Last month, we posted a map showing how house prices have changed in London the last three years, with Lewisham among an inner core of London boroughs which rose while outer boroughs stagnated. It's one expression of a phenomenon that US demographer Alan Ehrenhalt calls 'The Great Inversion'.
“The late 20th century,” he writes, “was the age of poor inner cities and wealthy suburbs; the 21st century is emerging as an age of affluent inner neighborhoods and immigrants settling on the outside.”
It attributes this change to three big shifts:
1. Jobs are becoming more focused in central London "at the expense of out-of-town office parks, which look increasingly dilapidated." [Lewisham's lack of job creation is not a unique phenomenon].
2. People are marrying and having kids later, meaning that city-centre lifestyles suit them better for longer. "Today’s 20-somethings are more likely to be university educated and less likely to drive, which makes offices that can be reached quickly by bike, bus or train far more desirable."
3. Structural changes, including falling crime, less pollution and better schools are encouraging families to stay put too, while "gentrification proves self-reinforcing, as new restaurants, bars and other businesses open to serve—and employ—gentrifiers."
So while Lewisham once braced itself for an influx of urban poor, priced out of central London, it seems likely that those people will move further out and our borough might face a very different kind of housing policy choice. The Economist concludes:
In some places, borough councils may be tempted to leverage high property prices to generate cash to redevelop their more run-down parts—turning over their social housing stock to private developers. That however smacks just a little of social cleansing. At the moment, complaints about gentrification in London tends to be limited to carping about the silliness of hipster bars, or the cost of a burger in Brixton village*. But... the politics of gentrification in London could eventually become quite tetchy.
*See all arguments about gentrification on Brockley Central ever.