As part of the Oram Research Scholar programme we are able to hire a RUPS alumni to carry out research on a topic of their choice under our supervision. Our second Oram Scholar was Pauline Niesseron (2014) (photo left). She studied with Alan Mace, Associate Professor of Planning and Antoine Paccoud, (2013) LSE Regional and Urban Planning Phd and researcher at the Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research. Their work was on social upscaling in suburbia. The following is an excerpt from her work.
Changes in the structure and operation of the economy, highlighted by the planetary urbanism debate, have had impacts which require our rethinking the purpose and relevance of categories such as urban, suburban, periphery and rural. Some gentrification researchers, cognisant of this challenge, have sought to unshackle gentrification from the inner city inviting us to consider the possibility of gentrification in the suburbs (Clark 2005).
Previous research has looked at shifts in the socio-economic configuration of Outer London where some areas are experiencing significant social ‘downscaling’ and others ‘upscaling’ (Paccoud and Mace 2017, Paccoud 2017). A shift in tenure to the private rented sector was identified as an important mechanism facilitating suburban upscaling as Buy to Let landlords identify rent gaps. While rent gap theories work for suburban gentrification it is not so easy to resolve cultural explanations where a metropolitan milieu is highly valued by those who gentrify and which is often linked to centrality. One possible explanation is that not all those upscaling are seeking to echo the gentrification aesthetic of Inner London. In understanding links between place and cultural preferences a number of writers have drawn on Bourdieu’s theories (Savage et al 2005; Duncan & Duncan 2003). However, Bourdieu has been criticised for paying insufficient attention to the role of ethnicity in determining cultural preferences (Trienekens 2002). Ethnic minority groups may, therefore, comprise a significant group of upscalers who may have different criteria for valuing the qualities of an area. Ethnicity might, therefore, give us further explanatory purchase on the geography of social upscaling and downscaling that unrolled in London between 2001 and 2011.
It has long been documented that migrants have more restricted choices both in terms of location and housing tenure (Peach 1998, Peach and Bryon 1993). In London, “part of the constraint on location facing many of the minority population relates to the spatial concentration of certain kinds of housing tenure” (Peach 1998, p1661). In the case of Paris, it is widely recognised that housing policy has produced ethnic ghettos, through the concentration of big social-tenure blocs in the outskirts of the city; one of the causes of the 2005 riots (Preteceille 2006, 2009). In this context, we decided to look at a possible relationship between upscaling and downscaling process linked to changes in housing tenure (specifically the increase of homeownership occupant and private sector tenants) and the in-move and out-move of migrants and ethnic groups in those areas. The hypothesis to be tested in this research is whether the process of social upscaling is primary a UK-born phenomenon or whether an influx of migrant (new and old) is also correlated with the upscaling of an areas, distinguishing between areas that upscaled via the private-rented sector or via ownership.
The Census in the UK allows for a quite detailed analysis as it has datasets on both the country of birth and ethnic background. France, however, does not collect information on ethnicity but does has the information on the nationality of its population (French / immigrant residents, defined by the country of birth). Whilst this clearly limits a direct comparison between both countries, the comparison of London with another European City, is felt useful too highlight the specificity of London’s process but also because France and the UK are in the top three countries that have received the highest immigrant inflows in Europe (Eurostat 2006-2014) and, because Paris and London do receive a disproportionate amount of immigrants and are ethnically more diverse compared to the rest of their respective countries.
Initial results show that in London, a shift in tenure to the private rented sector is identified as a mechanism facilitating suburban upscaling whereas in Paris social upscaling is still primarily linked to ownership. In France, upscaling happened disproportionally more in areas that had an increase in ownership than in the private-renting sector, something not surprising as there was not a huge increase of this tenure in Paris
Moreover, in London, upscaling through the private rented sector was a migrant phenomenon as these areas correlated with an increase of non-White British born in the UK and born in the UK population groups only. There was a greater positive net migration into upscaling linked to private rented sector areas in Outer London compared to Inner London. In both places, there is a replacement of White British by other ethnicities, whether born in the UK or not, as in fact White British Born in the UK exited massively every type of upscaling areas in London. It seems that that this group left London altogether and, perhaps, moved to more distant regions as there was a high influx of this group in upscaling-with-ownership areas in London’s surrounding local authorities but also in the wider South-East. Another possible explanation is that White British born in the UK moved to new built as in the areas that were split between the two census years (split is due to an increase of population) many had as a main tenure ownership and there was an in-move three times bigger of White British born in the UK than of the non-White British born in the UK and non-white British born overseas residents.
The initial results might therefore suggest that the real estate market strongly benefits from the strong immigration into London and the return of the private-rented sector. The return of the private-rented sector was probably only possible in London because of the high influx of non-White British born in the UK and non-White British born overseas who moved in significant numbers into these areas. The reduction in White British born in the UK residents can be interpreted in a number of ways, all of which may hold some truth. In identifying a fall in the number of white owner-occupied household in Outer London, between 1991 (the first census that included ethnic-related questions) and 2001, Butler and Hammett (2010) raised two possible explanations for this change: a process of white-flight or, more benignly, the outcome of processes of death and replacement of ethnic groups. Another possibility is that white British residents were not driven negatively to move away from diversity (Sibley, 1998), but positively wanted to realise a preference for a suburban and country-side way of life (Watt 2006, May 1996, Mace 2018). Of course, these two motivations might not be held so neatly apart by those moving. Notwithstanding the exact motivation, the inward movement of other ethnic groups benefitted White British born in the UK homeowners by allowing them to put their homes to rent and move into other desirable areas or in bigger or new houses.
Returning to the geography of change in Outer London, alongside the significance of the preferences of minority groups we also expect that the role of real estate agents in this process is crucial as they have a key role to play in the marketing of areas in London to migrants.
This article appeared in the June 2018 RUPS newsletter issue 31-32.