Creating social divisions or a necessary part of urban evolution? Gentrification is a hotly debated topic.
Pros and cons
On the one hand, gentrification is a natural process that can revitalize an area. As a neighborhood becomes more affluent, the streets become cleaner, the crime rate drops and the buildings modernize. On the other hand, it pushes up property prices. Small businesses and low-income families can no longer afford to live there. As the rent continues to rise, the independent shops are soon replaced by chain restaurants and soon enough only the wealthiest can afford to live there. Here's a look at a few cities most affected by the socio-economic trend.
Berlin is one of the coolest cities in Europe. The cheap rent has always drawn the creatives, there's a lively music scene and it should come as little surprise that it is a thriving cultural hub. Today, the Berlin skyline is marked with cranes as property developers are eyeing up the capital. The working-class neighborhood of Neukoelln in particular is singled out as a hot spot. It is the area with the highest number of migrants and the largest number of social welfare recipients. Modernization plans however, could soon see them pushed out of their neighborhood.
Gentrification is not a new phenomenon in the French capital - it's been spreading for decades. Belleville, in the 10th arrondissement, is a melting pot of street artists, musicians as well as one of the most diverse and multicultural neighborhoods in Paris. Tunisian restaurants sit side by side with trendy new bars. It's evolving rapidly and given the current rate at which property prices are rising, many residents may soon be out priced. Those who can't afford to live in the city move out to the 'banlieues', the suburbs many of which are notorious for high levels of unemployment as well as being zones of social isolation.
Mass tourism to Barcelona has drastically altered its social and economic landscape. As the neighborhoods smarten up, new life is injected into the area. The residents of El Ravel, the medieval quarter used to have very poor quality of life, but now government funded regeneration schemes have made it into a pleasant place to live and to visit. Despite, or perhaps because of, the gentrification Barcelona has retained its multicultural community, visitors come to admire city's contemporary art museum, the MACBA and eat at the variety of restaurants, from the kebab houses to the tapas restaurants.
Bristol, United Kingdom
Voted the best place to live in the UK and the best place to study, Bristol is a vibrant and creative city. Home to street artist Banksy and musicians such as George Ezra and Massive Attack, the city is known for its young population and buzzing music scene. Every area has its own personality that evolves with the times, but the changing face of Stokes Croft is worth noting. Today the neighborhood is very much like an outdoor gallery filled with street art and a variety of independent cafes and boutiques. Residents have worked with the council to ensure that development plans don't affect the social housing and as well as put an official cap on the number of chains allowed to setup. So, for now a fragile balance has been struck between old and new.