The Gentrification of Newham’s Olympic Legacy

Stratford had its East-End culture demolished and rebuilt, at the cost of its residents, past and future.

The London Olympics claimed that it would develop, rejuvenate and improve Stratford; providing better and affordable housing and a wealth of opportunities for leisure and employment. 10 years on from the initial developments on the sites that would become the Olympic Park and East Village it’s a poignant time to reflect upon the gentrification and cost of the culture lost to a now-popular tourist location.

The land that the Olympic Park and its associated Olympic Village was built on was mostly industrial land and uninhabitable, with the exception of Clays Lane housing estate. The area were once plagued with eyesores such as the “fridge mountain”, a monument of domestic appliance waste (the largest heap of fridges in Europe), now replaced with open green spaces and private accommodation. The accommodation in the developed area was once home to 17,000 athletes and staff, most of which now rented privately through GetLivingLondon with prices for a 1-bed apartment starting at £1,300 a month.

The residents that were evicted in Stratford were forced to find a property elsewhere, with some seeking to stay in the Borough of Newham, some choosing to leave Newham and others choosing to leave London entirely. The initial plan for the Athletes accommodation was to turn approximately half (1,379) of the flats into social housing after the games but the current number is much less, below 1,200.

Newham resident Zaineb Darr (22), witnessed the development of Stratford from a wasteland to Olympic legacy, she told PinkSpace London that “the lack of council housing has driven people out of Stratford and Newham, a lot of people can’t afford to rent the private properties.” Darr added “I know a lot of people that have been moved out of the borough because of a lack of council housing, students from local universities can’t afford to rent in the area – you can’t get a room for less than £900 a month.”

Action is however being taken in the Borough of Newham in order to slow down further gentrification, with City Hall allocating £1 billion to local councils with the aim to build 11,000 new low-rent homes over the next four years. Newham Council received the largest allocation (£107 million) which it said will help build 1,123 homes. The aim of these builds is “to maintain the diverse and rich culture of Stratford that was partially lost during the Olympics and replaced by high-earners”.

Joshua Garfield, Stratford & New Town Labour Councillor said “I’m thrilled with today’s announcement that our bid to the Mayor’s house building fund has been accepted! With £107million from City Hall, we can build 1,123 genuinely affordable homes in Newham. Housing is our priority.”

Perhaps, underneath the glitz, glam and green spaces of the new Stratford, the pragmatic thinking of ‘regeneration for the greater good’ is the real legacy of 2012.