BoJo adviser asserts Tech City not gentrification, 'regeneration'

Speaking at a back-patting session in Shoreditch earlier today, Boris Johnson’s digital advisor Kulveer Ranger and Hackney Council Cabinet Member Guy Nicholson agreed that Tech City is likely to spark a wave of further gentrification in the East End – just don’t call it that. And is that so bad, after all?

“There’s a huge question about regeneration, what’s happening in East London,” Ranger told TechEye.

“At what point do you become a victim of your own success?” Ranger asked. “At what point is it then, that an area starts improving and money is drawn to it because people want to see it improve, they want to see new coffee shops, new bars and new infrastructure? 

“And in this type of sector with the jobs, businesses and employment it brings, I wouldn’t want to call it gentrification, I’d want to call it regeneration.

“Some parts of this area it’s been desperately needed for a long time,” Ranger added.

Responding to whether Tech City is a drive for entrepreneurs or if it will bring in local jobs, Ranger said it’s much the same. Basically – there aren’t the jobs you want out there – invent one. But as one hackette noted on the way out, you need a very good idea to build successful start-ups.

Still, in terms of Tech City encouraging entrepreneurs and local jobs, “it’s the same” according to Ranger. “We want locals to join in, it’s exactly what we’re looking for and what we’re trying to do. They can be entrepreneurs straight out of university.”  

Nicholson added that with “regeneration,” we have to look at two areas in particular. That’s “affordability and accessibility”. Nicholson continued: “Those two things are crucial, when we’re talking about homes or whether it’s about goods and services, the affordability and accessibility are tantamount.

“If you describe it as gentrification,” Nicholson said, “I’d say, actually, in the right hands it could become a very positive investment into a wider community. In the wrong hands, it can become a very exclusive thing, and it’s absolutely right to raise these as a challenge because that’s exactly what it is.” 

It makes you wonder whose hands East London’s regeneration is in.

At the very least, it’s in the hands of some of the constituents, as Ranger revealed that, now, he and the government are actually “talking to the citizens”. 

Whatever the reason, the Hackney councillor is sure Tech City’s going viral. It hasn’t stopped in Shoreditch or Dalston, according to Nicholson. “It’s spreading Eastwards through to Hackney Central and Hackney Wick. The half of Hackney Wick that’s not in the Olympic Park.”

Could it be expensive rent as the area blossoms as a tech and creative hub is driving some smaller businesses away?

Or is that merely a symptom of regeneration? 

Either way, the concerns were echoed by Solid State Group founder Matt Evans, who is also an ‘incubator’ at community office space Hoxton Mix. When asked about his worries a year on from now, he suggested there’s a strong chance prices for hotdesking or offices will skyrocket. Rent is already expensive.

Evans expressed some concern that the marketing will eat the boroughs alive, as creative communities are gulped up by a tide of Starbucks and its ilk.