Thursday 27 July 2017

Tenure change in London’s suburbs: Spreading gentrification or suburban upscaling?

Antoine Paccoud, Luxembourg Institute for Socio-Economic Research
Alan Mace, London School of Economics and Political Sciences

The return of private renting in the UK is impressive. Between 2002 and 2015-16, the number of households in the Private Rented Sector doubled. This sector now accounts for 20% of households in the UK and 28% in London. This marks a significant break in the long-term trend towards ownership in the UK. Although Thatcher is most closely associated with the ideal of a ‘property owning democracy’, it has been around for much longer (Francis, 2012) running deep through the Conservative Party. The British are sometimes depicted as being obsessed with property and for those who do own housing it has proved a lucrative asset – although depending on where in the country that property is. Now, the decline in owner occupation has led to calls to think through the significance of the turn back to private renting (Rampen, 2016). 

The article arose from the two authors bringing together their different research interests. Antoine Paccoud had already developed a dataset for England looking at the increase and spread of private renting (Paccoud, 2016).  His interest was in making connections between this and the spread of gentrification, what he calls ‘buy-to-let gentrification’ (after the investment practice of purchasing a dwelling with the aim of putting it on the private rental market). Alan Mace focuses on social change in London and particularly in its suburbs (Mace, 2013).  The suburbs are traditionally dominated by owner occupation and the shift to renting raises questions about social change in these areas. A lot of attention has rightly been paid to suburban decline (Lupton et al, 2013) but our data highlight an important parallel story – that of suburban gentrification.

This paper seeks to reconcile two contradictory tendencies in the geography of buy-to-let gentrification. The first is that at the England-wide scale, upscaling to private renting has been particularly present in more urban, central and disadvantaged areas. The second is that a sizeable proportion of upscaling to the private rented sector occurred in more peripheral Outer London (see map). To investigate this paradoxical situation, the paper uses a detailed analysis of the social and tenurial changes that have occurred between 2001 and 2011. We look at the 23,406 Census Output Areas in London whose boundaries have remained unchanged over that period (an Output Area contains 300 usual residents on average). The analysis reveals that upscaling to the private rented sector was linked to two physical characteristics – period (pre-1900) architecture and proximity to rail-based public transport. While Outer London is dominated by early to mid-20th century semi-detached and terraced (row) housing, there are also 19th century neighbourhoods that offer a more desirable architecture. There are also areas with excellent public transport accessibility to central London. Separately or in combination, these offer a diluted version of the metropolitan milieu gentrifiers seek in the inner city.

Buy-to-let gentrification in Outer London can thus be understood as an overspill into areas affording a semblance of metropolitan milieu in Outer London by better-off tenants uninterested in, or unable to access, ownership and priced out of high house price Inner London. This interpretation reconciles the economic and cultural approaches to gentrification. From the economic side, it explains how buy-to-let investors have been able to use the general value gap opened by the deregulation of the Private Rented Sector to close rent gaps in certain Outer London areas. From the cultural side, it puts the idea of metropolitan milieu, and its London translation as period architecture and access to the centre, at the forefront of the analysis.

The return of the Private Rented Sector has recently become a central political concern because it is occurring alongside quickly rising house prices and rents. This paper is an attempt to better understand the local impacts of this return in London. Indeed, a local increase in private renting means different things if the area is undergoing social upscaling (i.e. if in-movers are better off than those leaving the area) or downscaling (i.e. if out-movers are better off than those moving into the area). As investors, those purchasing with a view to rent are interested in those areas with the potential for social upscaling. This is problematic since it can push forward gentrification – a type of neighbourhood change in which social upscaling and changes to the housing stock are linked to the displacement of existing residents.

Africa’s New Cities: The Contested Future of Urbanization

Femke van Noorloos and Marjan Kloosterboer

The future of urbanization is in Africa; high urban population growth numbers imply a steep increase in demand for urban housing, infrastructure and services (UN DESA, 2014). New private investments in housing and urban development are increasingly reaching Africa and are presented as a rational response to these projections. This often takes a particular form: entirely new cities are built from scratch as comprehensive self-contained enclaves. The construction of new cities by itself is not new, but the scale, extent and the drivers behind such constructions are different from before, as is the current interest by international property companies.

Considering the novelty of current types of ‘new city making’ in Africa, empirical research on its implications is inevitably largely lacking. With this paper we try to contribute to this niche by making a first attempt at a typology of new cities in Africa, which clearly demonstrates the heterogeneous character of the phenomenon. New cities in Africa are diverse in their spatial forms, locations, purposes/aims and marketing aims, amongst others. In addition, we can observe parallels between new cities and related phenomena such as gated communities or Special Economic Zones, and learn from their examples. Particularly we can learn from existing research in Latin America and Asia on such similar phenomena.

Research on new cities so far indicates that their promise to solve the pressing issue of sustainable urbanization contrasts sharply with their realities as residential and commercial enclaves for the rich. One risk is that the establishment of new cities often occurs in complex ‘rurban’ spaces with even more complex land governance arrangements, so that displacement of existing populations is deemed an inevitable necessity. Second, new cities are likely to exacerbate social-spatial segregation in different ways, for instance between different population groups or between the new city and existing urban areas. Their private sector-driven governance (but with public funding as a back-up) is also often criticized. Finally, we argue that many new cities are bound to be consumptive and supply-driven opportunities for speculation (thus resembling gated communities for the middle and higher classes), and unlikely to provide much productivity or innovation.

From this first systematic typology and analysis of Africa’s new cities, we emphasize their diversity of forms, purposes and possible implications. Also, in reality new cities are often still dreams in the heads of their planners, or in an early stage of development. Yet from experiences so far and comparisons with similar phenomena, we argue that these ‘new’ urban forms are unsuitable for solving the main problems Africa’s cities are facing.


United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs (UN DESA) (2014) World Urbanization Prospects. The 2014 revision, highlights. New York: UN DESA.

Wednesday 19 July 2017

Work, Technology, The City, Violence

Dr John Crossan, University of Strathclyde, International Public Policy Institute (IPPI)

The bogeyman of automation thesis is once again the topic of conversation in dinner parties, cafes and bars across the developed world. In part, this latest wave of concern about the power of machines stems from numerous newspaper articles, blogs and discussion papers on the emerging 4th Industrial Revolution. This builds on the previous Digital Revolution. It represents new ways in which technology becomes more embedded within societies. The 4th Industrial Revolution is marked by breakthroughs in a number of fields, including roboticsartificial intelligence and autonomous vehicles. It is essentially a coming together of operation technologies (i.e. hardware and software that detects or causes a change through the direct monitoring and/or control of physical devices) and information technologies. The scale of this integration is captured in the term ‘internet of things’.
A key concern about the application of these technologies centres upon their impact on the labour force. The argument here is that technological advances of this kind will result in higher unemployment, workforce deskilling and subsequent social upheaval. Adding weight to the machine-human substitution position The Boston Consulting Group in a recent report estimates (p8) that, for Germany, by 2025, “A greater use of robotics and computerization will reduce the number of jobs in assembly and production by approximately 610,000” -. In addition, the report predicts that routine cognitive work will also be affected, with more than 20,000 jobs in production planning to be lost (ibid).
Another concern about the application of these technologies relates to the exponential growth of the security industry post 9/11. Using the term ‘securitization’ Minas Samatas (2011: 3348) in this journal refers to a “bourgeoning industrial complex, encompassing security, surveillance [and] military technology [that] develops and promotes a global security market of new militarized monitoring technologies for civilian applications”. Again, in this journal Volker Eick (2011: 3330) in his study of policing tactics used in the 2006 FIFA World Cup, writes about the deployment of surveillance technologies that includes “airborne warning and control system planes (AWACS), security robots, [and] closed circuit television surveillance (CCTV)”. Such technologies are in the main developed by the military and their ever-increasing use in cities points towards a worrying blurring of the boundaries between war and police (Wall 2013), civilian and enemy, city and battleground.
A recent paper by Ian Shaw (2017) makes explicit a connection between the dual concerns of machine-human substitution and a technologically advanced security industry. With an emphasis on the use of drones to police disenfranchised urbanites Shaw’s argument is a compelling and frightening one: “As more and more jobs are replaced by nonhuman capital, the expelled workers find themselves policed, occupied, and watched by an equally robotic security armada” (Shaw 2017: 22). In support of the first stage of this dystopian narrative (i.e. machine-human substitution) Shaw quotes David Harvey[1]: “Robots do not . . . complain, answer back, sue, get sick, go slow, lose concentration, go on strike, demand more wages, worry about conditions, want tea breaks or simply refuse to show up” (Harvey 2014:103). Harvey’s argument while also compelling is flawed, although this flaw does not detract from a core message in Shaw’s work that warns of a type of terror only the state-capitalist nexus could produce and sustain.
Why human labour prevails despite technological disruption
Harvey is mistaken. Robots metaphorically do get sick and go slow. This is because with increased complexity comes increased system vulnerability (Pfieffer 2016). In other words, “the more we depend on technology and push it to its limits, the more we need highly-skilled, well-trained, well-practiced people […] acting as the last line of defense against the failures that will inevitably occur” (Baxter et al 2012: 65). Furthermore, as David H Autor (2015) argues, humans will always have a comparative advantage over computers when it comes to cognitive tasks, which require creative thinking, good judgement and, increasingly, social intelligence. Such tasks, according to Sara de la Rica (in Dolphin (ed), 2017: 91) can be complementary to computers “and hence [she argues] computerization is likely to increase the demand for people with these skills”. In the short term, there is evidence that computerization and automation will see routine jobs lost (Coyle in Dolphin (ed) 2017). In the medium to long term, predictions about those ‘damn robots coming here and stealing our jobs’ will continue to prove inaccurate. 
Human labour prevails, despite technological disruption, because of our ability to adopt and develop new skills via education (Goldin and Katz, 2008[2]) – although during periods of technological disruption, without the political will to push for equality of opportunity in education, there will always be winners and losers. I witnessed a quality example of skills education recently during a visit to a factory that produced high-tech goods. There I met young people at various stages of a modern apprenticeship programme. De la Rica’s comments about humans and machines complimenting one another was evidenced when one apprentice showed me a series of electronic chips he had handmade. When expensive high-tech products breakdown, customers send them back to the manufacturer. Predicting faults in complex machinery is not easy. As such, a bespoke hands-on approach is needed to fix the problem when it occurs, hence the apprentice learning to make computer chips by hand.
I was struck by the level of craft that went into the production of these small high-tech products. I was also struck by the professionalism of the young apprentice whose knowledge of the technology was mirrored by his excellent interactional skills. This apprenticeship programme was obviously of a very high standard. Adding further accolade to the programme, the young apprentices I met came to their jobs through a relationship between the company and the local high school. This model of a demand-driven apprenticeship that emerges out of collaboration between local businesses and high schools is regarded by many skills policy commentators as critical to ensuring we have a future digital-ready workforce. The company has operations in cities across the UK including Edinburgh, London, Southampton and Luton. Its educational outreach programme engages several thousand school children and college students from communities within these cities and others, “to ensure the skills and knowledge which are vital to the UK are retained” (Company Website). The company’s commitment to the local urban communities within which it operates is commendable – a good example of corporate citizenship at work.
The company’s name is Leonardo in the UK, part of Leonardo-Finmeccancia which, according to Campaign Against Arms Trade (CAAT) is the worlds 9th largest arms company. In addition to military helicopters, fighter aircrafts, missiles, artillery and armed combat vehicles the company makes the FALCO EVO UAV – a drone. Leonardo-Finmeccancia has sold its products to, amongst others, Algeria, Libya and Turkey. The international press reported in December 2011 that 35 villagers had been misidentified by Turkish drones and bombed, killing at least 30, 17 of whom were children. Of the same incident, the Guardian (29/12/2011) reported that those killed were not Kurdish separatist fighters but smugglers of diesel and cigarettes across the Iraqi border. This is one of an increasing number of examples of what has been termed ‘collateral damage’.
Shaw, describing the ascendance of dronified policing, quotes Neocleous[3] (2014: 162) who writes “This is nothing less than a permanent police presence of the reproduction of order – air power as the everywhere police – in which the exercise of violence is an ever-present possibility”. I would like to forward a less spectacular narrative, which grounds the ever-present exercise of violence in a softer but no less effective form of everywhere police that hides terror behind the common aspirations of people looking for a good job so that they might pay the bills, go on holiday somewhere warm each year and live a decent life.
The factory I visited was in Edinburgh. The high school in this case is within twenty minutes walking distance. The locations and the relationship between the school and factory present a banal everyday urban form to the exercise of violence.  The young apprentices wake up each working morning.  I imagine they may stop by the local café for a coffee as they make their way down Pennywell Road to their place of work where they will apply their talents and learn new skills. These young people are the lucky ones. They do not live in Libya, Algeria or the Turkish-Iraqi border lands. Unlike others who went to the same school in this working class neighbourhood, their training at the factory will increase the probability of them never being part of the surplus population “policed, occupied, and watched” [by a] “robotic security armada” (Shaw 2017: 22). Notwithstanding a few minor issues with forgotten passwords or low mobile phone batteries, technology will enhance their lives.    
I am not a pacifist. Violent engagement can be a legitimate response to oppression and, while I have issues on both counts, there is nothing new about the military complex operating in the public sphere as a major employer or a symbol of national pride. But the military complex nowadays seems more pervasive coupled as it is with a new security economy that has its eyes firmly fixed on the urban world. War, security and violence now proliferate our everyday lives. Giorgio Agamben argued the imperative of ‘security’ now ‘imposes itself on the basic principle of state activity’ including skills development. This discourse of military urbanism tells us that parts of the city need to be protected – e.g. strategic financial districts, respectable neighbourhoods, tourist spaces. Equally, parts of the city must be subject to pre-emptive action – e.g. BME neighbourhoods and political protests. The bogeyman of automation thesis takes on a different more sinister hue here. We are developing the technologies and the skilled people necessary to ensure that those of us in the right parts of the city need not fear the disenfranchised others. 


[1] Harvey, D (2014) Seventeen Contradictions and the End of Capitalism, Profile Books: London.
[2] Goldin C. and Katz L.F (2008). The Race between education and technology. Harvard University Press: Cambridge.
[3] Neocleous, M.(2014) War Power, Police Power, Edinburgh University Press, Edinburgh.

Friday 30 June 2017

How Family Networks Drive Residential Location Choices: Evidence from a stated preference field experiment in Bogotá, Colombia

Aiga Stokenberga - Stanford University

Full article available here

Rosa lives in the Patio Bonito settlement on the southwestern periphery of Bogota. Each day she travels over an hour each way to reach her workplace in a well-off family’s home near the Central Business District. There are reasons to stay in the neighborhood, however. One of the main among many: she rarely feels like she is on her own here in this community of neighbors and extended family with whom she moved here many years ago when Patio Bonito was just beginning to form.
Figure 1. Largely informal housing in the Kennedy locality (Source: Aiga Stokenberga)

For households with low or unreliable incomes, informal networks of social relationships can help increase day-to-day wellbeing and make it easier to cope with crises. Partly for this reason, networks have been found to influence the decisions of households to migrate from rural areas to cities and to continue to drive their subsequent intra-urban mobility.
Taking into account the roles and the spatial distribution of relational networks can improve our understanding of housing consumption decisions and inform urban policies. As I found out through early interviews with Bogota’s public officials in charge of housing policies, the importance of personal support networks for the quality of life of low-income households is a major influence and constraint on their willingness to relocate and can therefore also affect the rate of uptake and long-term economic sustainability of public housing projects.
To understand what are the trade-offs that low-income households in Bogota are willing to make between living near their extended family networks and improving their residential environment along other dimensions, I implemented an original choice experiment and a survey in two of Bogota’s low-to-medium income localities, Bosa and Kennedy, an area where the majority of residents rely on informal or unstable incomes and where dense informal residential settlements surround one of the first formally planned affordable housing communities.
The choice experiment showed that the surveyed individuals prioritize proximity to their extended family more than accessibility to the Central Business District. As might be expected, those who have relied on help from extended family members in a personal or economic crisis situation have a stronger preference for living near extended family compared to those who have not, as do those who are able to rely on extended family ties for various resources.
New urban realities, such as the urbanization of poverty in developing countries, call for residential location choice explanations that are not restricted to physical housing quality and transport costs to the workplace but also take into account factors related to the decision-makers’ social preferences and dependencies. By combining quantitative location choice modeling and social network analysis, my research places an important economic decision – that of housing consumption – in a social context and expands the notion of ‘economic rationality’ by more thoroughly characterizing the livelihood strategies of the poor.
The empirical evidence on the high value placed on proximity to family networks can help inform a number of urban policy decisions, for example, the choice between in-situ slum upgrading and large-scale population resettlement and the design and spatial location of formal affordable housing to ensure that they are able to accommodate ‘extended households’ or at least provide good connectivity to those parts of town where most of their new residents are likely to relocate from.

Tuesday 27 June 2017

Strategies of cities in globalized interurban competition: the locational policies framework

David Kaufmann, University of Bern, KPM Center for Public Management
Tobias Arnold, University of Bern, Institute of Political Science

Full article available here

Economic globalization pushes a variety of cities into a rapidly changing and globalized playing field. Cities of various sizes and in various locations formulate policies in order to become competitive nodes in interurban competition. Such efforts have been mainly studied in cities or regions of global importance. For example, Brenner (1999) studied locational politics and locational policies following German re-unification or Jessop and Sum (2000) analysed the policies and governance structures of Hong Kong in its attempts to become an entrepreneurial city. The strategies of smaller cities, however, have been neglected so far. The aim of our paper is to present a typology of locational policies and to apply it to two medium-sized cities – Lucerne (Switzerland) and Ulm (Germany).

For practitioners as well as scholars, there is an immense interest in the strategies of cities to position the locality in this increasingly knowledge-intensive, interurban competition. These efforts of local officials can be conceptualized as locational policies. Locational policies aim to enhance the economic competiveness of a locality by identifying, developing and exploiting the place-specific assets that are considered to be most competitive.

There is a lack of systematic research about locational policies in general because it is difficult to identify, distinguish and categorize them. Such strategies often appear in complex bundles, do not occupy a narrow policy domain and do not operate in isolation from each other (Uyarra, 2010: 132). Therefore, a relatively rich catalogue of possible locational policies is needed. In this paper, we develop an analytical framework of locational policies that is interdisciplinary informed by theories of urban studies, economic geography, and political science. Our framework consists of six categories of locational policies bringing order to the wide variety of policies that cities formulate to strengthen their competitiveness (see figure 1).

Figure 1: The locational policies framework

By applying this locational policies framework to the two medium-sized European cities – Ulm in Germany and Lucerne in Switzerland – we are able to illustrate the added value of the framework. We chose these cases because we want to study two comparable cities that are not an economic powerhouse of their nations. Such cities are specifically challenged to position themselves in the globalized interurban competition.

We found two very different locational policies agendas in the two cases. In Lucerne, tourism is the most important economic sector that is reflected in a lot of locational policies. Furthermore, low corporate income tax rates should attract firms to Lucerne. Ulm focuses on innovation enhancing policies in its “City of Science”, a cluster of research organizations, universities and firms. Furthermore, Ulm is positioning itself as an “Urban Micropolis” between the two metropolises Stuttgart and Munich.

Picture 1: Tourism is the most important economic sector in Lucerne – The Kapellbrücke in Lucerne
We suggest that place-specific factors enable and constrain the formulation of locational policies and that these place-specific factors can explain these variations in the two locational policies agendas. We outline three possible venues to tentatively explain these different locational policies, namely the economic sector mix, the national tax system, and politics.

Picture 2: A building in the Science Park Ulm
The paper shows that the locational policies framework is able to capture a wide range of policies that aim to enhance the competiveness of a city. Thus, the locational policies framework is a tool that can be used to reveal how cities face the globalized, and increasingly knowledge-intensive, interurban competition. Locational policies are formulated based on place-specific assets and constraints that can be economic, political, or geographical. The paper is thus a plea for an emphasis on such contextual variables in comparative urban research. It contributes to the scientific debate as it takes a clear stance against the somewhat deterministic perspective of a large body of literature studying city strategies in interurban competition.


Brenner N (1999) Globalisation as reterritorialisation: The re-scaling of urban governance in the European Union. Urban Studies 36(3): 431–451.

Jessop B and Sum NL (2000). An entrepreneurial city in action: Hongkong’s emerging strategies in and for (inter) urban competition. Urban Studies 37(12): 2287–2313.

Uyarra E (2010) What is evolutionary about ‘regional systems of innovation’? Implications for regional policy. Journal of Evolutionary Economics 20(1): 115–137.

Tuesday 20 June 2017

Understanding international students beyond studentification: A new class of transnational urban consumers. The example of Erasmus students in Lisbon (Portugal)

Daniel Malet Calvo

The growing presence of international students in the city of Lisbon attracted my attention ten years ago, when I started my PhD on the occupation by different social groups of the most emblematic central square in Lisbon: Praça do Rossio. As a foreigner, I shared several apartments with international students, at a time when the city of Lisbon was not renowned as a tourist or student destination. I got to know a group of exchange students that had developed a particular alternative lifestyle in the patio where they lived. They organized several meals outside and installed improvised benches to spend time in the patio, as well as sharing a communitarian style of living with their Portuguese neighbours. Next year, when the students left, the next-door Hostel bought those apartments and converted them into suites for tourists. Replicating the students, they installed permanent benches and even imitated their new-age tastes in the decoration. In other words, the hostel reproduced the students’ creative ways, making products for tourists. When I started to study Erasmus students back in 2013, I borrowed the term ‘studentification’ to assess the significance and impact of those populations in Lisbon. However, as an anthropologist, it was unsettling for me to isolate the housing question from the wide variety of practices and relations that students established within Lisbon’s urban processes.
In the present article I discuss the applicability of the studentification literature to other geographies other than UK’s, stressing that the main effects on the urban form (spatial concentration, segregation and density of student populations) are missing in the case of Lisbon. Taking the study of Francis Collins about South Korean international students in Auckland, I started to use ‘studentification’ in a wider sense, considering the agency of students and their ability to reproduce their own cultural practices when abroad. In this sense, my idea was to present three different cultures of Erasmus students (the most significant population of international students in Lisbon) to understand their role and involvement in different processes of urban change.
First, I identify the party-centred practices of the so-called ‘typical’ Erasmus students, and their participation -along with young tourists- in the production and consumption of Lisbon’s tourism gentrification. Then, I recognize that a group of ‘alternative’ Erasmus students who rejected a ‘typical’ Erasmus life are working as marginal gentrifiers, whose political and aesthetic orientations lead them to the discovery of new urban territories for consumption. Finally, there are the ‘scholar’ or hard-working Erasmus students, who seem to be engaged with entrepreneurial activities, echoing the emphasis on the knowledge-economy that prevails in today’s urban policies of European capital cities.
To summarize, international students could be considered a new class of transnational urban consumers that express collectively a diversified repertory of practices, cultures and lifestyles. Wealthier than the average of college students, they are relevant consumers (and occasionally clever producers) in the travel economy (as foreigners), in lthe eisure economy (as youth), and in the knowledge economy (as students). Therefore, they become central actors at the core of the cognitive-cultural, visitor-centred system of production in contemporary cities.