Residents’ Councils as Community Responses to Gentrification in the UK and Canada (April 2012)
Mega redevelopment projects, the hallmark of global urbanism, are increasingly facing local resistance. Affected communities protest these redevelopments as forms of ‘gentrification,’ criticizing them for reproducing economic and cultural values that are at odds with the social relationships and historical uses of place already occurring in the neighbourhoods. Increasingly, tactics in the campaign against gentrification have taken the shape of newly formed democratically elected residents’ councils. They transform disparate groups into an organized voice against non-inclusive neighbourhood development, serving as a means to advocate for the local community in the planning processes.
In this paper, I will present exploratory research on the formation of residents’ councils as strategies of resistance to urban redevelopment projects. Drawing from anti-gentrification campaigns emerging in the working-class neighbourhoods of Elephant and Castle in London, UK and the Downtown Eastside in Vancouver, Canada, I will compare and examine the rationales, processes, and outcomes of forming residents’ councils. I will argue that these councils are examples of political practices that stake claims on issues of representation and rights of residents against globalizing forces. In emphasizing local knowledge practices and the historical use of space over abstract models of urban planning, residents’ councils point to alternative citizenship practices that invigorate democracy at the local level, while simultaneously critiquing unequal global processes.
Presented at the British Sociological Association Annual Conference, Social Divisions/Social Identities Stream, Leeds, UK (April 2012).