HEYU! Urbans Londen – Reactie David Madden op Hans-Hugo Smit

Voor de talkshowserie HEYU! van de Openbare Bibliotheek van Amsterdam in het kader van het Nederlands voorzitterschap, nodigt Tracy Metz zes prominente stadsdenkers uit, één per maand, vanuit steden in en rond Europa, voor een gesprek over urgente urban issues in de live talkshow HEYU! Urbans.

Woensdag 13 januari vond HEYU! Urbans Londen plaats. De stad betaalt de prijs van zijn succes met ongebreidelde gentrification en een woningmarkt die alleen voor de rijken is weggelegd. Hans-Hugo Smit, sociaal-geograaf, city-developer en momenteel werkzaam als gebiedsmarketeer bij BPD, schreef een column als reactie op HEYU! Urbans Londen waarin hij stelt dat gentrification ook kracht kan geven aan de stad. De reactie van David Madden, onze hoofdgast en prof. sociologie aan de London School of Economics, leest u hieronder.

It really is possible to remake the city for everyone

I thank Hans-Hugo Smit for his reaction to our HEYU! Urbans discussion at the OBA. But I don’t think this is a complete or useful way to think about what is happening in cities like London. He offers a familiar narrative: that of urban renaissance, the idea that wealth has supposedly flooded back into formerly dispossessed cities in order to make derelict and decayed neighbourhoods livable again. But this story has a number of problems.

First of all, places like London cannot be said to be wealthy. Rather, they are unequal, and becoming more so. What may be a playground of bars and restaurants for some is also a place where many are struggling to survive. Better than giving more and more territory within cities over to the few who are very wealthy would be making cities more egalitarian.

And far from being model citizens contributing to the public good, many urban elites use their wealth to insulate themselves from common challenges. Illustrations of this include private schools, separate transportation networks, gated communities, private security forces and tax avoidance.

As many urban scholars have been at pains to point out, to say the alternatives are either gentrification or decay is a false choice. Rather than remaking the city for elites, it would be possible to remake the city for everyone. But this requires thinking seriously about the politics of inequality within cities.

Meer lezen?

Meer columns en video’s van de HEYU! talkshow serie zijn hier te vinden.