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Densification, Development and/or Displacement: accommodating migrant-induced population growth in London (and its extended region). Ian Gordon Geography Department, LSE London and Spatial Economics Research Centres London School of Economics

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Densification, Development and/or Displacement: accommodating migrant-induced population growth in London (and its extended region)

Ian Gordon

Geography Department,

LSE London and Spatial Economics Research Centres

London School of Economics

LSE London/HEIF5 conference on How London is being transformed by migration , March 24th 2014


  • London Mayoral Plans all avoid recognition of

    • driving role of international migration in London’s population turnaround; and

    • high degree of integration of housing / labour markets across London metro region and beyond

  • But size of gap between estimated housing need and (half) credible supply growth makes crucial to:

    • look much more closely at how immigrant-induced growth has been accommodated so far;

    • with realistic view of the displacement effects along extended chains of interaction in space-constrained region ;

    • and of the dynamic effects of migrant settlement - as economic position and housing aspirations change

The back story
The Back Story

  • For 50 years GL population contracted because

    • rising prosperity increased demands for personal space

    • beyond the capacity of available land inside the ‘green dam’

  • Situation changed in late 1980s and then late 1990s:

    • partly cumulative effect of enlarged YUPpy cohorts of singles / graduates with strong taste for city life

    • but clearly tied to upswings in international migration, reflecting strong external stimuli + weak border control

  • Migrant impact on London population is not 1 for 1

    • clear indications of displacement in inter-regional movement

      • graphs and Hatton/Tani (2005) work suggest more like 50%

    • but important questions about;

      • how 50% gets fitted in – generating development, or just crowding ?

      • Is this a temporary accommodation – or sustainable ?

Evidence from inter censal change
Evidence from Inter-Censal Change

  • Investigated 2001-11 changes in:

    • numbers of (occupied) rooms + average persons per room

    • 5 population groups:

      • UK born

      • Migrants since 2001 – from Poor countries & Rich countries

      • Earlier migrants – from Poor/Rich countries

  • Across the Greater South East - at 2 spatial scales:

    • neighbourhoods (LSOA), where relations with densification (or reverse?) expected to be compositional (shifting mixes)

    • Local (sub-) Housing Market Areas (Coombes’ 73 ‘lower’ units) where demand pressure may exert more general effects

      • on occupation density and on supply of dwelling space (rooms)

  • Maps suggest some possibly important links

In broad terms over the decade
In Broad Terms – Over the Decade

  • Population grew right across GSE

    • but fastest towards the core (IL)

  • Reflecting growth in foreign-born

    • Primarily from poor countries – particularly in OL where UK born numbers fell significantly

    • But also from rich countries – principally in IL

    • There was a dispersal of earlier arrivals from both groups – though PoorC group going further (including beyond GSE)

  • Room numbers also grew across the GSE

    • Especially in IL – though patchy even there

    • And not particularly in immigrant areas

  • But in London population per room also grew

    • accommodating c40% of growth

    • Notably in/near areas of new poor country arrival

Statistical evidence on densification
Statistical Evidence on ... Densification

  • Analyses of 2001-11 change across LSOAs point to:

    • significant effect of job accessibility on densification

      • with zero pop growth, prediction is of + 5.8% in IL vs. 2.9% in outer RGSE

    • but strongest effect from (local) rate of PoorC arrivals

      • 55% absorbed by denser occupancy - cf. 10% for UK born

    • much weaker effect from change among earlier arrivals (30%)

      • indicative of substantial convergence in housing expectations

    • generally weaker among RichC arrivals – but strikingly so in IL

      • the main concentration, but quite atypical – maybe no net effect on densities

      • though among longer stayers impact seems close to that for PoorC group

    • additional to these local (compositional effects) there is evidence (from LHMA pop. change) of a demand pressure effect

      • about 24% for growth from all sources

      • except for RichC arrivals in IL (zero impact at LHMA scale)

      • but for PoorC arrivals densification absorbed c.80% of additional numbers

      • Adding 12.9% to IL room occ. density vs 3.4% in outer RGSE

Development effects
... Development Effects

  • Similar analyses of change in room numbers – with controls for land availability, as well as job access:

    • suggest no significant effect from new migrants at LHMA level – where we might expect to find it

    • at neighbourhood level there is apparent evidence of positive (local) effects on the supply of rooms (equivalent to 20% of RichC arrivals and 7% for PoorC arrivals)

      • but this could only represent a local diversion of development activity

      • not a net contribution to accommodation of growth at the sub-regional scale

... Displacement

  • Time Series analyses for GL and for the rest of the GSE (1981-2011) show:

    • Strong effects of state of (UK) housing demand (for GL partic?) and some of overall GSE conditions (U/E and house prices) – but also

  • International migrational gains into London appear to be 40% displaced into other areas (after 2 years)

    • though primarily beyond the GSE: i.e. the chain of displacements stretches right through the GSE, ending up outside

      • Tho maybe still within Peter Hall’s original larger version of this super-region.

  • No such evidence of displacement by RGSE immigration

    • consistent with assumption that it reflects the incidence of housing market constraints, rather than labour market processes (or ‘white flight’?)

  • Tho’ findings for densification / development suggest rich country migration must generate more displacement – there is no indication of this at the regional (GL) scale (or of the reverse)


  • Accommodating migrants involves some combination of : (a) induced additions to local room stock; (b) denser occupation of those rooms; and (c) displacement elsewhere

  • Impacts in a metro region such as London’s are greatly complicated, however, because:

    • displacement occurs at many scales – with knock-on effects across them;

    • different groups of migrants occupy substantially different HM positions; and

    • these change markedly over time.

  • There is much still to be sorted out about processes/impacts operating in London over the past 25 years - and the next

  • But it is clear that:

    • the dense (self-)housing of PoorCountry migrants has been key to location of population growth within London;

    • they will be demanding much more space (somewhere) soon – though despite UKBA et al others may well come to take their place; and that

    • the process has ramifications right across southern England which need more careful (and open) examination .