It seems that regeneration cannot escape the gentrification debate. But how we can ensure key regeneration sites in London do not fall victim to ostracising their existing communities, is a question largely left unanswered. Places are not static – nor should we wish them to be. There is no doubt that rising housing costs as a result of regeneration can cause problems for existing residents, who can feel they are being priced out of their communities, but it is essential we remember that investment in development is a sign of belief in a neighbourhood.
The real question is not whether investment from large and small developers should be welcomed or rejected, but rather how it should be managed for the betterment of all and geared towards existing communities. In the UK at least, regeneration tends to be accompanied by investment in the built environment – through section 106 agreements for instance – in community infrastructure such as education, transport, leisure, health facilities, other public services and the creation of great open spaces. If house prices do not go up, neither do new homes – and nor do the new or improved schools and doctors’ surgeries and other facilities that encourage community cohesion, which local communities truly need.
But this is not just about physical infrastructure. Regeneration means socio-economic benefits including local job opportunities for local people. The redevelopment of King’s Cross is a case in point. There, as a recent independent study demonstrated, local communities have benefited immensely from job creation, not just during construction but also as a result of all the companies and institutions, from bars and restaurants to Google and the Crick Institute, that have been attracted to the regenerated area.