London's property bubble shows no sign of bursting but hipsters aren't the problem

New research shows to afford a house in Hackney, you now need to earn £132,000 a year, but the 'trendification' of the area isn't the culprit

 

Share

If you walk down Chatsworth Road Market in Hackney on a Sunday morning, you'll see families buying antiques, dishevelled young people soaking up their hangovers with Japanese street food, and barista coffee stalls selling £2.10 espressos. Cross the road into Homerton High Street, and you'll find betting shops, deserted takeaways, and a pub with two broken windows and a "no-search-no-entry" policy.

Hackney has long been a microcosm of the capital’s increasing social inequality, combining extreme poverty with phenomenally fast gentrification. Research published by Shelter last week showed that if wages in Hackney had risen at the same rate as property prices, they would be almost £132,000 (the average wage in the borough is actually £31,000): the largest disparity in London. In December the average house price in Hackney exceeded £500,000, compared to the national £176,500. And letting is expensive too: official figures have shown that in Hackney 55 per cent of tenants’ earnings go on rent.

The area’s burgeoning cost is causing a number of problems. For a start, people who have lived in Hackney all their lives are forced to move out because they can no longer afford the rent and this is resulting in tension between locals and the young professionals who have moved in over the past decade.

And often the newcomers get cast as the bad guys. In 2012, Mina Holland wrote an article called ‘Chatsworth Road: the frontline of Hackney’s gentrification’, in which she made snide references to courgette cake, flat whites and “middle-class bohemians”. Back in January, Camden entrepreneur Alex Proud railed against the “Shoreditchification” of London, singling out its “stupid beards and skinny jeans”. There continue to be articles about how “the self-satisfied sea of bearded hipsters tapping away on their Macbooks” is pushing locals out of the area.

These articles tend to be well-intentioned, but the direction of their anger is misguided. Of course it’s unfair that people are being priced out of the area they’ve lived all their lives. And admittedly, the juxtaposition of smug young families buying loaves of bread for £3.50 while their neighbours are struggling to make ends meet is enough to make anyone want to storm the barricades.

But blaming the young professionals for the plight of their neighbours is like blaming the slaughtered horses for the horsemeat scandal. They are a symptom of the problem rather than the cause. Adopting an us-versus-them mentality about newcomers pushing out locals is not a solution: instead, this kind of divisive language exacerbates tensions between two groups living in close proximity. There also seems to be an implication of malice in middle-class people moving into previously deprived areas.

The reason is much more mundane: as London becomes increasingly overcrowded and overpriced, areas previously affordable to young middle-class professionals (or emergent service workers) are no longer an option.

What is the alternative? Should Hackney, or London in general, be shut off to people who weren’t born in it and who therefore don’t have a “right” to live there? (arguments about immigration spring to mind here) Of course it is unfair that people are being priced out of their homes. But blaming each other is yet another way of reinforcing class division: the real blame rests with a long succession of government decisions, urban planning, the mass post-university exodus to London, and lack of social mobility in the UK.

If gentrification continues at this rate London will be inhabited mainly by white, middle-class graduates. We don’t want it to turn into Kensington: pristine, moneyed, soulless. Both groups need to coexist, and where possible, mingle. But when one group feels like it's being pushed out, mutual toleration is difficult. Instead of groups of people demonising each other, there needs to be profound institutional change.

React Now

Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Technical Software Consultant (Excel, VBA, SQL, JAVA, Oracle)

£40000 - £50000 per annum: Harrington Starr: You will not be expected to hav...

Technical Sales Manager

£45000 - £53000 Per Annum plus bonus plus package: The Green Recruitment Compa...

Humanities Teacher

£110 - £135 per day + Competitive Rates: Randstad Education Maidstone: Outstan...

SQL DBA/Developer

£500 per day: Harrington Starr: SQL DBA/Developer SQL, C#, VBA, Data Warehousi...

Day In a Page

Read Next
 

A day to remember a different kind of conflict – ours with the natural world

Michael McCarthy
Perfect flat mates  

Flatsharing with strangers as an adult is doomed - with or without a 'contract'

Jessica Brown Jessica Brown
Alexander Fury: The designer names to look for at fashion week this season

The big names to look for this fashion week

This week, designers begin to show their spring 2015 collections in New York
Will Self: 'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

'I like Orwell's writing as much as the next talented mediocrity'

Will Self takes aim at Orwell's rules for writing plain English
Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Meet Afghanistan's middle-class paint-ballers

Toy guns proving a popular diversion in a country flooded with the real thing
Al Pacino wows Venice

Al Pacino wows Venice

Ham among the brilliance as actor premieres two films at festival
Neil Lawson Baker interview: ‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.

Neil Lawson Baker interview

‘I’ve gained so much from art. It’s only right to give something back’.
The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

The other Mugabe who is lining up for the Zimbabwean presidency

Wife of President Robert Mugabe appears to have her sights set on succeeding her husband
The model of a gadget launch: Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed

The model for a gadget launch

Cultivate an atmosphere of mystery and excitement to sell stuff people didn't realise they needed
Alice Roberts: She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

She's done pretty well, for a boffin without a beard

Alice Roberts talks about her new book on evolution - and why her early TV work drew flak from (mostly male) colleagues
Get well soon, Joan Rivers - an inspiration, whether she likes it or not

Get well soon, Joan Rivers

She is awful. But she's also wonderful, not in spite of but because of the fact she's forever saying appalling things, argues Ellen E Jones
Doctor Who Into the Dalek review: A classic sci-fi adventure with all the spectacle of a blockbuster

A fresh take on an old foe

Doctor Who Into the Dalek more than compensated for last week's nonsensical offering
Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

Fashion walks away from the celebrity runway show

As the collections start, fashion editor Alexander Fury finds video and the internet are proving more attractive
Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy

Meet the stars of TV's Wolf Hall...

... and it's not the cast of the Tudor trilogy
Weekend at the Asylum: Europe's biggest steampunk convention heads to Lincoln

Europe's biggest steampunk convention

Jake Wallis Simons discovers how Victorian ray guns and the martial art of biscuit dunking are precisely what the 21st century needs
Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Don't swallow the tripe – a user's guide to weasel words

Lying is dangerous and unnecessary. A new book explains the strategies needed to avoid it. John Rentoul on the art of 'uncommunication'
Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough? Was the beloved thespian the last of the cross-generation stars?

Daddy, who was Richard Attenborough?

The atomisation of culture means that few of those we regard as stars are universally loved any more, says DJ Taylor