Shepway is not immune to change or gentrification. Average Property Prices outside London have now risen to £300,000 according to Reed Raines & leading property firm LSL. Its research showed that house prices had jumped 8.9 per cent in the past 12 months to March. One Can see how House prices have risen in Shepway on the map between 1996- 2015.
Picture: Briskat.com Sources: Land Registry/National Statistics
We can now find artisan coffee across the area know colloquially as the Creative Quarter and beyond. In the last few years we have seen the growth of Pop-up shops and bearded men in rolled up jeans, flouting the laws of comfort and hygiene to wear brogues without socks. The visual images of gentrification in neighbourhoods, are as hackneyed as they are ubitiquous in neighbourhoods across the UK that have all seen the changes that come with hikes in house prices and rent costs. The familiar gentrifying pattern in Folkestone, Margate, Hastings & Whitstable, has run thus for decades: artists move into an area with cheap housing and studio space, then developers follow – and long-standing communities are forced out.
In 2001 & 2004 Nick Ewbank then Director of the Metropole Arts Centre and later the Artistic Director / Trustee, of the The Creative Foundation, stated that he would “gentrify Folkestone”, well 15 years on his ‘vision’ of gentrification is here among us.
Artists are frequently blamed as the roots of the shift, for reasons that aren’t difficult to understand: gentrification is rarely benign – it isn’t simply that shops morph into upmarket outlets as more people find well-paid work. Instead, the original community is characterised as troublesome, the area is described as “troubled” (read: crime-ridden)
Crime Plus ASB Breakdown for Shepway – Folkestone Harbour
and the character shift of the wider neighbourhood is seen as restorative. Little thought is given to the people who have lived there for decades, raised children, put down roots, and found the streets and geography ingrained in their personal history and psychology.
Folkestone & its environs has seen a 42% Rise in Homelessness. Shepway District Council are paying 12 B&B’s across the district and beyond, for people ‘decanted’ due to rent increases and other reasons.
Where is the ‘Affordable Housing’? Who has £300,000 when the average wage in Shepway is £20,200. Rents are rising significantly, so much so that it is eating over 50% of people’s income, who find saving nigh on an impossible task.
The social cleansing of pathologised locals for the sake of a land grab to reap capital begun from the moment the Creative Foundation & other developers took hold of Folkestone. Social & Private rented tenants here in Folkestone & elsewhere are being “decanted” – a deplorable phrase used by SDC that treats eviction as benign, pouring people away like water.
Businesses know that artists need funding to work and exhibit – and will take advantage at any opportunity. Austerity isn’t applied uniformly: most people across the Shepway haven’t seen their wages rise post-2008, and the poorest have been hit again and again, but many companies have bolstered profits and are able to dangle sizeable financial carrots as funding has dried up.
But it comes with a cost: people have a tendency to attack what is visible about gentrification – the effects, not the cause. Artists, over-priced coffee and deliberately rough-hewn bread aren’t the causes of gentrification: that’s the deliberate pursuit of capital by developers, forcing people from one area to another. But artists still have a responsibility to consider how their access to cheap studio space in Folkestone, Margate, Hasting & Whistable is used to clear the way for developers. Capital didn’t let the original community stay for ever: once artists have done their job, developers will kick them out too.
There are Pro’s and Con’s to Gentrification , they are set out below. After reading them it is for you to decide, if it is a rock and hard place situation.
|Higher incentive for property owners to increase/improve housing||Displacement through rent/price increases|
|Reduction in crime||Loss of affordable housing|
|Stabilization of declining areas||Commercial/industrial displacement|
|Increased property values||Unsustainable property prices|
|Increased consumer purchasing power at local businesses||Displacement and housing demand pressures on surrounding poor areas|
|Reduced vacancy rates||Community resentment and conflict|
|Increased local fiscal revenues||Homelessness|
|Encouragement and increased viability of further development||Secondary psychological costs of displacement|
|Reduced strain on local infrastructure and services||Increased cost and charges to local services|
|Increased social mix||Loss of social diversity (from socially disparate to rich ghettos)|
|Rehabilitation of property both with and without state sponsorship||Under occupancy and population loss to gentrified areas|