Regeneration doesn’t have to mean gentrification

Summary

Given the condition of much of the country’s housing stock, regeneration is the only viable way of improving rundown urban areas. When media outlets jump on the gentrification bandwagon they tend to overlook the complexity of large-scale regeneration and polarise the debate.

Paul Quinn, Director of Merton Regeneration
The term ‘gentrification’, first coined in 1964, has been conflated with ‘regeneration’ as concerns grow about the widening gap between rich and poor, especially in London. Projects that aim to deliver better quality housing have been maligned by accusations of ‘social cleansing’ as original owner occupiers get displaced. But regeneration doesn’t have to mean driving existing residents out of their homes. Quite the opposite.  

Admittedly there are plenty of examples where long-term residents justifiably feel aggrieved and side-lined as the bulldozers move in. But done in the right way as a genuine consultative process, regeneration should help to address the housing crisis without compromising the rights of existing residents.

This has underpinned Circle Housing’s approach to the Merton Regeneration Projectwhere we plan to deliver new, better quality homes on Eastfields, High Path and Ravensbury in south-west London. We’ve made a firm commitment to improving homes and outside spaces while encouraging the residents of these neighbourhoods to stay.

This commitment has been articulated in our innovative Residents Offer that guarantees existing tenants and resident homeowners the right to remain living in their neighbourhood. All of our tenants are being offered a new home according to their needs and resident homeowners have the option of a replacement home. The only caveat is that if they move within 11 years they will be liable for some or all of the difference between the value of their existing home and the replacement one. This was in response to concerns expressed about keeping the communities together. By making better use of space through carefully considered densification we can build more homes and rehouse everyone who wants to stay without passing on the cost to existing residents.

Given the condition of much of the country’s housing stock, regeneration is the only viable way of improving rundown urban areas. When media outlets jump on the gentrification bandwagon they tend to overlook the complexity of large-scale regeneration and polarise the debate. So by putting our money where our mouth is and delivering estate renewal in collaboration with a range of partners we’re striving to reclaim regeneration and reposition it as a driver of positive change in deprived areas.

Our status as a charitable organisation with responsibility for maintaining neighbourhoods for decades to come means we’re best placed to deliver new homes that best serve the needs of existing residents and contribute to housing growth. We see our ambitious plans for Merton in the context of an emerging narrative that defines housing associations as the driving force behind building great places where new and existing residents want to live and are treated fairly.
Paul Quinn, Director of Merton Regeneration