While abroad in the United Kingdom, I was able to spend time examining what affordable housing communities are like in Edinburgh and London. Affordable housing had always been an area of significant interest for me and something I have spent a great deal researching. My research provided me with lots of statistics and figures, but data only takes you so far. Getting to see affordable communities in person in two major European cities was an incredible opportunity for me to build upon my initial research.
A major moment that stood out to me when researching in London was when I visited the Brixton district of London. In what is known as the ‘Windrush Generation”, Brixton arose in the aftermath of World War II as Afro-Caribbean immigrants settled in London. The community quickly grew and was featured prominently in pop-culture (i.e., David Bowie, “Electric Avenue”). Brixton’s rapid growth and popularity with tourists made it a very attractive real estate market. In turn, wealthy business owners bought a majority of Brixton’s commercial and residential property. This surge in demand made the prices of properties in Brixton skyrocket across the board. Consequently, many Brixton natives could no longer afford to reside in Brixton. As a response, city officials developed council housing in Brixton (the UK equivalent of affordable housing). The largest council housing structure in Brixton, Southwyck House, serves as a metaphorical wall between the gentrified parts of Brixton and the impoverished parts, which are full of individuals who have lived in Brixton their entire lives, but never reaped the benefits of the districts rise.
Meanwhile, in Edinburgh, there are 1,000s of affordable homes being built every year. Still, its estimated there are over 10,000 people on waiting lists for housing in Scotland’s capital city. In Edinburgh, the distinction of affordable properties and market properties was nowhere near as pronounced as it is in London. This is likely a product wealth being more highly concentrated in London. That said, if Edinburgh is not able to meet the surplus demand for housing in the city, its housing crisis could reach levels comparable to that of London in the coming years.
Going forward, I hope to use my research and experiences in Edinburgh and London in an Independent Project next year. I could not be more thankful for the generosity of the Weaver/Nicolais family. Without them, my experience would not have been possible. In addition, I would like to thank my advisor, Dr. Alison Del Rossi, for her guidance and help with structuring my research. Lastly, I would like to thank everyone at the CIIS office for taking the time to meet with me and for helping me maximize my study abroad experience.