The other Waitrose effect: how gentrification is linked to rising evictions

Good for staff, but bad for renters? Image: Getty.

The Royal Borough of Kensington & Chelsea has become the fishbowl of British inequality. On one side stands the skeleton of the Grenfell Tower; on the other sprawl hundreds of empty mansions. Since June, the council has faced harsh criticism for its failure to address the widening gap between them.

But Kensington & Chelsea is merely an extreme case of the rule – not an exception to it. As house prices continue to climb, the housing market is driving wide-ranging inequalities between property owners with security of tenure and property renters without it.

In a new report for Generation Rent, I showcase this inequality using what I call the ‘Other’ Waitrose Effect: the opening of a new Waitrose, I find, is associated with an increase in local evictions by between 25 and 50 per cent.

Waitrose is a national treasure. The supermarket has succeeded in balancing progressive labour-management relations with competitive pricing on a range of luxury, free-range and organic items. This broad appeal has driven the original Waitrose effect, increasing the value of local properties by an average of £40,000.

Homeowners rejoice. Their homes rise in value, but so do their lifestyles: they have access to Britain’s favourite supermarket.

But there are hidden costs for local renters. As house prices rise, private landlords see an opportunity to fetch a higher price from a sale or a higher rent from new tenants. To do so, they free up their properties with a Section 21 eviction – a “no-fault” eviction – by which landlords can remove their tenants without citing a grievance to the courts, on just two months’ notice. Section 21 evictions have been rising rapidly over the last few years as more landlords are emboldened by higher prices.

The findings of the new report suggest that Waitrose is having a significant impact on these Section 21 evictions. In the graph below, I plot the eviction trends from 2005 to 2015 across all English local authorities. As Waitrose stores open across the period, the gap between the two lines begins to widen. In the fixed effects estimations that I run in the study, I find that the opening of a single store is associated with a rise in evictions between 25 and 50 per cent.

Waitrose is, of course, not directly to blame. The firm is part of a broader process of gentrification – both product and producer of growing affluence in a given neighbourhood. I use Waitrose in this report as a gentrification proxy in order to evaluate the negative externalities of such affluence on the local renter population.

The housing market in Britain is, then, becoming increasingly zero-sum. For homeowners, rising house prices represent fresh cash – they can remortgage to reduce their monthly outgoings or release equity to save for retirement. For renters, rising house prices represent deepening crisis – in turn, the property ladder moves further out of reach, and rental costs rise. The other Waitrose effect simply illustrates these zero-sum dynamics.

MPs from across the political spectrum now recognise the scale of Britain’s housing crisis, and there is near unanimity on the need for more government involvement in housebuilding.


But the political conservation rarely addresses the zero-sum dilemma: millions of British families rely on their homes as a vehicle for their prosperity, while millions of others struggle to afford their monthly rent. The Waitrose effects must be understood together – the housing market always has its winners and its losers.

There are several common sense reforms that can protect tenants without disrupting the market at large. Generation Rent is advocating a policy that forces landlords to reimburse tenants for Section 21 evictions, which would both provide immediate relief to struggling renters and discourage the use of the evictions in general.

To solve the broader housing crisis, though, we must end Britain’s addiction to house price inflation. Families should have enough financial security – high enough wages, large enough pensions – that they do not have to rely on their homes as an ATM for today or piggy bank for tomorrow. Property should not be a ‘better bet’ for retirement than a pension.

Waitrose, for its part, should bring neither prosperity to homeowners nor insecurity to renters. It should, instead, deliver decent jobs and quality groceries – to be enjoyed by all tenures.

David Adler is a post-graduate student in the Department of Politics and International Relations at the University of Oxford. He conducted this research on behalf of the campaign group Generation Rent.

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Covid-19 is highlighting cities' unequal access to green space

In the UK, Londoners are most likely to rely on their local park for green space, and have the best access to parks. (Leon Neal/Getty Images)

As coronavirus lockdowns ease, people are flooding back to parks – but not everyone has easy access to green space in their city.

Statistics from Google show that park attendance in countries across the globe has shot up as people have been allowed to move around their cities again.

This is especially true in urban areas, where densely populated neighbourhoods limit the size of private green space – meaning residents have to go to the park to get in touch with nature. Readers from England can use our interactive tool below to find out how much green space people have access to in their area, and how it compares to the rest of the country.

 

Prime Minister Boris Johnson’s announcement Monday that people are allowed to mingle in parks and gardens with groups of up to six people was partially following what people were doing already.

Data from mobile phones show people have been returning to parks across the UK, and also across Europe, as weather improves and lockdown eases.

People have been returning to parks across the world

Stay-at-home requirements were eased in Italy on 4 May, which led to a flood of people returning to parks.

France eased restrictions on 1 May, and the UK eased up slightly on 13 May, allowing people to sit down in public places so long as they remain socially distanced.

Other countries have seen park attendance rise without major easing of lockdown – including Canada, Spain, and the US (although states there have individual rules and some have eased restrictions).

In some countries, people never really stopped going to parks.

Authorities in the Netherlands and Germany were not as strict as other countries about their citizens visiting local parks during lockdown, while Sweden has famously been avoiding placing many restrictions on people’s daily lives.


There is a growing body of evidence to suggest that access to green space has major benefits for public health.

A recent study by researchers at the University of Exeter found that spending time in the garden is linked to similar benefits for health and wellbeing as living in wealthy areas.

People with access to a private garden also had higher psychological wellbeing, and those with an outdoor space such as a yard were more likely to meet physical activity guidelines than those without access to outdoor space. 

Separate UK research has found that living with a regular view of a green space provides health benefits worth £300 per person per year.

Access is not shared equally, however, which has important implications for equality under lockdown, and the spread of disease.

Statistics from the UK show that one in eight households has no garden, making access to parks more important.

There is a geographic inequality here. Londoners, who have the least access to private gardens, are most likely to rely on their local park for green space, and have the best access to parks. 

However the high population in the capital means that on the whole, green space per person is lower – an issue for people living in densely populated cities everywhere.

There is also an occupational inequality.

Those on low pay – including in what are statistically classed as “semi-skilled” and “unskilled” manual occupations, casual workers and those who are unemployed – are almost three times as likely as those in managerial, administrative, professional occupations to be without a garden, meaning they rely more heavily on their local park.

Britain’s parks and fields are also at significant risk of development, according to new research by the Fields in Trust charity, which shows the number of people living further than a 10-minute walk from a public park rising by 5% over the next five years. That loss of green spaces is likely to impact disadvantaged communities the most, the researchers say.

This is borne out by looking at the parts of the country that have private gardens.

The least deprived areas have the largest gardens

Though the relationship is not crystal clear, it shows at the top end: Those living in the least deprived areas have the largest private green space.

Although the risk of catching coronavirus is lower outdoors, spending time in parks among other people is undoubtedly more risky when it comes to transmitting or catching the virus than spending time in your own outdoor space. 

Access to green space is therefore another example – along with the ability to work from home and death rates – of how the burden of the pandemic has not been equally shouldered by all.

Michael Goodier is a data reporter at New Statesman Media Group, and Josh Rayman is a graphics and data visualisation developer at New Statesman Media Group.