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A sink estate is a British council housing estate characterised by high levels of economic and social deprivation. Such estates are not always high crime areas although there is a strong correlation between crime rates and sink estates in large urban areas.
In the worst estates crime happens openly while victims are afraid to do anything.
Policy Exchange, an organisation close to David Cameron, claims that decades of neglect and ghettoisation have led to entrenched problems in social housing including domestic violence, knife crime and gang warfare.
Sink estates are found in urban areas around the country. Many owe their existence to the historic need to rehouse the urban poor, either from Victorian slum housing during the 1920s and 1930s, or from low-income housing demolished during the Blitz. Many of the estates are dominated by tower blocks and garden cities, which have been blamed for discouraging strong communities and failing to provide adequate services to their residents. Urban decay is commonplace, with accommodation often having considerably exceeded its intended lifespan.
In London there are sink estates in the North and East, the boroughs of Camden, Islington, Haringey, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Hackney. The Harefield estate on the edge of Southampton was a sink estate in the last quarter of the twentieth century even though its crime rate was significantly lower than that of inner city areas. In London, however, all the no-go areas (such as the estates in Peckham before its regeneration, Harlesden and Gospel Oak) are sink estates.
The West Midlands has been home to numerous sink estates, although many of these have been regenerated or are in the process of regeneration. These include the notorious Castle Vale in Birmingham, Galton Village in Smethwick, Hateley Heath in West Bromwich, Low Hill in Wolverhampton, Priory Estate in Dudley, Chapel Street in Brierley Hill and Goscote in Walsall.
The origin and meaning of the term 'sink estate' is unknown, although it is believed it may refer to being at the depths of society. The phrase came into usage in the 1970s, and was probably a term coined by journalists.  It is now commonly used in media such as this BBC article. Sink estate may refer to behavioural sink, which is a characteristic exhibited by animals forced to live in overcrowded conditions.