Glyn Robbins: Gentrification is making it so hard for working class Islington people to live here

PUBLISHED: 09:02 13 July 2018 | UPDATED: 11:34 13 July 2018

Glyn Robbins is a social housing campaigner and manages the Quaker Court estate off Old Street. Picture: Mike Brooke

Glyn Robbins is a social housing campaigner and manages the Quaker Court estate off Old Street. Picture: Mike Brooke


The term “gentrification” was coined by sociologist Ruth Glass about Islington in the 1960s. She was describing middle class families buying homes in working class neighbourhoods – and seeing the value of those homes grow massively.

The borough is still a place where some people come to try and make a fortune from property investment. But it’s a very different situation today.

As the Gazette described in April, the scale of change is mammoth. It’s not individuals – it’s global corporations making it so hard for working class Islingtonites to live here. Most of the new housing is unaffordable to people on low or even medium income. Shops and pubs that were mainstays of the community are closing. The noise and disruption of constant development is damaging health.

But gentrification is a symptom of the housing crisis, not the cause. For decades, governments have relied on the market to provide homes while council housing has been marginalised. This policy has been a disaster.

On the estate where I work, a three-bedroom home lost under Right to Buy recently sold for £750,000. Private tenants are paying £2,500 a month to live in a similar house. Over the road, a housing association is selling a four-bedroom home for £1.6m. Older tenants might downsize, but there’s nowhere to move. Other families have no choice but three generations living together. Young people see all this and despair.

Islington Council is trying to change things, but it isn’t enough: we need to rethink our attitude to housing and its place in society. A home should be somewhere to live, not something to make money from. But too many politicians still play to the property industry’s tune, offering no hope to future generations. Genuine council housing is the antidote to the poison of the market.

Glyn Robbins is a social housing campaigner and manages the Quaker Court estate off Old Street.

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