[This article was originally written for The Staines Howler, the mouthpiece of Staines Anarchists http://stainesanarchists.files.wordpress.com/2012/11/howler-autumn-20122.pdf]
S.t.a.i.n.e.s. – that’s it
“shouldn’t this be the ‘Staines-upon-Thames Howler’ now?”
Well… no. Probably not too surprisingly we’re not very keen on the attempt to repaint Staines as somewhere upmarket, and we’re not alone if some of the masking tape covering ‘upon Thames’ on one roadsign we’ve spotted is anything to go by.
There’s real reasons behind our hatred though, beyond resenting the attempt to make the town sound like it belongs to them instead of us.
Rebranding like this is done for a reason. That’s to make the town more sellable. Something which has been picked up quite quickly in the circles it was aimed at. If you type the words ‘staines-upon-thames’ and ‘guardian’ into google, you’ll find an article from their ‘Let’s move to…’ section which reviews the town for the perspective of someone browsing for a new place to buy a house. Their tip? A “Three-bedroom cottage with garden, near the town centre, [for] £227,500” with estate agents Gregory Brown. (http://www.guardian.co.uk/money/2012/aug/17/lets-move-staines-upon-thames)
So, more people interested in the area. That’s got to be a good thing right? Well… not exactly. At least not from our perspective.
If you’re lucky enough to own property in Staines(-upon-Thames) then it’s possible you might benefit from seeing the theoretical value of your house rise. One benefit being you could sell up and leave. We’d miss you, we really would.
Alternatively, if you live in Staines but don’t own your own home then this upward pressure on house prices, also known as inflation, is bad news. As people are now willing to pay more for your home than you already do, your landlord might cotton on and ask you to pay more.
If richer people move into the area inflation won’t just affect house prices. When these yuppies start strolling around Staines’ town centre they’ll be looking for somewhere to buy their clothes and maybe T.K. Maxx or the charity shops aren’t really what they’re looking for. There’s two things that might happen here: either the shops that are already here start selling more expensive stock, meaning you can’t afford it – or if they don’t they won’t be able to afford the new rents that are being charged now new shops are interested in setting up here, like Selfridges, which you won’t be able to afford to shop in.
The term that’s used for this process is gentrification, because from the word ‘gentry’, which is another word for the rich. The process is built in to the way the world is set up. Because housing and pretty much everything else is distributed through ‘markets’, if someone richer decides they want what you have they can pretty much take it. They just have to outbid you. Especially because we hardly own anything.
There are anti-gentrifcation campaigns all over the world. One way to resist is to put off the gentry, to send out a message that this isn’t the kind of place they want to live. Ultimately though we want the places we live to be desireable, we just don’t want them to be taken from us as soon as someone else decides they like them. This means we need to challenge the system that says everything is for sale if the price is right.
We need to make it clear that Staines is not for sale.