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Government / Local politics

Are hipsters making life harder for ethnic minority Londoners?

Is gentrification driving ethnic minority Londoners out of the city? The evidence seems to suggest so.

As hipsters and successful professionals move into highly multicultural neighbourhoods, the housing inequality suffered by longer-term residents is increasing.

A new report launched in March by the Runnymede Trust shows that 40 per cent of Black African and 36 per cent of Bangladeshi people live in overcrowded housing in London, compared to 14 per cent of White British. This means ethnic minority communities are up to three times as likely to live in cramped living conditions. 

These findings highlight the persistent and substantial gap in outcomes for ethnic minority groups in London. This is particularly true in housing and employment.

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One of the most surprising findings in the report is that, despite ethnic minority pupils outperforming their White British peers for almost a decade, they remain 1.7 times as likely to be unemployed. Successive governments have failed to make a dent in addressing these persistent gaps in outcomes for ethnic minorities.

The report identifies Lambeth, Haringey, Tower Hamlets and Brent as the most unequal boroughs in London. These boroughs have also been at the heart of concerns about gentrification and social cleansing. In 2015 we saw a number of protests taking place across London, in places like Brixton and Brick Lane, where protestors expressed frustration about the impact of gentrification on their local areas.

One of the tangible effects of gentrification is an influx of wealthier residents and regeneration plans. There are those who argue that the arrival of capital, in the form of middle class families, is an opportunity for investment and improving outcomes for everyone. Unfortunately, in many London boroughs the actual impact has been increased house prices and rents, reductions in council housing, the closing down of small local businesses, and an exodus of large numbers of local residents.

There has been a lot of media and public attention on the housing crisis, gentrification and the displacement of low-income residents. However, there needs to be more research in to the way in which class intersects with race, and how those from ethnic minority backgrounds are experiencing the rapid changes across London. The Runnymede report suggests that ethnic minority communities in London are disproportionally affected by the challenges facing people living in London.

In the 2011 census, ethnic minorities accounted for 55 per cent of London’s population. Local planners and politicians need to ensure they tackle the underlying structures that mean that ethnic minority groups experience housing and employment inequality in every London borough, and put steps in place to guarantee the benefits of regeneration or gentrification flow to all of a borough’s residents.

Otherwise, they risk ethnic inequality becoming the defining feature of the capital. This has major implications for community cohesion – and London’s ability to thrive in a globalised world.

Farah Elahi is research and policy analyst for the Runnymede Trust, a race equality think tank.

This article originally appeared on our sister site, the Staggers.
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