In recent decades, inner urban areas of cities in EMDC’s have experienced rapid changes. According to Burgess’s model, inner urban areas refers to the twilight zones just around the CBD, where the oldest housing are found and the inhabitants tend to be poorer people or immigrants.
The first city I would study London, capital of UK, located to the south-east of England with River Thames running through in the middle. The most noticeable change in the inner city since the 1950s is the huge drop in population, with a 18% population loss from 1951 to 1981.
There are two main reasons, after the WWII, London’s role as centre of world trade declined, which led to a drop in manufacturing employment. From 1951 to 1981, one million manufacturing jobs were lost. Also, as transport develops, decentralization occurs, where rich people move to the suburbs of London for a better living environment.
However, there is still a huge influx of immigrants into the inner cities, due to pull factors such as hopes to have a better living condition,, who cannot afford high rents in other parts of the city.
Therefore, the population density remained high. In 1947, the government introduced the Comprehensive Development Areas, which was aimed at slum clearance and rebuilding to make inner areas less congested. In twenty years, 1.5 million properties had been knocked down, replaced by huge high-rise tower blocks.
In 1978, the Inner Urban Areas Act was passed, which aimed at inner city renewal by securing economic regeneration and improving the environment. This led to the gentrification in inner areas such as Docklands in London, which is located 3km away from the city centre along River Thames.
The Docklands Development Corporation encouraged the development in Docklands by private companies. When it was abolished in 1998, 600ha of land was reclaimed, with 15200 new homes completed. An airport, light railway system and 90km of new road was built. These developments attracted wealthy young people to the inner area, the population and employment doubled from 39000 and 27000 in 1981 to 61000 and 53000 in 1990 respectively; the number of businesses also more than doubled from 1100 to 2300m. Therefore, a trend of reurbanization can be observed.
However, the success in Docklands is not shared by all other inner areas of London. In some inner areas, the unemployment rate is still very high, combined with skyrocketing land prices and rents due to the gentrification. Many residents have to move away, causing an urban blight in these areas today, where the people and factories disappeared, leaving behind vacant land and building.
In New York, located of the East coast of USA, at the mouth of Hudson River, inner city areas also faced similar trend. In the inner city area of South Bronx, the population has declined by nearly 50%; this is because of the decentralization trend, where the wealthy people moved to the suburbs for better living environment made possible by the improvements in the transport system. The majority of those who left are whites, reducing the white population from 87% to 65% since 1950 in inner areas. People left behind are usually poor immigrants or black population. In South Bronx, the average income is only 40% of that in the country. Unemployment rates are also high, due to the fact that the labour-intensive industries moved to new areas where labour is cheaper and labour unions are less strong. All these caused the inner city areas to deteriorate into slum areas.
However, since the late 70s, there is a reurbanization movement. Gentrification occurred in inner city areas as buyers would enjoy tax advantages and better mortgage as compared to buying a house in the suburbs. Welfare reforms and crime reduction led by former New York mayor Rudolph Giuliani also attracted foreign investments in property in inner city areas. In 2002, the inner cities recorded a 20% rise in median income to $35000 a year and the poverty rate dropped by 4%.
In general, inner city areas of EMDCs observed decentralization trends in the 1950s, brought about by improvements made in transportations, which made people more mobile. However, since the early 90s, an opposite trend is observed. Reurbanization occurred due to two main reasons, the first being the incentives and support from government and the high restrictions in further development of green field sites in the suburbs at the same time. The second reason is that the inner city areas are much closer to the CBD than suburbs areas, and therefore much more accessible and desirable. It is therefore predicted that this reurbanization trend will continue for some more years to come.
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