Gentrification is a process that has been occurring in cities around the world for decades. It is defined as the process “by which the character of a poor urban area changes when richer people move in, improve housing and attract new businesses.” This phenomenon has had a significant impact on many communities, including the Jewish community in London. In this article, we will explore how gentrification has affected this community and what can be done to mitigate its effects. In City Lab, Kriston Capps reported on a new study on New York City that concluded that, contrary to popular belief, gentrification does not necessarily lead to the displacement of the city's poorest residents.
However, what has not yet been explored is how gentrification may affect London's Jewish community. From the height of the Russian Empire to World War II, Brick Lane has played an important role in settling Jewish communities in need of a new home. By the middle of the last century, a small community of people had been established in the district of Sylhet, in what is now Bangladesh. Gentrification is often driven by urban renewal projects, reductions in crime rates, or changes in housing preferences of young professionals.
This influx of wealthier people (generally demographically young and white) into an urban neighborhood (usually populated by low-income residents and people of color) raises property values and housing costs and drives a total change in the character and culture of the neighborhood. Each community is physically and culturally represented by the numerous Turkish, Caribbean and Vietnamese restaurants and Jewish bakeries that populate the district. It has become a fixed belief that gentrification is causing the city's poorest people to be “kicked out” from neighborhoods in which they and their communities have long established to make way for “the rich”. My observation is that in many areas of London there is a causal relationship between the exercise of the right to buy and gentrification.
The East London neighborhood of Shoreditch has experienced a massive wave of gentrification over the past ten years and there has been a significant backlash against rising property values and living costs. Many critics go so far as to compare the process of gentrification with colonialism, as it can lead to displacement of those who have historically called an area home. This summer, an exhibition called “Framing Banglatown” was organized to capture the nexus between the Bangladeshi community and the impact of “hipster” culture that is taking hold. The Nazis attacked factories and docks in Brick Lane during World War II, leading to most of the Jewish community being dispersed to the suburbs of London.
Now, this community is facing a new enemy: gentrification and “hipsterfication”. As an area experiences an influx of predominantly wealthy white residents and businesses as part of this process, smaller immigrant communities begin to experience a reduction in their sense of belonging. It is evident that gentrification has historically had widespread impacts in terms of housing costs and displacement of people and culture in urban places, and these impacts continue today. To mitigate these effects, it is important for local governments to create policies that protect vulnerable communities from displacement due to rising housing costs.
Additionally, it is important for local businesses to be aware of how their actions may contribute to gentrification so that they can take steps to ensure that their presence does not lead to displacement.