Have you thought about leaving Croydon?

By - Monday 2nd October, 2017

With the option to ‘cash out’ growing more and more tempting, do we need a little more fidelity to our borough?

“Have you thought about leaving Croydon?” 

It’s a line of inquiry that’s anathema to me – but for a few Croydonians it’s something that is becoming more than just an idle thought experiment.

The reason for this?

Not the rising tide of litter, nor the apparent dilemma of knife crime. Nope, to the contrary, it’s because of all the incredible positive changes that are happening here that are resulting in Croydon’s booming housing market.

The flipside of Croydon becoming a housing hotspot

The titular question is usually levelled by those who follow the white-hot Croydon housing market. Tales abound of pound-signs-in-the-eyes sellers fortunate enough to be fetching prices that only several months ago would have been thought outlandish. Croydon is the place to be right now.

That 1,000 square-foot dwellings are now going for over half a million pounds has some Croydonians thinking: what are we still doing here?

Of course, the sudden influx of cash into our town has done much good. It’s no time to get nostalgic for the street crime and drug dealing once pervasive in some areas. But, nonetheless, the temptation for those who have been here before the boom is to get out while the going’s good.

Which makes me wonder: in all this frenetic activity, what happens to a town like Croydon when a stable – and stabilising – middle class seeks greener pastures?

Private homes serve a public good

“A house for sale is not a home”, Wendell Berry, an American novelist, once wrote.

His point is that once the home becomes only a commodity it ceases to be the locus of community life it should be. If we ever knew this, housing market booms tend to make us forget.

At its very best, the home is a place of hospitality and refuge for the individual and the stranger. It’s a place where children might be provided the stability needed to thrive. It’s where meals, grief, and joys are shared. And it’s a repository of communal memory.

Strong homes are vital to Croydon’s health, yet they take years – maybe decades – to build. Our private homes, then, serve a very public good.

This may sound naively, impossibly idealistic and hardly what many homes are like. But even naive idealism isn’t necessarily wrong. Indeed, the fact that “broken homes” often elicit sadness or anger is because we often have a niggling sense of what the home should be.

What is the cost of leaving Croydon?

Yet this good becomes increasingly thin as people become increasingly transient.

And it seems that the market economy which so threatens to create a market society only catalyses the restless search for more.

What’s lacking is fidelity. Fidelity to Croydon. Yet the virtue of fidelity most necessary for helping us create such outward-facing homes is the very one that a hot housing market seems bent on eroding.

Truth be told – despite my opening protestations to the contrary – I, too, am forced to consider: at what cost would I sever my ties with the town that has been my home for as long as I can remember?

Reasons to stay

Since my home has been open to friends and neighbours, what happens to my community if my home is removed from its membership?

Since I do not believe humans are replaceable widgets, what happens to those relationships we’ve cultivated over the years if we withdraw?

If my home is much more than a house, how might I better use it in service to the community of which I’m now a part?

Of course, there are many reasons to leave a place, and some of them are even good ones. But there are also many reasons to stay in a place, and I’d ask my Croydonian neighbours who might be considering cashing out to think about those, too.

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose

Jonny Rose is a committed Christian who has lived in the Croydon area for nearly twenty years. He is an active participant in his local community, serving at Grace Vineyard Church and organising Purley Breakfast Club, and was ranked "Croydon's 37th most powerful person" by the Croydon Advertiser (much to his amusement). He owns a lead generation company. He is the Head of Content at marketing technology company Idio, the founder of the Croydon Tech City movement, a LinkedIn coach, and creator of Croydon's first fashion label, Croydon Vs The World. Working on Instagram training and a Linkedin lead generation service. Views are his own, but it would be best for all concerned if you shared them. Please send your fanmail to: jonnyrose1 (at) gmail (dot) com

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  • Paddy Blewer

    My farewell to Croydon (Waddon) published on this site years ago. For me, I was going back to where I grew up, across the border in Sutton. https://thecroydoncitizen.com/culture/farewell-waddon/

  • cpmatthews

    I suppose the crux of the piece is that since Croydon has become attractive to move to, the area therefore increases in value. The outcome of this increased value is a higher turn over of residents because those existing residents are then enabled / encouraged to move by the higher than expected amount in their pockets. Another outcome is a rapidly changing populous which prevents the establishment of communities. The impact of this is that there is a sudden community vacuum and it is implied that this is a problem or at least a scary unknown.

    Have I thought about leaving Croydon? Yes. Am I concerned about the vacuum I might leave behind me? No. Why? Because life goes on, change is rapid in cities, I will keep in contact with the friends I’ve made. Does the golden age of community still exist in Croydon where I might pop over to number 33 with some biscuits in the hope I might be extended the invite of a tea and chat? No and, honestly, I have never seen that in my lifetime!

    Just as demographics have changed in the UK so should our definition of community and it’s purpose. My feeling of what “community” means in Croydon is the public events run by the people for the people. It’s the shared pleasure and displeasure with the goings on in the town centre. It’s the shared concern or excitement for the changes about to happen or the changes that happened.

  • Steve Thompson

    I certainly feel little loyalty to Croydon the town. I do feel loyalty to my longstanding neighbours, and institutions such as Matthews Yard, Rise Gallery, Studio Upstairs, Turf Projects, the local church etc. People move for many reasons, not purely to cash in on rising house prices, for example moving nearer to elderly parents, or escaping the rising tide of anti-social behaviour (not solely Croydon’s problem of course), or downsizing, which has the added benefit of freeing up a larger property for a family. Like cpmatthews, I would continue to keep in touch with friends, and would still support events such as Warhol Month, and the Croydon Literary Festival – after all they are only a tram/bus/train ride away.

  • RSDavies

    Don’t ask if they’re loyal to Croydon, ask if croydon is loyal to them.
    It seems to me that Croydon does little to retain its own homegrown talent. My sons have left, and its pretty clear they will never return. In a recent lengthy conversation with one of them, as he waited to go on stage at a gig in London, where he talked of thinking about what London and Croydon offered and why he wouldn’t return on a permanent basis. At the heart of it was the lack of community and opportunity, and the disproportionately high cost of living against wages. He sees his friends here making unpalatable compromises to just obtain the basics. He sees Croydon and much of London as quite sterile, devoid of the space and opportunity to take artistic risk, to explore ideas and collaborate simply because it requires so much just to survive that the cost in money and time is too great.
    And do we really have affordable space for artists and creators of all types to live in some semblance of decency? I suspect not. I sense that this experience is shared by many young people. All sorts of options are dangled in front of them, but in practice they have little real choice. It seems to me that the great and the good have talked large and glibly ignored the needs of the majority, happy provided their children progress from prep school, to public school, a good uni and then a decent job in the city. The rest well the sink or swim.
    So I ask if Croydon is not loyal to them, why should they be loyal to Croydon?

  • Allen Williams

    My ties with Croydon were severed not by me, but my parents, who moved from Coulsdon to Huddersfield in October 1972, while I was at University. They had been there since 1955. As it was the only place I had known, both in the days of the Coulsdon & Purley UDC and later the London Borough of Croydon, I did not want to uproot, and neither did my parents, but Dad’s new job was in Yorkshire. The property boom is not new: he bought with the proceeds of his sale the largest house he could find, cash, and could have afforded two similar in addition had he chosen.

    Yorkshire, it turned out, is bliss compared with Croydon. So is Altrincham where I live now (about the same distance inside Greater Manchester as I had lived inside Greater London, about 400 yards). I still have a soft spot for Coulsdon, though, despite its becoming ever more just a place to sleep. Croydon too, but none for the Borough of that name.

    On balance, if you can profit by coming to t’North, do so.