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Neighbourhood interventions, and social and ethnic mix: <br/>the tackling of urban inequalities

Final Report Summary - DIVERCITIES (Neighbourhood interventions, and social and ethnic mix: <br/>the tackling of urban inequalities)

This project aimed to investigate the social and spatial impacts of urban regeneration programmes in deprived and ethnically diverse neighborhoods in Southern European contexts. With devolution processes and the withdrawal of comprehensive / people-based welfare policies across Europe, area-based urban programmes (often called regeneration, renewal, or renaissance) have been used as the primary means of reducing inequalities in neighbourhoods with concentrations of poverty.
A commonly held assumption among Northern American and Northern European urban policy makers is that socially diverse and mixed communities promote greater interactions between social and ethnic groups, expanding aspirations (i.e. towards middle-class norms), social capital and social cohesion; mixing creates conditions to break the negative ‘neighbourhood effects’ in deprived areas. Several areabased
programmes thus seek to attract middle-income groups to deprived neighbourhoods in order to reduce the concentration of disadvantaged households and foster social mixing. Examples include HOPE VI (Home-Ownership and Opportunities for People Everywhere) and MOT (Moving-To-Opportunity) in the US; housing differentiation programmes in the Netherlands; mixed-tenure policy in the UK; or Contracts de Ville in France. However, the ‘mixed communities’ policy discourse is highly controversial amongst academics; there is little evidence that
spatial re-ordering leads to social mobility (Lupton, 2003; Darcy, 2010), and often these programmes have had negative consequences promoting state-led gentrification, social polarization, or wider economic transformations of city at the expenses of the deprived Neighbourhoods (Moulaert et al., 2004; Porter & Shaw, 2009).
The fundamental question is whether and how area-based programmes are actually redistributive tools or rather regressive urban policies. This project investigates this question in an under-research context (Southern Europe) focusing on the municipal-led renewal programmes of the multi-ethnic historical centre of Barcelona (PERI-Special Plans of Interior Reform). Introduced in the mid-1980s, these programmes are the first generation of the so-called Modelo Barcelona, internationally regarded as a successful regeneration model. They included the creation of municipal enterprises (PPP) and surgical demolitions as key mechanisms to de-segregate the crowded city centre, and create new open spaces, social housing to relocate families, and social infrastructures for the neighbourhood (schools, civic centres) and the city (new cultural and tourist hubs). This research aims to make an empirical contribution to the wider international theoretical and political debate on regeneration and mixed communities programmes, offering a redistributive and multi-scalar perspective and a Southern European framework.

The project aimed to address the following three questions:
• Have social and spatial inequalities increased or decreased in the areas targeted by neighbourhood regeneration programmes? Where and for whom?
• Have conditions for social mobility increased or decreased? Which conditions and for whom (for which social and ethnic groups living in the neighbourhood)?
• How the structure, strategy, management and delivery of the programmes and actors involved affected the wider mechanisms of differentiation and (re)-commodification at city and neighborhood level? Which are the consequences and redistributive effects?
Understanding the impact of area-based programmes is, however, a very challenging task. It requires longitudinal analyses that focus on multi-dimensional micro-scale changes of the neighbourhoods and their interpretation within the macro-scale transformations of the city. Through two case studies in Barcelona (PERI Raval and PERI Santa Caterina-St. Pere), the first two questions look at and relate changes across: various indicators from 1986 to 2011 (housing, employment / professional profiles, education, migration, age); access to resources (i.e. school and public services, public spaces and amenities, housing progression); and space consumption and neighbourhood affordability. The third
question provides an account of processes and mechanisms that reduced/increased inequalities in the neighbourhoods (i.e. land value capture, local housing system, school segregation) and their wider consequences at a city level (i.e. spatial and social stratification, gentrification and displacement, (de)- or (re)-commodification of welfare services and housing system).
The project is multidisciplinary. It builds upon political science (welfare policies), social sciences (urban sociology, urban geography, immigration), planning (urban studies, urban policy), housing studies and segregation studies. It employed quantitative methods (longitudinal analyses and GIS mapping based on primary and secondary data sources) complemented with qualitative methods (semi-structured interviews
with key informants and actors, resident and immigrant associations, non-profit institutions, and technical public officers involved in the Regeneration Public-Private Partnerships).
Preliminary findings show that the city centre has reversed the de-population process and has become more socially and ethnically mixed, while spatial segregation has decreased among ethnic groups (i.e. Latin Americans, Moroccans) and low-income households. But socio-spatial inequalities have intensified, and changed in geography and scale with segregation patterns becoming more fine-grained and pointing
at processes of (unintended) state-led gentrification and exclusion. This is reflected in: first, an increased polarization with the emergence of new micro-pockets of marginalisation (in the densest and deprived areas) along with new micro-pockets of wealth (surrounding the intervention areas); second, growing school segregation particularly among ethnic groups (i.e. Pakistanis and Moroccans) despite of, and alongside, social mixing and the in-flow of middle-income Spanish and Western European families.
Privatisation of the education system at national and regional level seems to annul the potential of local residential mixing aspired in regeneration programmes; third, emergence of hidden forms of advanced marginalities and displacement of long-term residents associated with a wider problem of housing (un)affordability and tenancy (un)security that worsened with the up-marketing and branding of rental and owner-occupation markets of the city centre as a new area of investment.
The programmes also carried significant positive outcomes. Their integration with people-based programmes has improved access to good welfare services (i.e. better schools and extra-curriculum activities; new civic centres, libraries and open spaces) and has played a role in mitigating deprivation for some long-term residents. Yet, further research is needed to understand their impact on social mobility. But these beneficial effects have been outweighed by the negative effects of persistent structural inequality mechanisms embedded in the national housing system, which have been reinforced by the regeneration programmes. Housing emerges as key dimension in understanding the redistributive effects. As in other Southern European countries, the Spanish housing system is residualist in nature, fostering the market-led owner-occupation sector and a dualist rental system with limited social rental production, which is at the base of the long-lasting problem of housing affordability and socio-urban inequalities. Local regeneration programmes and public-private partnerships (PPP) showed a limited capacity to capture land/rent value surplus to be reinvested in public housing interventions and affordable residential production. This was envisaged in the PERI conception and tailored tools, but the delivery mechanisms and the scope of the PPP limited their action to regressive and residualist housing interventions (few social housing only for the resident affected by demolitions; rehabilitation subsidies to own-owners).
Moreover, in combination with the abolition of rent control and the liberalisation of the credit system, these public interventions have created attractive conditions for new upmarket housing investments and spaces of consumption, reinforced by an active municipal promotion of cultural and tourist activities. This stimulated housing tenure-change dynamics (from rent to owner-occupation), opening the way to individual and real-estate speculative transactions, that resulted in a sharp reduction of the affordable rental market and secure tenancy, and fostered a market dominated by mortgage-led owner-occupation and temporary rentals. These regressive mechanisms not only fuelled rent values and land values, but have also changed the housing market structure of the centre with severe regressive reverberation across Barcelona. The PERI programmes were a missed opportunity to expand in scope and scale the limited redistributive mechanisms offered by the national housing system.
At a conceptual level, this research contributed to develop a Southern European framework that relates public interventions with production of inequalities, and that distinguishes between change patterns and underpinning structural mechanisms (filtered or enhanced by the area-based programme), helping to identify the redistributive or regressive nature of their impact. As argued by Northern European scholars, area-based programmes that trigger (state-led) gentrification carry serious consequences affecting the degree of affordability and commodification not only of the neighbourhood, but of the city as a whole.

The project’s final results, which will be communicated to relevant stakeholders, will contribute to the current EU debates on 'Social Cohesion in Cities' and on the added-value of the Social Polis Platform, by helping us to better understand the redistributive potentials and limitations of urban regeneration and mixing programmes and extract some transferable lessons for future generations of local programmes and regional practices in Southern European and Catalan contexts.