Can regeneration be humane?


Antiuniversity Now

Image by Sain de Livre

In come the artists, soon follow the galleries, cafes and ‘hangs’, with not much time to spare enter the landlords with their increased rents; citizen protection helplines to battle the powerful keyholders are called, and before anyone can say regeneration, the investment bankers hand in hand with the urban planners skip by. And that’s the name of that tune.

A recurring word in current times, gentrification, is both a favourite topic to discuss over pricey locally brewed beer; and at the same time an exhausted subject. Because very few solutions have been constructed in opposition of its wicked cycle. While gentrification’s etiquette is brutal, it also perfectly aligns with the neo-liberalist religion. A religion all of today’s urban hermits swear by – whether consciously or not. Rents go up as areas become more desirable, and with that those who shed their tears, blood and sweat will be made to relocate elsewhere; to shed some more of those bodily fluids in the endless struggle. Could there be an alternative name for that same old tune?

Founders of Plot Nick Durrant and Gill Wildman certainly believe the definition of gentrification is not a stagnant one. The London based innovation and design consultancy use workshops and extensive prototyping approaches to explore the future in different forms; new ways for communities and urban planners to work together, not against one another (in the case of the planners that is). It might seem utopian wishing, imagining even, a different way in which a city can both grow and continue valuing its inhabitants – but Berlin is sparkling example. On January 1st, 2016, and at the height of its demand, the city introduced rent caps and measured increase of rent per area. And more; the city’s poorest residents are protected to pay no more than one third of their income on rent. Apartments must be under 540 square feet, and the maximum subsidy will be 2.68€ per 11 square feet, and if the heating costs are unusually high, the cap is lowered to 25% of income. Meaning that no landlord nor urban planner could come skipping in, hands crossed. It’s worth a think why London hasn’t adopted, or even toyed with a similar idea.