Why Parties Displace Their Voters: Gentrification, Coalitional Change, and the Demise of Public Housing

Abstract: Across advanced economies, affordable housing shortages are pushing low-income voters out of cities. Left governments frequently exacerbate these shortages by eliminating public housing. Why does the Left pursue policies that displace its voters? We argue that the Left’s long-term rebalancing towards the middle class and away from an increasingly stigmatized “underclass” has significantly attenuated the trade-offs inherent in reducing affordable housing. Focusing on the UK, we demonstrate that by alienating low-income voters politically and reshuffling them across districts, housing crises have significant costs for Labour. Yet, drawing on interviews, we show that displacement is nonetheless compatible with electoral interests: the displaced make room for richer voters whom politicians believe will also support Labour. A quantitative analysis of Greater London’s 32 local authorities and 624 wards further documents trends in line with coalitional rebalancing. Taken together, our findings demonstrate that electoral foundations are key to understanding housing crises and gentrification.

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License CC BY
DOI https://doi.org/10.1017/S0003055421000058
Type Journal Articles
C-ID POLS 130 - Comparative