‘How to kill a city?’


Over the last decades, projects that develop underperforming areas have increasingly diminished the uniqueness and identities of countless places around the world. Rebranding of regions has resulted in the killing of what were distinctive neighbourhoods, erasing years of cultural influence and marginalising its local residents. Additionally, what is also strongly impacted by gentrification is the rising living cost and the price of housing. That made locals move out of the developed cities and those cities are losing people’s trust. Brixton and Shenzen are two examples from around the world, highlighting the global impact of gentrification.


London is no stranger to gentrification. Today, it is a hub for a relentless stream of regeneration projects, that often show little to no regard to local socio-economic ecosystems. Brixton is a key example when looking at such marginalisation. Starting in the latter part of the 2000s, Brixton saw a massive push for regeneration of the area. Private development companies injected thousands of pounds within Brixton, abruptly changing economic dynamics of the area. Local businesses found difficulty in adhering to the newfound identity of shopping districts such as the Brixton Village and were replaced by large franchises. Today, the local identity, which stemmed from the settlement of carribean communities in the area, is rapidly dying. The marginalisation of the working class demographic is also highlighted by such developments. Displacement and resettlement of families is becoming a country wide issue, with affordable private housing becoming increasingly less available. The lack of community engagement and inclusive development is causing local identities to be replaced by corporate agendas, killing the individuality of cities.


Shenzhen was the first special economic zone established by China's reform and opening up policy. It is a coastal city where most of the local people used to make their living by farming or fishing like many places in mainland China before the policy was implemented. There were still many small cottages and much of the land was still undeveloped in contrast to what we have seen since.

Huangbeiling village had been through a state-mandated formalization process of informal settlements over the past decade. Under the master plan of ‘Villages in the City’ Redevelopment (2005–2010), local villagers’ properties were demolished to make way for new residential and commercial complexes targeting the upper-middle class. The rental housing market in the city has since borne high prices that makes these city’s newcomers have to choose the cheaper alternatives in the urban village along with the hukou system restrained them from legalising their residential status. This deteriorated the social well-being of the rural-urban migrants who are excluded from various urban services in these urban villages.

The price of houses and living costs in Shenzhen will continue rising. If the government does not give suitable responses, an increasing number of low- and middle-income citizens will move to less developed cities to avoid paying a higher proportion of their income to buy or rent a house. Although the workforce may still work for Shenzhen remotely, more apartments will be empty and that will affect the economic growth and kill the vitality of the city and at last lead to an irredeemable urban decay. Besides, people are complaining about ‘inexplicable loneliness and confusion’ in Shenzhen and it will lose trust from citizens if the situation continues.


Hence, from the two cases drawn from two sides of the world, it could be seen that gentrification has negative impacts on not only the local communities but also the migrants and in multiple aspects of economic, social and culture that constitute the city.

Author - Group 6

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