Gentrifying eight district - Critical Urban Research Lab

Mindspace held its third Creative Momentum (SCCM) discussion on 24 November 2016. Márton Berki, Assistant Professor of the Social and Economic Geography Department at Eötvös Lóránd University and member of Critical Urban Research Lab (Kritikai Városkutató Műhely) gave a presentation on the gentrifying District VIII of Budapest from a critical point of view.

Critical Urban Research Lab is a self-organizing community of experts with varied disciplinary background: academics, public policy-makers, and activists. They aim to understand and influence those urban processes which results in socio-spatial inequality and exclusion. They examine urban processes on a macro level and in the context of global capitalism.

Capitalism has long waves and phases which are changing periodically. This rhythmical change can be also observed in the history of urban development. The capitalist development is uneven, which divides the world into centre and periphery, depending on the allocation of capital. This duality is also shown on the level of countries and cities.

The District VIII has been conserved as one of the most stigmatised and deteriorated urban neighbourhood of Budapest because of the lack of investments by means of historical and ideological reasons. At the same time the area situates close to the city centre and can be accessed very easily. These potentials were recognized and interest started to increase for the neighbourhood and a relatively late gentrification took off. Gentrification is characterized by the following elements: investment of capitol and renovation of the ruined urban neighbourhood, renewal in physical appearance, influx of more affluent residents, and displacement of low-income citizens.

Because of financial pressure the local municipality of District VIII played an active role in finding investors and revitalizing the neighbourhood, also had an influence on the displacement. The EU funds received for the rehabilitation also contributed to the social imbalances, as they aimed to increase competitiveness and promoted attractiveness and general economic growth.

Social inequality is one of the most studied negative aspects of gentrification and Critical Urban Research Lab raises important questions when they do researches on those poorer pre-gentrification residents who became unable to pay increased rents or business prices and had to relocate. They aim to figure out whether a better consensus could have been reached.

Shared Cities: Creative Momentum is a European cultural platform addressing the urban challenges of contemporary European cities. In an international cooperation of 11 partners from six different countries numerous events, programmes and researches will be implemented between 2016 and 2019. The project is co-funded by the Creative Europe Programme of the European Union; the Hungarian partners are Contemporary Architecture Centre and Mindspace.