FEROCIOUS CHALLENGE: Tackling gentrification in Bristol
Bristol Mayor Marvin Rees has called on a city housing board to tackle gentrification in Bristol, calling it a “ferocious challenge” which undermines stability and breeds resentment.
Gentrification happens when people from a higher socioeconomic group move into a lower socioeconomic area, often making the area too expensive for locals to live.
As well as changing the area’s socio-economic make-up, it changes its demographics, house prices, rental prices and general character.
St Pauls, Easton and Bedminster have felt its effects in recent years, and Clifton – once a cheap and run-down neighbourhood – has long since become synonymous with wealth in Bristol.
Marvin Rees, who grew up moving between St Pauls, Lawrence Weston and Easton, has had gentrification in his sights since he was first elected in 2016.
Now, re-elected for a second term, he appears more determined than ever to oppose what some see as an inevitable evolution of the city’s neighbourhoods.
Mr Rees, who lives in Greenbank, a community at the heart of Easton’s gentrification, raised the issue with new members of the multi-agency Bristol Homes and Communities Board as they met for the first time after this month’s local elections.
He told the group, one of six cross-sector thematic boards run by the One City Office, that he wanted them to use their “collective intellectual firepower” to tackle the “wicked challenges” related to housing in the city, such as gentrification.
Last week, he suggested the phenomenon may partly explain the surge in voting for the Green Party in racially diverse areas witnessed in this month’s local elections.
Mr Rees said: “I’ve been watching and listening to a lot of talks on gentrification in the last couple of weeks.
“The first people that raise their voice on gentrifiers are actually the first wave of gentrifiers.
“The people that get gentrified first are the voiceless people, and then people move in and then they run campaigns on gentrification when the next wave of people comes in and impacts on them.
“An African American friend said to me once that he was talking to a campaign against gentrification, and he said to them, ‘well, why don’t you ask the Puerto Rican family that used to live in your house’.
“People, they lack self awareness. It’s not blaming anyone. It’s about understanding.
“It is a ferocious challenge facing us, what’s happening to our communities, how it undermines stability, breeds resentment.
“I think we need a mature conversation around how the city can be on the forefront of tackling that challenge that is facing all cities around the world.”
The Bristol Homes Board was set up to get public, private, charity and volunteer organisations across the city to work towards the One City Plan goal for housing.
The overarching goal is that by 2050, everyone in Bristol will live in a home that meets their needs within a thriving and safe community.
Its goals for 2021 are three-fold:
- deliver a pilot programme with Bristol communities, particularly council properties, to develop and increase access to communal and green spaces
- implement a project to improve refugee and migrant integration into communities and neighbourhoods
- continue to build new net zero carbon homes and begin retrofitting existing housing stock to meet Bristol’s climate and ecological emergencies.
The board is co-chaired by Labour councillor Tom Renhard, the new cabinet member for housing, and Oona Goldsworthy, chief executive of Brunel Care, a housing association and social care organisation.
Words: Amanda Cameron, Local Democracy Reporter
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