The issue of displacement was still relatively uninformed, except through the

preceding literature and abstracted statistical relationships described earlier. When

questioning the TRWs about displacement it was possible for the first time to discern

it as a tangible process; displacement was immediately recognised by all of the TRWs

and an unequivocal link was made to the gentrification process. This was put in no

uncertain terms by one representative who described their role as the;

“prevention of homelessness effectively, which, when you talk about

displacement and gentrification, that is what it is – making people homeless. So

there is no doubt about it, if you are going to move a certain person into the area

the only way you are going to do that is by moving someone else out.”

This grounding of what had previously been abstract theorising was refreshing. This

gives weight to ideas proposed earlier about the chronology of displacement with

regard to the theoretical and statistical models being used; that displacement must

occur prior to gentrification but is also exacerbated by its continuation.

 

It was clear that the elderly were disproportionately represented as those being

displaced by virtue of gentrification. The reasons for this were twofold, first, by virtue

of their age a general physical frailty made it difficult to resist actions by landlords to

have them removed. Second, this group are also more profoundly affected by the

community changes that go on around them. The loss of friends or kinship networks

from wider socio-economic restructuring in an area might provoke an earlier decision

to retire from an area, move where family have moved or, finally, to find somewhere

cheaper.

Many secure tenants were to be found in this older age range, this often created

problems where the landlord was trying to get the rent increased to a ‘fair’ i.e. market

level. Rent tribunals were taking up a lot of the time of the projects who were fighting

to stop these, in many cases, doubling. Such rent decisions invariably go in favour of

the landlord as discussed earlier.

Being poor is a relative concept, someone living in rented accommodation in Earls

Court is likely to be paying a market rent of at least £200 per week, and this is at the

bottom end of the market. Of course for many this will mean that entry to the market

in this area is simply not possible but it also means that on being pushed out of the

market it is difficult or impossible to get back in.

In all of the areas studied houses in multiple occupation were prevalent. These units

are often associated with some of the worst living conditions yet provide, for many, a

relatively affordable form of living. Retention of these units is often viewed by

boroughs as being an important issue because of the groups they cater for, however,

boroughs differ markedly on discretionary policies toward HMOs. People living in

this sector are displaced because units have been made self-contained, because rents

have become too high and this often reduces the number of spaces available if they are

converted.

It appeared that in areas like Camden which had traditionally served the student

population via close proximity to London colleges and cheap rented accommodation,

gentrification of the borough had made it very hard for the central London universities

to help students find accommodation close to their place of study. This was confirmed

by a number of calls to university accommodation offices who said they were now

having to let properties in the more northern reaches of boroughs like Camden and

that costs of rented accommodation in general for students was outstripping ability to

pay in many cases, especially if they wanted to live within a reasonable distance from

the college.

Although a diverse group there was an identifiable trend in those with a variety of

mental or social problems suffering from a distinct lack of provision. Care in the

community meant that people needing help have been left to cope in some of the most

viciously competitive housing markets. In particular people with alcohol problems,

HIV and psychiatric disorders were identified as having particular problems in

relation to the housing market in the area.

Families on low incomes are in a particular trap because housing benefit will not be

paid to them because of their level of income yet they struggle to keep their head

above water in a market where rents stretch their ability to cope to the limit. One

TRW said that she had had to advise very low paid families to give up work in order

to get help with the rent. One TRW summed up the position succinctly as affecting;

“Single people, or couples without children who wouldn’t be eligible to get LA

housing, one could still say they are being displaced even if they are moving into

LA housing…That doesn’t mean to say that someone on benefit can get anything,

the rules are different and people are losing accommodation left, right and centre

even if they are on income support or on a very low income the benefit is not

enough to cover their rents so the displacement now is people who would have

been able to afford property because of benefit levels but now can’t – its the high

rents that are displacing people but benefit rule changes are adding to that”

That the burden of displacement was falling on single people in particular appeared

prevalent in Hammersmith. It is also hard for single people to find accommodation

and this shows up in the number of flat shares and lodgers in these areas because of

the cost of renting one’s own space. For obvious reasons the unemployed are also

being hit by displacement and were identified by all of the TRWs. The observed

 

interaction between benefit changes and rental rates was creating increased

vulnerability since lower benefit levels would mean that a tenant’s capacity to resist

being ‘priced out’ was reduced.

Ethnic minorities had also suffered substantial displacement in certain areas. Where

ethnic minorities lived in areas that had become desirable one TRW described how;

“substantial displacement of the indigenous community which are mostly AfroCaribbean and some Asians and quite a large Irish community in that part of the

borough [had occurred]. They have been displaced by purely the gentrification”

This is a combination of the historical location of such groups in previously ‘filtered’

areas and the frequent gentrification of such areas more recently. In general the

identified groups showed a strong correspondence with the earlier selection of census

proxy variables.

 

An upward spiral

 

An interesting trend which could be observed in these areas was an upward movement

over time of those being displaced and those acting as gentrifiers. As the area grew in

popularity higher income and class groups entered the area so that it was possible to

see higher status groups displaced as even higher status groups moved in, or expressed

a desire to move in. The Kensington TRW described this process in terms of

traditional class structures;

“the groups of pensioners who probably represented the ‘Sloanes’ of yesteryear

but who don’t have the money…you could ask yourself why they haven’t made

provision but they never expected it to change as much as it has. They probably

formed the set that we are talking about doing it in the north of the borough. We

are seeing in effect, a kind of wave going on here, an upward spiral”

This same phenomenon in the same areas was being alluded to by O’Malley in the

late seventies who described how;

“higher income tenants who had displaced the low income families were now faced

with a [local authority] plan to displace them with even higher income tenants or

flat buyers” (1970:104)

 

This would point to the fact that the process has been going on for a long time and

echoes Lyons’ (1995) point that gentrified areas will experience outflows by people

and households of successively higher resources and is alluded to by Dangschat

(1991) in his continuum of pioneer to ‘ultra’ gentrifiers in Hamburg. In Kensington

the process was described as;

“a case of the gentry being displaced by those that have more money than they

have. Its money rules, and the fact that you come from the right class is no use to

you at all”

It was interesting that similar processes were not identified in the other areas although

this does not mean that it was not going on, however, the huge rent and price levels of

Kensington in particular would suggest it to be most prevalent there.

The common denominator for all of the groups identified is a lack of money in

relation to the housing market and the way it has evolved in an area due to

gentriflcation. In addition many showed a vulnerability, through frailty or a lack of

social and financial resources, to deal with the legal and physical problem of

displacement. It was low incomes which formed the locus at which other social

characteristics clustered in characterising displacees – it was their inability to pay

inflated rents that made them vulnerable. There were few, if any, oases of affordability

left and those that were under quite intense pressure and demand.