View all news

New book casts critical eye over urban gentrification

28 August 2007

A book on the global phenomenon of gentrification, co-authored by a Bristol University academic, is published today.

A book on the global phenomenon of gentrification, co-authored by a Bristol University academic, is published today.

Gentrification by Dr Tom Slater of Bristol University, Loretta Lees of King’s College London and Elvin Wyly of the University of British Columbia  examines how the gentrification of urban areas has accelerated across the globe to become a central force in urban development.  It is the first comprehensive text to be written on a subject that has attracted a great deal of interest in both the academy and the popular press.

International in scope, interdisciplinary in approach, and featuring a wealth of case studies, the book demonstrates how gentrification has grown from a small-scale urban process to become a mass-produced ‘gentrification blueprint’ around the world.

The term gentrification, which refers to the transformation of a working-class or vacant area of a city into middle-class residential and/or commercial use, was coined in London in 1964.  Since then gentrification has been observed all over the world, and a massive interdisciplinary literature on the subject has developed.  This book brings all the literature together into an accessible introduction for students – although the book will also be useful to a much wider audience.

Dr Slater said: “We like to think of the book as a 'textbook that makes an argument'.  Whilst we encourage students to make up their own minds, we do not disguise the fact that all three of us are highly critical of gentrification, arguing that it must be understood as an injustice.  This is because so much of the literature, not to mention our own research, shows how gentrification causes the displacement of low-income and working-class people and businesses, erodes swathes of affordable housing, and remains a process by which the housing opportunities of lower-income households are restricted and those of higher-income households are expanded.

“Gentrification is the neighbourhood expression of class inequality.  Contrary to the claims of policymakers and the media, who prefer to use the term 'regeneration', gentrification is not a magical remedy for urban decay, but rather an attempt to purge urban spaces of poor residents and pave the way for exclusive middle-class consumption.

“The book surveys 40 years of research and finds a mountain of evidence to argue that there are far more socially just forms of urban redevelopment than the disruptive process of gentrification.”

Gentrification by Loretta Lees, Tom Slater and Elvin Wyly is published by Routledge New York, priced £15.99 (paperback) £50 (hardback)

Loretta Lees is a Reader in Geography in the Cities Research Group, Department of Geography, King’s College London, UK.

Tom Slater is a Lecturer in Urban Studies, Centre for Urban Studies, University of Bristol, UK.

Elvin Wyly is Associate Professor, Chair of Urban Studies Program, Department of Geography, University of British Columbia, Canada.

Edit this page