«Mixed Messages on Mixed incoMes Volume 15, Number 2 • 2013 U.S. Department of Housing and Urban Development | Office of Policy Development and ...»
This last point reflects the fact of weak belief in an underspecified policy theory (Knoepfel et al., 2007), despite adopting mixed tenure as a policy instrument. The interviews contained little evidence that practitioners believed in the social-interactive, behavioral effects of tenure mixing beyond, perhaps, some influence on property-maintenance behaviors. Policy documents at the national and local levels in the United Kingdom contain little if any specification as to how, or under what conditions, any of the various social-interactive mechanisms associated with mixed communities within neighborhoods (Galster, 2012) are meant to operate. This lacuna in policy guidance, including on
Cityscape 61Kearns, McKee, Sautkina, Weeks, and Bond
the role of mediating amenities and social venues and the possible importance of thresholds of mix (Galster, Quercia, and Cortes, 2000), has arguably left practitioners to focus on what they were familiar with, hoping at least for policy effects on housing and environmental quality and possibly also area reputation (for example, through housing market formation), if nothing more.
In effect, policy for these estates has turned out to be about the production of a static tenure mix, rather than the nurturing of dynamic social mixing (see Livingston, Kearns, and Bailey, forthcoming).
In addition, despite weaknesses in the policy process at all stages (Hill, 2005)—from problem identification, through policy formulation (including weaknesses in evidence and theory), to policy implementation—practitioners nonetheless subscribe to the mixed-tenure approach, believing that it has not done any harm even if it has not achieved all it might. They do not ask the counterfactual questions, “What would have happened in the absence of mixed tenure?” or “What else might we have done?” The belief that mixed tenure is “the only game in town” for social housing estates, irrespective of context, how it is delivered, and what types of mix are produced and with or without other supporting elements, indicates that it has achieved the position of orthodoxy in the critical terms set out by George Orwell (1949: 56):“Orthodoxy means not thinking—not needing to think.
Orthodoxy is unconsciousness.” To overcome this adoption of unconscious orthodoxy, policymakers and practitioners might need to change the lens through which they view social change brought about by tenure mix within social housing estates. The scale of focus is often too broad; that is, aggregate change at the estate level is not the same thing as neighborhood changes within the estate. In addition, the focus on tenure mix, although seemingly fundamental, does not equate to comprehensive improvement; that is, other key elements of the physical, social, and economic environment also need plans for transformational change. Even in relation to tenure mix, insufficient attention is given to outcomes of interest and mechanisms for neighborhood effects, right from policy formulation to implementation and evaluation.
Policymakers and practitioners would do well to question the easy adoption of policy trends and conventional wisdoms, remembering that although “process success” is valuable within policy communities it is not the same thing as “programme success” in the real world (McConnell, 2010).
The effects of mixed-tenure policies involve a great deal of context-related variability. To properly understand this variability, and to be able to tailor policy implementation accordingly, requires a greater acquisition and use of available evidence through systematic reviews of research findings and through consultations with and the use of expert panels. In this way, practitioners might be able to adjust orthodoxy to suit the circumstances in which it is to be pursued.
Acknowledgments The authors thank the staff in Development and Regeneration Services, Glasgow City Council, for assisting with this research. They also thank all the individuals who agreed to be interviewed. This research formed part of the GoWell research and learning program, a collaborative partnership among the Glasgow Centre for Population Health (GCPH), the University of Glasgow, and the UK Medical Research Council/Chief Scientist Office, Social and Public Health Sciences Unit. The Scottish Government, the Glasgow Housing Association, NHS Health Scotland, and NHS Greater Glasgow and Clyde sponsor GoWell, for which the authors are grateful.
Authors Ade Kearns is professor of urban studies in the School of Social and Political Sciences at the University of Glasgow, Glasgow, Scotland.
Martin McKee is a research assistant in the UK Medical Research Council/Chief Scientist Office, Social and Public Health Sciences Unit, Glasgow, Scotland.
Elena Sautkina is a research fellow in the Department of Social and Environmental Health Research at the London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine, London, England.
George Weeks is an urban designer at Transport for London, London, England.
Lyndal Bond is the principal research officer at the Centre for Excellence in Intervention and Prevention Science, Carlton, South Victoria, Australia.
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