This chapter considers how property and planning law in England facilitates gentrification but importantly can also be used to resist and counter gentrification. Asking legal questions is crucial to understanding how gentrification happens wherever it is taking place. It is often the same legal mechanisms – leases, licences, planning permissions – as well as key legal absences – rent regulation, security of tenure or compulsory financial contributions to communities – that facilitate gentrification. Western concepts of property and land use have travelled extraordinarily well. As comparative gentrification studies illustrate, there are different ways of doing property and regeneration (including ethical landlordism, rent controls, security of tenure, state-led construction of affordable housing, community public spaces, social retail ventures, to name just a few) and we need to identify and publicise these. We need a ‘more contoured knowledge’ of cities and this applies to legal knowledge as well. The chapter argues that we can – and should – look for legal concepts that act as alternatives to the standard Western incidents of property and planning practices to inform calls for change.
The author explores the ‘right to the city’ as a rhetorical device and political strategy aimed at reformulating our conception of inclusion in city cores through the lens of the ‘right to the street’. Although the ‘right to the city’ is an imaginative, rhetorical claim for justice, existing legal provisions related to the philosophy of ‘localism’ provide avenues for a progressive reformulation of ‘streets’ as being more than routes for traffic and commerce: as places for ‘roots’, habitation, walking and dwelling which city dwellers can be empowered to use and manage as ‘their streets’ and thereby to formulate a new, inclusory conception of ‘public property’.