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«Mixed Messages on Mixed incoMes Volume 15, Number 2 • 2013 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development | Office of Policy Development and ...»

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46 Mixed Messages on Mixed Incomes

Mixed-Tenure Orthodoxy:

Practitioner Reflections on Policy Effects Ade Kearns University of Glasgow Martin McKee UK Medical Research Council Elena Sautkina London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine George Weeks Transport for London Lyndal Bond Centre for Excellence in Intervention and Prevention Science Abstract This article examines mixed tenure as a policy orthodoxy. It first sets out how mixed tenure may be considered to constitute an orthodoxy within planning, being generally accepted as a theory and practice even in the absence of supporting evidence. Five elements of this orthodoxy are identified, relating to (1) housing and the environment, (2) social change, (3) economic impacts, (4) sustainable communities, (5) and sociospatial integration. Interviews with practitioners involved with three social housing estates that have experienced mixed-tenure policy interventions are reported to consider why the implementation and effects of mixed tenure might not correspond with the orthodox understanding. It is argued that policy ambiguity and weaknesses in policy theory and specification, alongside practical constraints, lie behind incomplete and counterproductive policy implementation, but a belief in pursuing the policy orthodoxy persists nevertheless.

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Introduction Planning has been described as, or in some cases accused of, from time to time having orthodox approaches to creativity and problem solving. The most famous critic in this regard was Jane Jacobs, who railed against the “saints and sages of modern orthodox planning” (emphasis added) and what they had to say “about how cities ought to work and what ought to be good for people and business in them” (Jacobs, 1961: 8). Planning orthodoxies are not unchanging however; as Dudley (2012: 1) said, “one generation’s orthodoxies … may be subject to condemnation in the next.” Thus, although in urban planning we can find critical commentary on the orthodoxy in favor of “fast and efficient freeways” for U.S. cities in the 1950s (Dudley, 2012) and the negative consequences of associated “urban renewal” (Anderson, 1964), more recently we can observe the opposite in the form of resistance to what has been called the “planning orthodoxy” of compact cities and higher density redevelopment (Randolph, 2006).

Orthodoxy can be defined as an “authorized or generally accepted theory, doctrine, or practice” (http://www.oxforddictionaries.com) or “the generally accepted beliefs of society at a particular time” (http://www.dictionary.cambridge.org). Professions like to operate with orthodoxies because doing so gives the impression of authority, expertise, and coherence within the body of practitioners, in that a marshaling of the evidence and their professional experience leads them to adhere to the general approach. The orthodox approach may eventually achieve the status of unassailable conventional wisdom, something that is hard to shift and where appropriate evidence is often not collected to enable a challenge to be made from within or outside the profession. When the orthodox approach is perpetuated without any evidence of effectiveness or successful outcomes, or even in the face of evidence of negative effects, then it may be all the stronger for surviving as belief as much as on authority.

We would argue that the promotion and development of mixed-tenure communities have constituted an orthodoxy within housing, urban, and planning policies during the past two decades, at least within the United Kingdom if not also in a number of other Western European countries.

Accounts of the rise and persistence of mixed-tenure policies have been given in several reviews:

see Kleinhans (2004); Bond et al. (2011); and Sautkina, Bond, and Kearns (2012). Having pursued mixed-tenure policies since at least the early 1990s (Tunstall, 2003), governments in both England and Scotland recently commissioned evidence reviews on the subject. Tunstall and Lupton (2010) concluded that mixed tenure has a limited role and is unlikely (alone) to improve individuals’ life chances, thus questioning its function as an antidote to concentrated poverty or multiple disadvantage (see Berube, 2005). In relation to council estates, Tunstall and Lupton said that the evidence of mixed-tenure benefits is not strong enough to justify the financial and social costs of restructuring social housing areas. Monk, Clarke, and Tang (2011) also concluded that, although the evidence is supportive of mixed tenure in new developments, the evidence is less clear that mixed tenure is effective in existing social housing estates, over and above traditional renewal (in physical, environmental, and service terms). Lastly, Tunstall and Lupton (2010) highlighted that the evidence is too weak to offer guidance about the levels of mixing required to produce benefits.

These reviews highlight the weakness of the evidence base for mixed-tenure policy, and thus help confirm its position as orthodoxy.

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Mixed-Tenure Orthodoxy This section reviews some of the main tenets of mixed-tenure housing policy, in terms of both how policy intends or expects them to operate and what is known about their functioning and effects.

The most immediate effects of mixed tenure on existing social housing areas are expected to be on housing and environmental quality within neighborhoods, possibly due to the provision of a greater variety of house types and designs by private developers, because of associated physical improvements made as part of mixed-tenure developments, or as a result of the care and maintenance behaviors of owner occupiers. Several U.K. studies have reported greater resident satisfaction with the surrounding physical environment in mixed-tenure neighborhoods, although its attribution to mixed tenure rather than to other planning policies has been questioned (Atkinson and Kintrea, 1998; Beekman, Lyons, and Scott, 2001; Pawson, Kirk, and McIntosh, 2000). Whether or not the expected caring behaviors of homeowners—as might be observed in mono-tenure, suburban situations—can be translated to mixed-tenure, inner-city neighborhoods is also uncertain. Evidence on the extent of owner occupier reinvestment in their properties shows that owners’ attitudes to their neighborhoods are very influential on their maintenance behaviors, particularly their feelings of solidarity with their neighbors and their short- or long-term plans to move (Galster, 1987), both of which might be expected to reduce maintenance behaviors in mixed-tenure neighborhoods.

Tenure mix is also intended to have significant social effects within communities, partly through the increased responsibility that comes with home owning rather than renting, and partly through altering the social composition of neighborhoods through the introduction of higher income groups.

Two difficulties emerge in this regard. First, tenure mixing is not guaranteed to deliver substantial income mix; one of the few empirical studies of this issue in Europe concluded that “the association between housing mix and social mix is not very strong” (Musterd and Andersson, 2005: 26).

Second, it has been argued that if the income or social-class gap between co-resident groups is too great, then the transmission of social changes from one group to another may not happen.

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