesses and contributing to displacement of low-income and immigrant residents.
I’m part of Union United, a broad-based coalition of residents, businesses, churches, unions, and community organisations. We are fighting for a voice in new development, so that we can have decision-making power over the future of our neighbourhood and ensure affordable housing, good jobs, small business protections, and other amenities. A binding community benefits agreement between community members and developers would be a great first step. Longer term, we need more community control of land through land trust and public housing, along with rent control and a real living wage.” (Anonymous)
Mexico City, Mexico: ‘Nothing can stop gentrification in my city’
“My neighbourhood is called Polanco. Recently shops and restaurants have been moving into the old mansions and their occupants have moved elsewhere. I believe gentrification is a positive and natural mechanism in the city. Some organisations such as ‘La voz de Polanco’ are rejecting the recent transformation of houses into commercial uses and land development in general, but I don’t support them.
I think nothing is capable of stopping gentrification in my city. Its negative effect such as displacement of people should be tackled by a housing plan that includes affordable apartments for rent inside more expensive buildings, sponsored by the state. Displacement of poor people out of gentrified neighbourhoods is a serious issue here: people have to move to housing projects that are located 50km away from the city centre. But land developers are not to blame, they respond to the free trade economy. Their effects expose the irresponsibility of the state in providing affordable housing to those in need.” (Lorenzo Rocha)
London, UK: ‘It has created a class and race divide’
“I have a council flat that I was given after 15 years of being homeless. I’m from a working-class background and have always worked. Affordable housing has always been an issue for my friends and family. No one wanted to live here when I first moved in, but now it is considered a highly desirable area. We have seen the mass selling-off of council flats on the estate to property developers, the private and buy-to-rent markets. This has put a lot of pressure on tenants like myself, with our homes constantly under threat as the council tries to find ways to evict or move you out of the area to free up properties to sell, creating anxiety and vulnerability.
What gets forgotten is that we have a diverse community of people in my block who know each other and help each other out. My experience of people who have bought flats is that they don’t actually want to live in a diverse community. Shop prices have gone up locally, expensive coffee shops and restaurants have opened. It has created a class and race divide that didn’t exist here before. The tenants’ association has been good at campaigning to stop flats from being demolished to make space for luxury apartments – but they’ve been unable to stop the sell-off of flats. My issue is not with areas being improved, it is how gentrification is about one demographic of our society changing an area for themselves and not for the benefit of everyone.” (Anonymous)
Paris, France: ‘The city is very diverse, but this is being threatened’
“Gentrification has been happening in Paris since the 1970s, reaching most neighbourhoods. But there is a district called Goutte d’Or which is maybe one of the last areas in the inner city trying to resist it. Despite the loss of some of the shops and communities which create the identity of this area, there are a few initiatives that are trying to resist the present trend. In order to preserve the ethnic and social diversity in Goutte d’Or, the city has been trying to slow down the process of gentrification by developing social housing. One third of the flats created were reserved for emergency housing, one third for regular social housing and one third for middle class “pioneers”. This policy has been criticised for dragging the middle class in to this area and increasing real estate prices.
Gentrification is a natural trend but it has to be regulated especially in a multicultural and socially divided city such as Paris. This city is very rich in terms of diversity, but this is now being threatened, especially because private housing is deregulated and many foreigners are investing in real estate, making prices grow artificially. I think people who own flats and leave them empty should be taxed, and the city council should encourage owners to transform unused spaces such as abandoned offices into residential units to create more offers on the market.” (Alexia Chauliac)
Callao, Peru: ‘The government here doesn’t even know what gentrification is’
“Callao is a city full of history and traditions and is undergoing a process of gentrification, specifically in the historic centre. Even though Callao is really close to Lima, it has been an independent city since 1836. Nobody uses the term gentrification when referring to what is currently happening. If you see the news in Peru, they will refer to the process as ‘a project to improve and change the face of Callao’. They will not speak about the houses being bought up and the people who are being displaced.
In Peru the term gentrification is not recognised
You may think that this area needs more good schools and employment opportunities, but the government agrees with the gentrifying group that opening art galleries, cafes, and expensive restaurants will solve things. Also there are weekend events where the cost of alcohol is too expensive for locals and the advertising is targeted only to the wealthy sectors of Lima; people in the area say they don’t feel these events are for them.
In Peru the term gentrification is not recognised. The government here doesn’t even know what gentrification is. Even worse, city government said that it won’t put zoning plans to the public until the year 2036. I think sharing information and broadening knowledge about gentrification would help.” (Anonymous)
“I am a 70 year old carpenter and I have seen more decay in the quality of life in the last three years in Portland, Oregon – pearl of culture in the Great Northwest – with the one-term mayor ‘Chainsaw Charlie Hales’ who was previously a lobbyist for the the ‘home builders’ – read developers. Towers built into the sky on alluvial soil – the stuff that turns to pudding in an earthquake. Hundred-year-old classic neighbourhoods injected with ‘cereal box’ buildings invalidating residents’ privacy and daylight.
From my perspective, I would call this a travesty: ‘Bankers gone wild’. A spreadsheet vision of creating investments that spread the risk, with total disregard for community culture which, prior to this, was well protected by zoning. The people here have a campaign called Stop demolishing Portland. Such beauty is being replaced by such tastelessness, as though the reason the people want to live here is to be housed like gerbils. The cult of efficiency, unchecked and ungrounded is the universal salve that greases the way to community destruction and dislocation. We are currently building our way to hell.” (David Chinook Bean)
Thank you to everyone who contributed. You can follow Guardian Cities on Twitter and Facebook to join the discussion