Using a case study of your choice, critically discuss the role of regeneration in addressing the needs of urban populations.
Urban areas are dynamic systems which are constantly changing and are often the product of different processes which are occurring within them, which in turn affects those urban populations living within them. Peter and Sykes (1999) define regeneration as an action which leads to urban problems being resolved and bringing an improvement within the area in terms of economic, physical, social and environmental aspects which are subject to change during the process of regeneration. Regeneration can have distinct features; Turock (2005) highlights that it can change the physical fabric of the area as well as involving the community and other actors. It also uses several objectives and activities with involvement from the government, as well as forms of partnership from stakeholders and actors involved. Regeneration can transform urban areas and there are several different ways of approaching regeneration, as well as undergoing regeneration. Regeneration, therefore, plays a key role in transforming urban areas.
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For regeneration to be successful, it should address the needs of the population. To do so, effective policies would need to be used in the developing areas which would be tailored to the specific urban area which is being regenerated. There are a number of urban needs which suit the population but for this essay, key urban needs which will be discussed include adequate housing, chances of improving the economic situation through new opportunities as well as a sense of community within the local urban area. Policies should also account for the linked nature between the economic, social, cultural and physical fabric of an area which is being developed (Tallon, 2013) during the regeneration process as having a focus on one aspect can lead to deprivation within another aspect.
This essay will focus on the regeneration within London Stratford for the 2012 Olympic games. In 2005 London won the bid to host the Olympics and it was decided that East London would host the majority of the games and so the government invested money into regenerating Stratford through various ways (Smith, 2014). This was done through transforming rail links, adding a mega-mall known as Westfield and building apartments for athletes which would then be sold onto the public. These highlighted aspects of retail-led and property-led regeneration, as well as mainly culture-led regeneration as a result of the large mega sporting event being a catalyst for the regeneration of the area. The government wanted to leave a positive legacy behind after the Olympics were over and were committed to regenerating a community as well as bringing them together and leading to social and economic change (London 2012, 2004). In order to create a legacy, different boards were set up including the Olympic Park Legacy Company (OPLC) in 2009 which was turned in the London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) after the games in 2012 in order to make sure a positive legacy would be achieved for social and economic change.
This essay will look at whether regeneration has addressed the needs of the urban population within Stratford by focusing on three main aspects; housing, community and jobs. It will identify different policies used within the regeneration as well as their impact on the urban population.
Housing was a key issue in the regeneration of the six boroughs for the London 2012 Olympic games. This section will focus on whether the housing developed for the Olympic games has met the needs of the urban population living there. This section will primarily focus on housing within the Newham borough, one of the six boroughs which the games were hosted in.
East London has had a number of developments over the years such as the London Docklands regeneration which was a form of property-led regeneration (Edwards, 2013) and recently the demolition of council estates, many of which are surrounding the regenerated Stratford area (Watt, 2009) to build the East Village. Before the completion of the London 2012 Olympics, 72% of Newham households were rented properties (Newham council, 2011). They also reported that 37% wanted to become homeowners in five years, whilst 48% still expected to be renting. Newham also had issues with lack of accommodation as over 2000 households were living in temporary accommodation (MHCLG, 2011). This shows that before the Olympics, there were several issues concerning housing deprivation and that one of the main goals for the regeneration was to build affordable housing to suit Newham's residents.
Stratford was in need of regeneration and it could be argued that the Olympics were a catalyst for the regeneration to occur. East Village, previously known as the Athlete’s village, now houses many new residents and has over 2800 homes (Vanderhoven, 2012). Half of these are privately owned, where most are privately rented, a quarter are for social rent and the other quarter are affordable housing (Hill, 2015). Hill (2015) discusses the implementation of two new neighbourhoods, East Wick and Sweetwater in adding to the number of homes where 31% were expected to be socially rented (ibid.). With roughly half the properties being privately owned, it shows the key factor of time where committees were trying to sell the properties quickly in order to create and sustain a legacy, however it has now created more houses to be privately owned resulting in less affordable housing which has left most of the previous residents, many of which are low-income residents, unable to afford to live in Newham. Furthermore, it highlights the use of neoliberal ideas in selling a majority to the private sector as the local authorities were dependent on private buyers in buying flats within the East Village. Bernstock (2016) found that property prices within Stratford had risen the highest of any London borough since 2012, resulting in higher rent prices which have led to many lower-income families unable to afford to live in Stratford. Arguments have been made that processes such as gentrification have caused this increase in house prices as the physical landscape of the area (Smith, 1987) has changed as well as many of the residents causing a demographic change which has resulted in previous residents leaving as an effect of gentrification.
This highlights the failures made by the LLDC as roughly 28% of housing built was made affordable in order to make way for more economic activity (Donovan, 2014) compared to the 31%, which highlights that there was an interest in making profit and expanding economic activity within the area rather than improving the living standards within the area as in 2010 it was reported that Newham was the second most deprived area within the country (Newham Info, 2015). This highlights how housing in a post-Olympic legacy has addressed the needs of higher-income residents and those who can afford to live in Stratford at the expense of lower-income families who as a result have been unable to keep up with high rents and property prices and so have had to move out of the area as well as highlighting issues of class divides where often those of a higher class find their needs supported rather than those from low incomes and the working class who so often cannot afford the high increase in property prices and rent.
Clays Lane was a housing estate which housed over 400 people (Burrows, 2017) and as a result of the regeneration occurring in Stratford, was demolished to build the East Village. It was bought by the London Development Agency (LDA) in 2007 and they soon issued a compulsory purchase order (CPO) to all the residents. This was issued as a Regional Development Agencies Act 1998 and an Acquisition of Land Act 1981 (Hatcher, 2012), where the long term benefits the Olympics would bring were seen as a priority over the residents, as well as their legacy outweighing issues which would be created as a result of the demolition of Clays Lane, such as the breaking up of a strong community living in Clays Lane and how this would negatively impact their lives as many residents had strong foundations and wanted to be moved as a community but this was not possible (The Guardian, 2008).
A majority of residents were moved in emergency accommodation whilst some were moved to places outside of East London, away from their community and friends. By displacing residents in order to create new luxury apartments supposedly for the original residents, is not addressing their needs as it breaks up their way of life as strong ties which they held with Clays Lane are now gone, as well as many being separated from their friends and in turn worsening their economic situation because many residents had to pay to higher rents in their new homes. One resident was rehoused into the East Village, into an apartment which was marked as an 'affordable' home, however, she was paying 80% market rate on rent and was struggling economically to pay this (Focus E15 Campaign, 2015). This further shows how promises of affordable housing were not met as many residents could not afford the new homes which were built and so were displaced as a result and had to move out of East London to find cheaper rents and as a result lost their sense of place. This could also be argued as social cleansing as many lower-income residents felt they were being pushed out (Stone, 2015) and their economic situations were not accounted for therefore their needs were not addressed.
In addition to Clays Lane residents being moved out of their homes, single mums living in a TA hostel in Stratford (Watt, 2016) were given the notice to leave the hostel as a result of welfare cuts. Most of the mothers were told to move to other areas such as Birmingham and Manchester (Stone, 2015) despite having no connections there or having a sense of community or place there. The mothers could not afford the high costs which are now associated with Stratford and could only afford social housing as a result of a new demographic moving into Stratford and more market owned housing leading to an increase in house prices (Watt, 2018). This suggests that the Olympic Park regeneration has not helped access to affordable housing as well as social housing which many locals in Stratford had relied on which Vanderhoven (2012) highlighted that affordable housing was a key aspect of the legacy of the games and despite this many have not had access to these affordable houses. Furthermore, this highlights how the regeneration did not address urban needs and how there was a lack of focus from the LLDC in addressing the needs of lower-income households who simply cannot afford to pay the skyrocketing rents which have developed since the regeneration of Stratford.
Jobs were another area which needed improvement in the Stratford area and when the bid for the Olympics was placed, the bid committee promised 20 000 jobs (Kennelly, 2017) especially for residents in the six host boroughs as they all had areas of very low-income areas and so the regeneration of the area would help facilitate employment within the area. In 2010, Newham's population had roughly 57 100 workless people (ibid.) and roughly only 23 000 were actively looking for work, highlighting how jobs were an issue before the Olympics and how the committee was dedicated to creating jobs in order to tackle this issue within Stratford.
The Department for Communities and Local Government (DCLG) highlighted their key priorities in combating unemployment and created policies including the Government’s Legacy Action Plan (LAP) and a Strategic Regeneration Framework (SRF) in order to achieve what they termed ‘convergence’, where the boroughs which hosted the Olympics would have the same social and economic chances as other boroughs within London within 20 years (Vanderhoven, 2012). The acknowledgement by the government that the six host boroughs needed development and that there were disparities within London showed that the regeneration strategies which would be undertaken would have the people at its main interest and would address their needs. Both the LAP and SRF included promises to improve opportunities economically as well as interventions and benefits which needed to be undertaken to increase the unemployment rate.
However, this was not the case, as many of the jobs which were promised did not materialise. Up until 2011, which would have the peak employment chance for the Olympics, there were only a small number of direct employment opportunities (Brown and Szymanski, 2012) and this was especially true within the six host boroughs where most of the regeneration policies were targeted to improve employment and skills. Many were also employed for a short-term basis and were poorly paid which did not help them develop skills as promised within the LAP and SRF. Many young people within the six boroughs felt betrayed by the promises made as the jobs were promised to locals and less than half of the 20 000 jobs went to them (Ali, 2013). This does not address the needs of the populations as a sufficient amount of jobs were not provided and with a rising youth population, many young people were looking for work and thought with the number of promises made by the governments they would be guaranteed a job and by not having a job many have had false hope which can affect their well being and drive to find other job opportunities. Furthermore, many local businesses were pushed out of the area with some losing their businesses (Hackney Gazette, 2018) to make way for the development of the Olympics, which would have negatively impacted them as well as not addressing their needs. To positively help the urban populations, there should have been a policy to integrate these changes with the locals at the heart of policies, rather than suiting the needs of big corporations.
From 2015 there has been a reduction in multiple deprivations, as Newham rose to 25th most deprived area in the country, compared to second in 2010 (Newham Info, 2015). This would suggest that the policies used to regenerate the area were successful and helped create economic activity which meant the Olympics had a positive impact on urban populations and maybe the creation of new jobs were successful in regenerating the area. However, it can also be argued that it was the new residents who moved into the area as a result of the new housing developments and their influence has had an effect in the reduction of deprivation within the area and still lower-income residents are left behind and not accounted for in regeneration policies which have been the case in terms of housing and jobs (Kennelly and Watt, 2012), where many young local residents felt the regeneration was not for them. Furthermore, the % of low paid workers increased by 10% from 2011 to 2014 (Hackney Gazette, 2018) which could indicate that regeneration excluded low income workers and had not fully addressed their needs in improving wages for them which would boost their incomes and potentially help them better their lives as many were earning less than the minimum wage and it is evident to see that the regeneration had not helped improve their income or help them gain the skills needed to look for different employment.
In this essay, we have discussed the policies used to regenerate Stratford to address the needs of the urban populations as well as improve the physical fabric of the area. However, most of the regeneration strategies used have not addressed the urban needs of the population as many have been left worse off than before the Olympics. Those worst affected by the regeneration strategies were the local residents, who were promised improvements in terms of housing, community strengthening and an increase in jobs in order to achieve 'convergence', however this was not achieved as the policies were not inclusive and led to many communities breakdowns and increasing rent prices which in turn left locals displaced in terms of housing and many locals without jobs. This shows that the needs of the local urban population were not met and for there to be successful regeneration there needs to be an aspect of community participation, where they identify what should be improved. However, the true legacy of the regeneration cannot fully be seen as it has only been seven years and only time will tell what the true legacy will look like in twenty years.
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