Sold Out? The Right-to-Buy, Gentrification and Working Class Displacements in London

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Since the 1990s, the renewal of council housing estates in London has involved widespread ‘decanting’ of resident populations to allow for demolition and redevelopment, primarily by private developers who sell the majority of new housing at market rate. This process of decanting has displaced long-term council tenants and shorter-term ‘temporary’ tenants, with many not able to return to the estate. In contrast, those leaseholders who bought under the ‘right to buy’ legislation introduced in the 1980s have a ‘right remain’ by virtue of the property rights they have. Nonetheless, given the threat that their property will ultimately be subject to compulsory purchase because the redevelopment of the estate is in the ‘public interest’, these leaseholders experience similar displacement pressures to other residents. Describing these pressures, this paper argues that the right to buy legislation offered these residents the illusion of entering a property-owning middle class, but that they were never able to escape the labelling of council estates as stigmatised spaces which have ultimately been seized by the state and capital in a moment of ‘accumulation by dispossession’.
Original languageEnglish
JournalThe Sociological Review
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 16 Jan 2020


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