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‘Urban renaissance’ policies may negatively affect low-income residents, including older adults, living in urban areas

Atkinson R.  The evidence on the impact of gentrification: New lessons for the urban renaissance?  European Journal of Housing Policy. 2004; 4(1): 107-131.

Review question

•    Do the United Kingdom’s ‘urban renaissance’ policies promote gentrification, and what are the social impacts of gentrification?

Background

      In the early 2000s, the government of the United Kingdom introduced ‘urban renaissance’ policies that sought to encourage people to move back to cities. These policies were developed to prevent suburban sprawl and to encourage economic development in the cities.

      There are concerns that these policies may encourage the gentrification of urban neighbourhoods. Gentrification is a process where people from a higher socio-economic class move into a low-income neighbourhood. It has many social impacts as it transforms the neighbourhood’s identity. Therefore, it is important to determine whether these ‘urban renaissance’ policies cause gentrification, and identify the consequences of gentrification.

How the review was done

      A detailed search of a number of electronic databases for studies published from 1964 to 2002 was conducted. Studies that focused on measurable impacts of gentrification were included in the review.

      More than 1,000 studies were identified in searches, and 118 were included in the review after assessments for eligibility.

      The author did not acknowledge any funding sources for this review.

What the researchers found

      Gentrification has both positive and negative impacts. The negative impacts mostly affect low-income residents. These include the loss of affordable housing, homelessness, community conflict, and a change in community services and amenities that no longer meet their needs.

      The positive impacts are largely experienced by the new, higher-income residents. These include increased property values and better local services, as well as greater tax revenue for the government.

      The author argues that ‘urban renaissance’ policies will probably displace many low-income residents, as they do not contain measures that minimize the harmful effects of gentrification. The author suggests that governments should revitalize towns by improving amenities for their current residents.

Conclusion

      The review concludes that ‘urban renaissance’ policies will probably cause the gentrification of urban areas. Although there are some positive benefits to gentrification, they may come at the cost of harming current low-income residents.




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