As London becomes a more and more “diverse” city, it becomes more and more expensive for anyone to actually live there. Therefore, ordinary working class Brits are being forced to move from the centre of the city to the outskirts, to poorer neighbourhoods which are currently occupied by foreign nationals.
In a third floor flat of a 1930s ex-council block, Saleh Ahmed looks up from the kitchen table where his wife Rusnobun is preparing a late afternoon meal of spiced tuna kebabs.
He takes a few for himself and carries the rest still steaming down the corridor for their son Kabir, who owns the flat next door. Along the way he dodges his two grandchildren chasing each other around the balcony.
This is Carter House on Holland Estate, in the heart of Spitalfields’ Bangladeshi community. It is also prime development land.
To the east is the Gherkin, to the left is Petticoat Lane Market and around the corner is Brick Lane, with its famous curry houses.
Social landlord EastendHomes has drawn up plans to demolish the ex-council estate, replacing it with modern flats, most of which it plans to sell for profit on the private market.
It says the proceeds would fund refurbishment of its other social housing stock and help it to provide affordable housing for local people.
However, there is a human price to pay.
Most of the 600 residents, tenants and leaseholders fear they will have little choice but to leave. They say it will be too expensive to either buy or rent homes in this now desirable area and their decades-old community faces fragmentation.
At a meeting on 8 April residents say they were told by an EastendHomes officer their flats were “unfit for human habitation”.
I don’t doubt it for a second. It’s just undisputed reality that an area is a reflection of the people who live there. That’s why countries like America, Canada, New Zealand and Australia are every bit as advanced as Europe, because they’re run by people of European descent.
Rhodesia in Africa was once run by its white minority and it was the most prosperous country on the continent (with the possible exception of South Africa which was also run by a white minority). As soon as the black majority took power in Rhodesia and it became Zimbabwe, it quickly declined to the level of any other poor African country.
When Haiti was a French colony, it was like a European society. After the slave revolution, an independent state was set up and ever since, Haiti has been a poverty ridden cesspool.
Detroit in America was once one of the most industrialised cities in the world. In the past few decades, the once majority white population has been replaced by a majority black population and the city has declined so much that it may as well be an African city (and it probably would be if it wasn’t getting propped up by American taxes).
Therefore when looking at other examples of first world societies declining because they become inhabited by third world people, I think it’s not beyond reason to suggest the possibility that a first world neighbourhood full of people from Bangladesh could become like a neighbourhood back in Bangladesh.
I don’t say this to be offensive. I’m just saying what’s the alternative theory? That it’s all just a coincidence that societies founded by European people all become highly developed and just decline purely by random chance when the European people are replaced by non-Europeans? Because quite frankly, that all seems a little too coincidental to be believed.
Kabir Ahmed, a 40-year-old secondary school teacher, says, “EastendHomes will say anything to justify knocking down our homes for profit.”
Carter House comprises about 60% privately-owned units and 40% social housing. What most of the leaseholders and social housing tenants have in common is the desire to stay in their homes, but an initial demolition notice was served in March 2014.
EastendHomes said it had not officially declared the flats unfit for human habitation and the estate had been repaired a few years ago to meet the government’s Decent Homes Standard.
It has already knocked down some smaller blocks on the estate at Denning Point and replaced them with new-build flats called Kensington and Sloane Apartments. A two-bed flat is being offered for nearly £3,000 a month rent, while a one-bed flat is for sale for £600,000.
That compares to the £546 per month Mr Ahmed’s father pays for his two-bed flat through the social housing scheme and a maximum of £350,000 residents calculate they would be offered by EastendHomes in the event of a compulsory purchase order, based on figures the charity has shown them.
Walking tours visit the estate at least three or four times a day and tourists snap hundreds of photos of the homes where the “real Eastenders live”. But for how long will this corner of the East End remain authentic?
People from Bangladesh are the “real Eastenders” apparently. Not the native white British people whose ancestors actually built the country.
It is a situation familiar across many inner-city areas of London.
In Brixton, campaigners were sprayed with CS gas during an anti-gentrification protest in April. Peckham Vision, a group representing businesses, churches and other community organisations said in 2013 local people were being forced out of the area because of rising costs.
“Younger Bangladeshis who grew up around Spitalfields have moved out because they now have families of their own and they can’t afford to rent, let alone buy anywhere around here,” says Mr Ahmed.
Might I suggest moving to Bangladesh instead?
“A lot of the established restaurants in Brick Lane have closed down too because of the high rates.
“It was Bangladeshis that made Brick Lane famous but soon it won’t be Brick Lane anymore if they keep moving out.”
Yes yes, I heard you already. The Bangladeshi people are more authentic to London than actual English people. Those English people should go back to their own cities, am I right? London is an Asian city now.
Not everyone is willing to move though.
Retired machinist Abdul Noor purchased his four-bedroom ex-council flat in the 1990s for about £300,000 under the right to buy scheme. He says he thought of it as his “home for life”.
“We look out for each other here. Help out when we need to,” he says.
“I went away on pilgrimage for two weeks and my neighbour agreed to look after my children for me. Where else would that happen?”
Back in Bangladesh maybe?
“This is ‘social cleansing’. There is no other word for it,” says Sharon Hayward, coordinator for the London Tenants Federation, which encourages residents to fight plans to gentrify areas.
It’s social cleansing when it happens to you, but when you people are brought over and start displacing the native people, it’s “diversity”.
She says in her experience “it almost always leads to the loss of social housing”. Flats are typically rebuilt with a portion offered as “affordable housing”, with rents set at up to 80% of market rate, instead of the 30% or 40% that social housing tenants pay.
EastendHomes says it has spent about £23m to date on refurbishment, repairs and building new affordable homes for local people which is let at social rent levels. It says there are now 39 more social homes on the estate than when it took over in 2006.
It also says under the terms of a compulsory purchase order valuations would be negotiated between Royal Institute of Chartered Surveyors accredited professionals, with leaseholders having the right of appeal to the Lands Tribunal.
The estate is not the only place to undergo rapid change, Spitalfields has also gentrified within a generation. Whereas the Bangladeshis who moved in during the 1970s were predominantly unskilled labourers, now their children are mainly office workers, teachers or social workers.
That’s great. Good for them. As I’ve always tried to make clear in my posts, I have nothing but respect for those immigrants who come over and actually contribute to our societies. I’m happy to hear that those people worked hard, got an education and are now giving back to society by working at these good jobs.
Phil Maxwell, a photographer and film maker who has been documenting the visual changes to the area since the 1980s, recalls when the Bangladeshis moved in during the 1970s and 1980s, there was a lot of overcrowding in the flats.
“That’s why they originally started to meet up in Brick Lane, to chat and be together,” he says. “They used it as their sitting room, if you like.”
He says they now avoid it because of tourists and binge drinkers.
Bangladeshis have been joined by other ethnic groups and young professionals – as a result, so too businesses in the area have changed.
Petticoat Lane Market has about a third of the stalls it used to 15 years ago, say residents, who describe it as “dead most of the week, except on Sundays when it is visited by tourists”.
Spitalfields Market, once known for its independent arts and crafts stalls, is increasingly becoming populated by franchises that can afford the rent.
Mr Ahmed rejects the notion that change to the area was inevitable.
So it was OK when YOU changed the area but it’s not OK that it may change again?
“Previous immigrants like the Huguenots and the Jews chose to move out of their own accord when their fortunes improved,” he said.
“In this case, residents on the estate risk being left behind by the rapid rise in property prices they won’t benefit from and ultimately they could be forced out”.
“London is disappearing, it is losing its identity,” says Crisis homeless charity worker Yolanda de los Buies, who has lived in Brune House, on the Holland Estate, for 18 years.
I agree that London is losing its identity, but not for the reasons you think. It’s losing its identity because the native English people are being driven out and replaced by non-English.
She says about 15 years ago Spitalfields used to have the highest density of artists anywhere in Europe but that has all changed now.
“Art and culture and community is being flattened by money making machines,” she says. “London is becoming a luxury business and commuter city without soul.
“Rich people bring money but they don’t bring anything else with them – no art, no culture, no community spirit.”
Yes, it’s all very sad. I’m sure a few decades ago the native Londoners said similar things though when you and your kind arrived.
So, is it obvious yet? Diversity is only good when native whites become a minority in an area. If the opposite happens, it’s an outrage.