Grassroots Perspectives of Gentrification And Community-Led Design: The Social Relations Underlying The Design Of Housing

Morton, Tom (2021). Grassroots Perspectives of Gentrification And Community-Led Design: The Social Relations Underlying The Design Of Housing. PhD thesis The Open University.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.21954/ou.ro.00012a4f

Abstract

The UK housing crisis is the result of neoliberal-value’s decades long shift in emphasis, away from viewing commodities as holding use value and toward viewing them as holding exchange value. The consequent effect of this shifting emphasis on the design of housing is that housing is increasingly designed to maximise its exchange value rather than meet a growing need for affordable and accessible housing in the UK. This “gentrification by design” exacerbates the housing crisis, leading to growing rates of statutory homelessness and housing need. Seeking modes of designing housing which foreground its use value, this thesis asks how community-led design (CLD) can facilitate the building of a community’s capacity to tackle gentrification, examining the intersection between CLD as a design practice driven by the use-value of buildings and space, and gentrification as a phenomenon driven by their exchange value. To investigate this intersection a series of case studies with CLD initiatives were undertaken, combining semi-structured interviews with cultural animation, an art-based method of knowledge co-production which foregrounds participant perspectives. Analysis of the results shows that participants framed gentrification as a deliberate strategy of capital accumulation, emerging from an exploitative power dynamic existing between local communities and various sets of opposing actors. Based on these results, this thesis presents the theory that all cases – if they are to be considered genuinely community-led – must in some sense aim to materially alter the socio-spatial relations of power underlying the design of housing in a community’s favour.

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