Deivi Norberg

Thesis title:

The Crisis of Affordable Workspace in London


The unaffordable commercial rent levels in London have been slowly but steadily dismantling the unique and vibrant commercial fabric of the city. Independent shops, decades-old family businesses and community organisations are struggling to pay for their increasing rent bills and are in danger of becoming displaced. The Covid-19 pandemic has significantly exacerbated this crisis. Many businesses received almost no income during the lockdowns yet were still asked to pay rent. This has forced businesses to fall into unsustainable rent arrears or close down their operations completely.

In the last two decades, the Greater London Authority alongside the city’s Local Authorities have attempted to mend the situation by increasing the available affordable workspace through planning obligations. In many ways the struggle that commercial tenants face mimics the problems of the housing market. Yet even when it is widely accepted that the commercial fabric of our cities plays a vital role in how we inhabit, use and value urban space, the question of affordability of commercial rents has not received the same level of interest as the question of affordability of housing rents.

This doctoral research aims to uncover the conditions that have led to the crisis of affordable workspace in London. It explores the dominant institutional values, structures and processes of urban governance that have enabled and accentuated this crisis. The research also investigates the dynamics of the workspace struggles that have emerged in response to the permanent threat of displacement faced by so many of London’s small businesses. In doing so, it will not only analyse the resistance to the current situation but also provide a vehement defence for the need to protect small business through affordable rents by elaborating on what is lost if we fail to do so.

First supervisor:

Dr Regan Koch

CASE partner:

East End Trades Guild (EETG)


8 – Urbanisation, Social Change & Urban Transformation