A few years ago the term “gentrification” was new to me. It wasn’t that I didn’t understand what it meant; it was simply that the word was new to the circles in which I happen to move. As Ireland’s economy staggered from one crippling blow to another, and as government cutbacks bit deeper into the most deprived areas of the inner city, the process of gentrification went into full swing. Following the logic of the language, young couples from more affluent backgrounds – considering themselves to be more genteel, more refined, than the people of the inner city – swept down on the falling house prices in the inner city to grab a bargain. These new baby-boomers had money to spend, and now they were getting more bang for their buck. Recession and national economic failure never touched their wealth because their money was family money. Mothers and fathers in the leafy suburbs, no longer tied to investments, had money to spend and saw the investment value in cheaper houses which could be bought up as assets; advance inheritances for their off-spring who now had the perfect opportunity to get their feet on the property ladder.
Oh no! My street is being gentrified! #Hipsters—
Ùr-Fhàsaidh (@UrFhasaidh) July 24, 2015
One consequence of this trend was that property was removed from the hands of the previous generation of the now cash-strapped slum landlords. Admittedly this is a welcome change that will result in the improvement of properties throughout the inner city, but, as the economy settles down over the next decade or so, these new arrivals on the property ladder will begin to step up; leaving these houses to the next generation of landlords. In the meantime there is another, more immediate consequence of this newfound desirability for bargain basement property. It is creating another, albeit localised, housing bubble where lower-income families are being pushed out to make way for more middle class settlers who want to “slum it to make it.” The effect that this is already having on vulnerable people is devastating. With local authority housing waiting lists impossibly long, elsewhere in the city the cost of private rental accommodation is too high for people on dangerously low incomes, and so more people – families – are being pushed off the edge into homelessness, and away from the support of their families and friends in the only communities they know as home. All the craft beer and locally sourced kale in the world will not make this any better.