On 7 June 2010 the Age reported on an anti-gentrification festival to be held in Fitzroy starting this weekend. See the Craft cartel site for more information.

The Age comments that:

The festival’s publicity material… cites the loss of the Punters Club and the perilous state of pay-by-donation restaurant Lentil As Anything as threats to the diversity of the inner-city.

Hmmm. I am always amused at how ‘diversity’ in the inner city is deified. It’s such a bleeding heart do gooder concept. It’s so full of hypocrisy. NIMBYs love ‘diversity’ except when it comes in the form of people needing to use a public toilet, for example, and then suddenly access to Fitzroy is denied.

The Punter’s Club was a commercial business that closed due to commercial reasons; it was not a publicly owned social utility. Hippies can whinge about the failure of the commercial world to meet their artistic desires, but the commercial world simply doesn’t care.

The reason that Lentil as Anything is in a ‘perilous state’ is because of the incompetence of its managers. You can’t blame the commercial world for that, but hippies seem determined to refute common sense and personal responsibility. Whatever.

Will I be going to the ‘festival’? No. A few people hanging out in the Birmingham hotel does not a festival make. Though the workshop on reversing gentrification should be hilarious.

Step 1: buy lots of real estate from greedy suits to stop them from profiting from it. Step 2: rent property to unemployed whinging artists. Sounds like a great plan. But where is the money coming from?

Gentrification can happen in different ways, and it can be managed. But I don’t think it is possible for it to simply be stopped. Fortunately Marcus Westbury, also writing in the Age, has some more balanced and sensible things to say.

The same demographic pressures that drive behaviour hippies believe in, such as living in the inner city and using public transport instead of private cars, is driving gentrification in areas like Fitzroy.

The suits are starting to realise that commuting for an hour from their beige office to their beige home is a waste of their valuable time. They want to live closer to work. The age of oil is coming to an end, and the suburban flight enabled by petrol driven cars is being reversed.

The 50 year experiment that saw suburbia replace urban living as the preferred choice for the middle class is at an end. These massive social forces are changing the social mix in Fitzroy and there is nothing a bunch of whinging hippies can do about it.

If you want to remain in Fitzroy, the choice is simple. Stop whinging and start working. Sell out enough to earn enough money to afford living here, and appreciate the opportunities and experiences available to you. Or move out.

anti-gentrification (naive whinging) festival starts on Sunday

14 thoughts on “anti-gentrification (naive whinging) festival starts on Sunday

  • 8 June 2010 at 7:06 am
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    I find it telling to note that neither you, nor Marcus Westbury, actually spoke to the organisers of this festival, Craft Cartel and Earthsharing, before dismissing it as ‘naive’.

    If you had bothered you might have learnt a little about the actual nature of gentrification, its causes, effects, and the fact that it is neither inevitable nor unavoidable.

    Of course, as you say, the ‘suits’ (& the rest of us) want to live in the inner-city, in suburbs artists have made desirable & where the infrastructure is best. However, your statement that the suburban flight is being reversed is incorrect. I refer you to an article by Danny Johns, also in yesterday’s Age, for evidence of this:

    http://www.theage.com.au/national/bank-branches-on-the-rise-thanks-to-suburban-sprawl-20100606-xn9x.html

    The reason that housing supply and price in the inner-suburbs has become a problem is that the tax structure in this country encourages land banking. Land transactions and developments are taxed (stamp duty etc.) but land holding is not. This results in a great number of empty or underutilised properties. There is no motivation for landlords to make their properties available for rent or development so supply falls behind demand, prices rise and less people are able to live in communities than those communities could easily accommodate.

    Earthsharing produced a fascinating report recently which revealed that some 6.9% of housing in Melbourne’s inner city is lying vacant, most of that withheld from the market in the form of speculative vacancies. I highly recommend you take the time to educate yourself by reading it:

    http://www.earthsharing.org.au/wp-content/uploads/Earthsharing_Vacancies_In_Melbourne_Report.pdf

    Lobbying for tax reform is the first step to combat this. If land value was taxed, the profits from the community resources we create would go back into our communities, land banking would be discouraged, more properties would come onto the market, land prices would fall and more people would be able to afford to live where they want to and where the infrastructure can best cope with them.

    This would enable a more economically diverse range of the community to live in desirable areas which would bring challenges relating to how they would co-exist harmoniously. Ideas which will be discussed at our festival for ways to handle these challenges include the introduction of art zoning and increased social support facilities.

    We’d like artists to get together and brainstorm ideas to maintain and build their communities rather than just meekly flow ever outwards to where the infrastructure and environment is strained, which is why we’re holding this festival – to facilitate the discussion.

    I find it very satisfying that already our ‘naïve’ festival concept has initiated this discussion on blogs such as yours.

    Bring on the debate! This is going to be a feisty festival indeed.

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    • 8 June 2010 at 8:45 am
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      Hmm, I didn’t talk to you before writing this because I read it first in the Age and I am not employed by anyone to do investigative journalism. I’m an individual writing based on my own opinion. The fact that I saw it in the dead tree media rather than local online news means to me that this event has not been well marketed within Fitzroy. This festival appears to be planning to preach to the converted and I don’t see much that will have any impact on thousands of years of wealth oriented land ownership laws.

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  • 8 June 2010 at 10:32 am
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    Your many references to ‘hippies’ really goes to show how out of touch you are with what’s going on in the (once) beautiful suburb around you. I bet you can’t see or experience that much from the safety of your gazillion dollar apartment.

    I reckon you really should come down to the festival, or failing that even have a walk past, as you really sound confused with your cliches. There is a very good reason why Fitzroy/Colllingwood/Brunwick has so many more art galleries than bongo circles.

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    • 8 June 2010 at 10:39 am
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      The reason why Fitzroy / Colllingwood / Brunswick has lots of (small commercial) art galleries is because there are many artists working in the area AND there are enough people with enough money to buy their work and enable them to pay rent on their gallery spaces. You can’t have one without the other.

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  • 8 June 2010 at 10:40 am
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    Thank you for your concern about the marketing of our event. As we are a non-profit, volunteer group with all proceeds of the festival going to St Mary’s House of Welcome on Brunswick st we don’t have a marketing budget, as such. However, you’ll be happy to hear that by effectively tuning in to a topic that is of great concern to many we have already conducted interviews on ABC 774 and 3CR, completed a photoshoot for an article to be published in this weeks MX, not to mention the two articles regarding the festival in yesterday’s Age which was published not only in ‘dead tree’ form but online, which of course you already know, as you linked to them. You’ll also be able to hear us on Radio National this Thursday at around 9:30am. Tune in! I’ll give you a shout out.

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    • 8 June 2010 at 10:57 am
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      Marketing doesn’t need a budget: it needs a strategy. There are lots of local sites and blogs that would be happy to spread your message if you contacted them and asked them to. For example, I have promoted events for the Fitzroy Learning Network, Fitzroy Primary School, local theatre productions and other organisations. Many other bloggers do the same.

      If the Craft Cartel site was designed better and included current content in the ‘blog’ section rather than the static homepage section a lot more people would be able to access it, as many people read sites via RSS. I wrote about the Craft Cartel and other local sites nearly a year ago, and how a poor choice of platform, and poor implementation of that platform, results in a poor information architecture and thus a poor user experience.

      NGOs, not-for-profits and other community organisations and groups can achieve very effective marketing with $0 if they know how to use online / social media effectively.

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  • 8 June 2010 at 10:58 am
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    To the anti-gentrification organisers, good on you for having a go. It may be that your festival has no immediate impact on land tax laws, but you’re standing up for what you believe in and creating awareness. It would be shame if every protest was given up on in the first stages because people weren’t sure if it would make a difference.

    Housing affordability is a hot topic at the moment, and rightly so. There isn’t a major city i’ve been to in the last 10 years that hasn’t had it’s artist communities and those on low incomes priced out of areas that they made desirable in the first place. I would hope that this festival and other discussions about housing affordability are not about keeping the wealth or the wealthy out of an area, but about maintaining diversity and affordability for people across the board.

    Suggesting that young artists should “sell out” some to earn some “real” money is missing the point. I don’t think any creative community is asking to be given a mansion and foi gras on tap, it’s about maintaining affordable living space, and Fitzroy is the only place i’ve lived where the rent went up every 6 months.

    It would be a tragedy for everyone in Melbourne if young artists were denied the opportunity to create because they couldn’t meet the spiraling rent, and presumably it could result in there being less to write about on this very blog.

    Also i became aware of the festival through facebook and The Age online, so it is out there in cyber-land, still as Brian pointed out, you can never do enough marketing, and it would be great to know more about the festival.

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  • 8 June 2010 at 11:15 am
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    I’m reading today that Melbourne is Fast approaching Sydney when it comes to housing affordability. To live in Inner city Sydney requires @ least a $100k income these days. It’s not long until a similar income will be required to live in Fitzroy.

    http://theage.domain.com.au/real-estate-news/melbourne-close-to-overtaking-sydney-20100606-xn55.html

    I think It is all about encouraging a mix of incomes to the suburb. I think the council should look into relaxing the laws re: living in ‘commercial’ warehouse spaces, sometime i’ve done (albeit illegally) & found to be both enjoyable & of great benefit to my chosen career as a professional artist. These days it is too hard to setup such spaces because you are always living with the threat of immediate eviction for breaking council planning laws by living somewhere where you shouldn’t.

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    • 8 June 2010 at 11:39 am
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      The fundamental problem is that land ownership law is designed to perpetuate the wealth of the few, not improve the quality of life of the many. The wealthy are now fleeing suburbia and returning to the inner city, pushing the urban poor out to the fringes. In the meantime the aspirational working class and the lower middle class continue to be fooled into believing that outer suburbia is a great place to live.

      Our society has grown much faster than our ability to plan and manage it. Cities would be better if they were more decentralised, with huge investment in public and industrial transport by rail, and lesser reliance on cars and roads. But meeting the needs of the many is not the primary goal of the economic elite – protecting and increasing their wealth is. Hence the land use priorities we face.

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  • 8 June 2010 at 11:42 am
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    Gentrification is a slippery slope. If you were to speak to people living in Fitzroy in the 60s, they’d probably regard businesses like The Tote and Punters Club as part of gentrification. They’re just a more palatable sort of gentrification in some peoples’ (myself included) eyes.

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  • 8 June 2010 at 12:05 pm
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    I agree with the anti-gentrification sentiment. But there are a lot of working class people who live or lived in these areas (and yes me) who’d argue that artists are part of the gentrification process.

    Places like Fitzroy and Brunswick existed long before artists discovered them so to say they are only now being gentrified is a bit blinkered.

    That said I hope the inner north retains the character it enjoys now and doesn’t become another St Kilda.

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  • 8 June 2010 at 7:43 pm
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    It’s a curly one, demographic change.

    I agree with clubwah – gentrification here is well advanced. What we are talking about is not resisting gentrification per se but stopping *further* gentrification.

    There were no galleries or artists collectives here before gentrification. No cafes, no wholefoods stores, no bike racks, no funky retail. The appearance of these things signalled gentrification was in progress. As they appeared, the people who like them came like moths to a flame. Things snowballed as they so often do.

    Then stage two of gentrification begins. Gentrification Eats Itself – it begins to destroy the things it created. Commercial interests observe the trends. Rents increase. Independent businesses are replaced by franchises. Galleries proliferate until the point where you have to walk past three to get to a shop that sells bread. New residents enjoy the cafe breakfasts but complain about the live music. The process continues.

    This is what is happening now, and what we are talking about is arresting the process where it is now. Can this be done? Can we stop the machine?

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  • 9 June 2010 at 3:39 am
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    I don’t think the machine can be stopped or reversed, nor would I want to make it static because static is boring and boring is death. I do believe it can be rewired & restructured though. We can start building upwards instead of outwards, rather than displacing communities we can accommodate more people of greater economic diversity in prime areas. What it would take is basic land tax reform and some social creativity.

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  • 21 June 2010 at 9:01 am
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    Isn’t it a little late to think of halting gentrification in Fitzroy?
    Here’s my take on housing affordability. People are snobs. There is a lot of affordable housing a stone’s throw from the city – places such as Sunshine, West Footscray and the like. Come on over! You can rent a three bedroom house near a train station, bike path, bus stop for around $250-$350 a week. That’s right. A week. For the whole house. So please, when talking about affordability and availability, let’s see it for what it really is – people wanting to live in already-gentrified suburbs.

    On the matter of land holding – as much as it might suck to see vacant land or vacant properties – while we live in this world ruled by profit, it’s really up to the individual how they want to invest their money. So, as I said above, why not move to a suburb that you can afford and has real diversity (before they get kicked out by the artists).

    Reply

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