The London Clearances a background paper on race, housing and policing

February 20, 2019 — Press release

Written by Jessica Perera, Institute of Race Relations

New IRR publication provides a fresh take on housing, policing and racism in London.

The moral panic over supposedly dangerous black, urban subcultures in London, emerges at a crucial time, argues the Institute of Race Relations (IRR) in a challenging background paper published today. The impact of financialisation on local authority housing is converging with location-specific intensive and intrusive policing. In The London Clearances: Race Housing and Policing, researcher Jessica Perera traces the overlap between attempts to gentrify so-called ‘sink estates’ and the criminalising of young black men, seen as an obstacle to such ‘regeneration’. She provides historical context to understand the current moment, analysing not just the  Estates Regeneration Programme of the current Conservative government, but the ‘positive gentrification’ policies of New Labour, as well as its creation of ‘ASBO Britain’.

There are thousands of people waiting for housing across the capital, and yet new housing developments are not being built to meet their needs. Instead, the report reveals how ‘regeneration’ projects are being used to actively dispossess working-class and low-income families of their homes. This process, often referred to as ‘social cleansing’, has previously been understood as a class issue. But the fact that BAME families are over-represented in social housing in the capital and highly racialised language was used to describe London’s post-war housing estates in the aftermath of the 2011 riots, would strongly suggest, the IRR argues, that this is also a race issue.

IRR researcher Jessica Perera says, ‘this is a replication of the government’s “hostile environment” policy. Instead of the policy being a prelude to moving people out of the country, it is, at a local level, a prelude to decanting BAME families from local authority land.’ For Perera such localised hostile environments, administered by a range of state institutions (local authorities, housing associations, social services, schools, police) denotes the way policing in London today is being organised around the project of regenerating London and, in turn, gentrifying it.

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Notes

  1. The Institute of Race Relations (IRR), a registered charity set up in 1958, is an educational think tank researching and providing information.
  2. The publication The London Clearances: Race, Housing and Policing is 40 pages long and divided into 4 sections: 1) London’s housing crisis in a neoliberal context; 2) social housing, gentrification and estate regeneration; 3) ‘sink estates’ and ‘managed decline’ and 4) localised hostile environment and policing inequality.
  3. Jessica Perera work as a Researcher at the Institute of Race Relations and can be contacted at jess@irr.org.uk
  4. According to the most recently available figures: 150,000 people were evicted from London boroughs between 2012 and 2015, and this is set to rise given that the highest number of housing possession claims and successful repossessions came from social landlords in London in a three month period in 2018. BAME populations are predominantly concentrated in social housing in the capital, with almost half of all black households (47.6) per cent living in social rented accommodation; those of mixed ethnicity compromising over a third (35.2 per cent); ‘other ethnic groups’ constituting 29.2 percent and Asian households make up 1 in 5 (17.4 per cent).
  5. This background report is the prelude to a research project the IRR will be undertaking into the race-class social cleansing of London, exploring the ways in which area-based policing regimes and wider issues of housing regeneration and gentrification in London

The Institute of Race Relations is precluded from expressing a corporate view: any opinions expressed are therefore those of the authors.

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