With the Mayoral elections drawing closer, my concerns are largely local. While it was definitely no utopia, I’ve always viewed the London borough which raised me and informed my life’s perspective as a special place. Mind you, Hackney was often mentioned as one of the most deprived boroughs in the capital and it was clear that the borough considered a ‘hotspot’ in regards to crime. Yet for all its woes, there remained in Hackney a genuine sense of community and there were numerous unforgettable moments of solidarity shown in the face of common struggles.
Today, the diversity and the sense of community which gives character to the borough is gravely threatened by the detrimental effects of an impossible economy, and a neoliberal rhetoric which proves to favour profit over people. Perhaps most concerning of all is the fact that many people are finding the borough simply unaffordable in regards to accommodation, to the extent that they are forced to relocate from the place they regard as home. For example, for the purposes of ‘regeneration’, Hackney council proposes to clear 18 estates, which will mean the loss of 915 social homes. The result of this is that when I walk down some of the roads in the borough, I come to the uncomfortable realisation that the landscape and demography has been deliberately altered so much that the areas I have always navigated through are only vaguely if at all recognisable to me. Places I would once frequent have now become non-existent without warning.
As a popular site of migrant settlement, the removal of particular spaces that have come to hold important meaning in the biographies of individuals is a violent erasure of complex, ambivalent histories. And so I propose that more is done to conserve the rich history and culture that has been created and fostered in my borough. A practical way to do this would be to ensure that social housing both within Hackney and within like boroughs is protected. The proportion of social housing in new developments should be significantly higher than that of private accommodation. Where private accommodation is insisted upon, more stringent regulation should be enforced to cap rent rates, so as to avoid long-time residents of the borough being priced out. Furthermore, decision-making processes should be democratised in the truest sense: residents of areas like Hackney, especially long-time residents, ought to be consulted in decisions and their views should taken into account. Too often, they are simply informed about what is going to happen henceforth, or even worse, they discover it once plans have been implemented.
If you’d like to hear more about Franklyn’s vision and work, check out his website