Manctopia: Examining the Billion Pound Real Estate Boom – The Price of Gentrification | TV and radio


Where is Sir Titus Salt when you need him, eh? Your mileage may vary of course, but despite the impartial and tiring nature of opening Manctopia: Billion Pound Property Boom (BBC Two), it would have been, I guess, difficult for most of us not to aspire to a world in which capitalism might expect to be hampered if not by strong, egalitarian government (I know, I laugh as I type), at least by idiosyncratic mixtures of philanthropy, Christian duty, moral obligation and practicality, sometimes embodied in powerful individuals.The new four-part documentary series on the massive redevelopment of Manchester city center – where the population has doubled to 60,000 since George Osborne announced his ‘power of the north’ plan in 2014 – has followed the stories of emblematic people of the haves and have-nots. . With every pocket of still affordable housing that is razed and every luxury skyscraper rising, these two groups stand out even more, the series illuminating the effects of gentrification – especially in its fastest and most forced form – on a Region.

On the ‘well-to-do’ side was estate agent owner Jennie Platt, whose days are spent showing clients around £ 1million apartments, where state-of-the-art cooktops remain unused even after departure. of three sets of tenants, and real estate developer Tim Heatley. He is spending £ 2million a week transforming the decidedly ropey area around Manchester Piccadilly station in the hopes of making what he renames ‘Piccadilly East’ the new destination of choice for investors and tenants alike. well-off.

As mentioned, the makers have resisted the temptation to make it a story of downtrodden heroes and money-crazed villains. In Heatley, they found someone who comes across as human and human – a businessman who has the opportunity to do a lot of something with a lot of nothing, rather than an evil being wishing to become lord and master. of everything he investigates profitably. “You can feel the city fighting against itself,” he says, showing us a squalid patch of abandoned land “on the edge of the donut of deprivation” on which he is building. It’s littered with drug paraphernalia and has the price of a pipe written on a piece of wood propped up against the rickety fence (£ 4.99, and God forgive me but I wondered why you would even want to introduce the notion of deal with change in such a configuration).

On the side of the poor and soon the poor is Christina Hughes. Although she has never missed a rent or bill payment, thanks to a job of 30 hours a week and living near her mother who can care for her children while she works, gentrification prompt meant that she received an eviction notice from her landlord. Rents have risen so much that she will almost certainly have to leave the area, removing school children and family from her support network.

In the maybe-have-less-already corner are two longtime clients of the Narrowgate Homeless Shelter – Richard Ravenscroft, whose sedentary life fell apart after the sudden death of his brother, and Michael Washington, who has struggled with alcoholism for most years. his life. They have become the world’s best friends and clearly find the strength and support in each other that few others offer. As single, relatively fit men with no dependents, they are low priority candidates for the small amount of social housing available. “I have no goal,” says Richard, as they face another day of the goalless march. “It’s a very silly way of thinking,” gently scolds Michael, the older of the two.

If the program avoids the pitfalls of demonization and sanctification, it may fall into the trap of focusing too narrowly on individual stories. It provides scary numbers and statistics (rents have gone up 40% in the past five years, there are around 97,000 people on the area’s housing waiting list, etc.), and pays enough attention detailed to the awarding of points and the bidding process that candidates must go through in order for his inhumanity to speak for itself. But in increasingly hectic and extraordinary times, we have more and more the impression that this is no longer enough. The absence of specific information on which Governments and politicians have brought us to this place almost sounds like a moral failure at this point. Or maybe we should just have a reality TV contest to find the next Titus Salt. Who can say?


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