Gentrification represents a popular research topic in academia and is analysed from cultural, social and economic perspectives on change. In my research, I focused on the economic aspects of gentrification. One of the major problems connected to gentrification is the displacement of people from a lower socio-economic class by people from a higher socio-economic class. This means that we can speak of a case in which the loss of one person benefits another. Moreover, a frequent argument is that governments play a steering and/or stimulating role in gentrification processes since the upgrading of neighbourhoods often works to their advantage. Policymakers are said to use the creative industry as an instrument for gentrification in order to achieve policy goals such as reducing crime or attracting higher income groups to a specific area.

Increasing interest in creative people

The ‘creative class’ is part of the creative industry and is a hot topic since the turn of this century. Whereas attracting the ‘creatives’ was previously seen as a solution to make a city more successful, it is now often seen as a problem that leads to gentrification. The presence of artists in an area is one of the strongest statistical predictors of future gentrification, and forms a prerequisite to the first phase of the gentrification process in which artists are seen as ‘gentrifiers’ of a formally disadvantaged neighbourhood.

Amsterdam’s ‘breeding ground policy’

In line with Richard Florida’s influential book The Rise of the Creative Class, Amsterdam has tapped into the movement of supporting creatives with a specific policy ‘breeding ground policy’ (in Dutch: broedplaatsen beleid). Florida’s premises of the importance of attracting creatives to the advantage of the local economy have gained considerable influence in a variety of contexts, and have also become a mainstay for the city of Amsterdam. However, the assumption is that this arts-led gentrification leads to exclusion in the form of displacement. Although creatives also deserve a place in the city, the Municipality of Amsterdam is aware of the phenomenon of gentrification and the number of these creative clusters (‘breeding grounds’) has been increasing since 2002.

Breeding ground clusters are often temporary, which makes them highly ambivalent. Real estate owners can temporarily use creatives as a mean to increase their real estate values, since creatives can serve as a catalyst for urban (re)development processes, which increases the neighbourhood’s attractiveness.

Analysing the influence of creatives on property values

Due to the breeding ground policy that encourages clustering of creative activities in certain places in the city through subsidies, Amsterdam is a suitable case for measuring the influence of the creatives on property values. Based on the earlier mentioned arguments, I conducted research on the topic by focusing on changes in the structure of housing stock and on income levels, which allows residents with a higher income to enter new neighbourhoods. Based on open data from the Municipality of Amsterdam, I analysed 14 breeding grounds over the period from 2010-2014. I processed the open data focusing on the most detailed neighbourhood scale. As a disclaimer, it has to be mentioned that this choice influences the study results, and future research at a more detailed scale may display different results.

Over a period of five years, 14 breeding grounds have been established in Amsterdam. My results show that in none of the cases, there was a decrease in the share of social housing, leading to newcomers with a higher income entering the neighbourhood, in which the income levels and WOZ values (estimated market price according to the municipality) increased. This does not indicate that there is no decrease in social rent in the vicinity of the breeding grounds. This has taken place at 11 of the 14 breeding grounds, reflecting the trend in Amsterdam as a whole. In places where the share of social housing is higher than the average in Amsterdam, the Municipality of Amsterdam expected the largest changes. But even the share of social housing around the breeding grounds in these districts fell in accordance with the average of the district, or even less. Yet, displacement was found in the vicinity of three breeding grounds and allowed new residents with a higher income to enter the neighbourhood. In the 11 other cases, this was not seen. A possible explanation for this is the extensive share of social housing that still exists within Amsterdam.

The underlying idea of my research is the importance to find out what kind of influence a change in land use has. For example, it can be said that there has been no increase in property value in the vicinity of breeding grounds in this study, and that – counter expectations from the existing literature on the topic – a breeding ground in the area is not advantageous for real estate investors.

— By Daan Klaver