Transition tales #24: The (st)ages of gentrification

In a time when young professionals in London are struggling to afford housing, new flats are built in the city’s hype neighbourhoods exclusively for residents ages 55 and over.

Hackney is one of the ‘most wanted’ places to be in London. Young professionals and creatives have turned East London’s borough into a vibrant, attractive community. Needles to say, the area is one of the core examples of gentrification in London. The beginning of summer brings a new transformation for the neighbourhood, in the shape of a modern housing development. Quadra is a new complex of 29 flats designed as age-exclusive residences for Londoners older than 55.

Launch of Quadra properties for sale ©Rosie Spinks

Located at the Western side of London Fields park, Quadra is part of the ‘downsizer home’ developments designed for the city of London. Recent surveys have shown that many third-agers have changed their traditional view of remaining in the family home as the children leave and the family becomes smaller. As the Dwell research project noted in 2016, half of the households over the age of 65 have a real interest in ‘downsizing’, opening up a new demographic for the real-estate market. This is one of the main arguments in favour of the ‘downsizing movement’. The second one regards the availability of family homes for younger families. By offering third-agers the possibility to downsize their homes, larger properties are freed up for growing families.

Advertisement for Quadra housing complex

“We make no assumptions about retirement at the age of 55. ‘Downsizer’ simply describes what people are aiming to do, usually when children have grown up and left home, and they’re freeing up money held in equity and property to do other things with. This offer is just far better future-proofed.” – Claire Anderson, director of development for Hanover (source: The Guardian)

The logic behind an age-exclusive project like Quadra is simple, yet the timing and location of the project can make a person a bit sceptical regarding its success. The UK is witnessing a big decline in home ownership of younger households, which gradually dropped to a 40% rate. The highest rate is attributed to over-65s, raising above 75%. Interestingly enough, the young, struggling generation is the one responsible for making Hackney such an attractive borough in London. Quadra brings no comfort to a situation where young creatives are priced out of their studios in Hackney. They have no access to the project’s 15 homes available for outright sale, and are also excluded from the 14 ‘affordable’ flats set at less than 80% of the market price.

Broadway Market, Hackney borough

Taking into account that Hackney has quite the reputation as one of the focal points of gentrification in London, Quadra’s placement in the borough is justified as a counter-measure in favour of a more heterogeneous community. As Claire Anderson, director of Quadra development, told The Guardian, the location of the age-exclusive housing complex was chosen intentionally to ‘redress the balance’ of the gentrification process in the neighbourhood.

Nevertheless, in a time when the young generation is struggling to find housing, age-exclusive projects like Quadra seem to miss the overall local context of the neighbourhoods they are placed in. Although downsizer homes represent a good strategy in terms of market demographics and hosing availability for new families, they should be set in locations that correspond to the needs of both local and prospective residents. With Quadra flats available for purchase, the time will come to see if this social and housing experiment will still keep Hackney on the ‘most wanted borough’ list.

London Fields park, the meeting spot of the young generation in Hackney

Intrigued? More about the housing crisis in London and the urban regeneration pushed by property developers in the video below.

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