FOR years, decades even, the accusation has stood that Croydon is all mouth and no bulldozers. There has been lots of talk about development and rapid progression, but very little visible sign of it. In more recent times, there is a feeling this is changing – not just with the Westfield/Hammerson scheme but also the number of housing developments springing up around the town centre. The key pitch of these developments, like the IYLO and Saffron Square, is one of "high-end living" – attracting young, time-poor professionals to live fast in a vibrant, buzzy 21st century "city". And they aren't just targeting locals either. As our report this week suggests, Croydon's shiny new properties – concierge service and all – are being marketed to wealthy investors in the Far East. It all sounds pretty exciting, but there is a subtext here – a backdrop of hundreds of homeless families, of more and more people relying on food banks and soup kitchens to get by. Croydon – though statistics released last week suggest it is being tackled – has a well documented homelessness problem. Set against the drive to promote these plush, flashy apartments to people halfway around the world, it doesn't sit too comfortably. In one sense, the comparison isn't a fair or accurate one. Developments like Saffron Square aren't being touted as an immediate solution to the homelessness epidemic. And, equally, you can argue about how much of a responsibility private developers should have in this regard. They are spending a lot of money on building a lot of homes which must be filled – if that means attracting a few overseas buyers, then so be it. We do have to be a little careful that, in the rush to gentrify and turn Croydon into a hub of international bright young things, that we do not leave everyone else behind. By all means chase the dream, Croydon, but let's make sure we don't trample all over our most needy just to make a few extra dollars or yen.
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