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COMPETING IDEAS OF SOCIAL JUSTICE AND SPACE Locating Critiques of Housing Renewal in Theory and Practice Ed Ferrari, University of Sheffield 2012 HSA conference.

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Presentation on theme: "COMPETING IDEAS OF SOCIAL JUSTICE AND SPACE Locating Critiques of Housing Renewal in Theory and Practice Ed Ferrari, University of Sheffield 2012 HSA conference."— Presentation transcript:

1 COMPETING IDEAS OF SOCIAL JUSTICE AND SPACE Locating Critiques of Housing Renewal in Theory and Practice Ed Ferrari, University of Sheffield 2012 HSA conference University of York 19 April 2012

2 Outline Introduction – Housing Market Renewal (HMR) – Two ‘classic’ formulations of social justice Conceptualising socio-spatial justice Locating critiques of HMR – Gentrification – Demolition Towards an evaluation Conclusions

3 Housing Market Renewal One of the most controversial regeneration programmes in recent English urban policy Confirmed in 2003 Sustainable Communities plan £2.2 billion over Nine, later 10, ‘Pathfinders’ – North & Midlands Market focus: problematised market conditions, not housing or neighbourhood conditions per se Demolition of some 31,000 homes

4 Criticisms of HMR Residents, academics, media commentators as well as the programme’s protagonists have all criticised aspects of HMR – Over-emphasis on demolition – Devalorisation of built heritage – Commodification of housing & ‘space of neighbourhood positions’ (Allen 2008) – Epistemological claims of protagonists (Webb 2010) These are over and above ‘normal’ programmatic criticisms (VFM, management, transparency, etc.)

5 (At least) two critiques… (I)The gentrification critique (Slater, Cameron, Allen…) – HMR as (state led) gentrification – A revanchist analysis – Demolition, as part of this, is destructive and serves remote interests (II) The epistemology critique (Allen, Imrie, Webb…) – Self-interested policymaking – Partial claims to knowledge – Opaque, biased research This paper is concerned with (1)

6 Socio-spatial justice Two ‘classic’ formulations of social justice relating to local territories – Deontologist: concerned with fairness of process – Consequentialist: concerned with fairness of outcomes. (Distributional justice.) In evaluations of housing renewal policies, a more assertively spatial definition of social justice is warranted: – Processes and outcomes bound together in a ‘sociospatial dialectic’ (Soja 1983)

7 Multiscalar geography of justice The justness of both process and outcomes can be seen as operating within a complex, multi- scalar space: – Whether something is just or not crucially depends on the scale of: the conceptualisations of what a policy is trying to achieve the acts and purviews of policies our observations of processes and outcomes Jessop et al’s (2008) ‘sociospatial dialectic’ is used as a frame to look at the relationship between: – formulations of justice – geographic scales of acts, conceptualisations

8 CONCEPTUALISING SOCIOSPATIAL JUSTICE

9 Regeneration policy Analogy between the justice problem and the challenges of regeneration policy design :Distinction between place based policies and people based policies (Dabinett et al 2001; Griggs et al 2008) Place based policies: – being worse off because of where you live is unfair (Turok 2004) – Spatial concentrations/neighbourhood effects compound disadvantage (Atkinson & Kintrea 2002) People based policies: – Spatial inequalities simply reflect deeper processes The geographies of people & place based conceptualisations of poverty differ markedly (Powell et al 2001)

10 Searching for deeper causes Harvey’s (1973) liberal formulation – “the just distribution justly arrived at” - fuses both outcome and process perspectives, but raises problems In seeking balanced outcomes, for example, the rights of individuals may be subjugated: regeneration’s “social justice dilemma” (Lupton & Tunstall 2008) Most policies seek to address inequalities that are explicitly spatially manifest, and is particularly detectable in sociological studies of racial inequality But most followers of Marx & Harvey emphasise historical context and process – not space - as the key factors as they seek deeper causes and systemic solutions This generally downplays the potential of planning, regeneration and other interventions that, for practical purposes, are spatially bounded

11 The action/inaction tension Of course, spatial conceptualisations have other problems: what’s in the public interest? Should we act (in a local sense) or fight the system? Campbell & Marshall (2002) points to the limits of both process and outcome in evaluating the public interest They call for a pragmatic recognition of the need for state intervention, partly to remedy injustices that are outcomes of imperfect systems

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13 Jessop et al’s (2008) ‘Structure Field’ framework There have been various ‘spatial turns’, each privileging a type of spatiality within the policy analysis process – T:Territory – P: Place – S:Scale – N:Network What’s needed is a way of understanding how these different forms interact

14 Structuring principles Fields of operation TerritoryPlaceScaleNetwork Territory Housing market restructuring, ‘balanced markets’ argument; demolition of ‘low demand’ housing Place competitiveness, gentrification and ‘space of positions’ arguments; demolition of ‘obsolescent’ housing Multilevel planning frameworks, e.g., RSS, subregional housing strategies, SHMAs Strategic multi-area partnerships, HMR Pathfinder boards Place Housing and neighbourhood design codes, ‘place making’ arguments Refurbishment, ‘housing as being’ arguments, demolition of housing in poor condition, heritage arguments from within Representations of place and identity; histories of scale, ‘heritage’ arguments from afar Neighbourhood/ multi-agency partnerships; ‘place marketing’ or ‘branding’ arguments; Neighbourhood Renewal Scale City-regional economic development strategies, economic ‘rescaling’ arguments, ‘New Urban Politics’ Changing urban structure (changing jobs-homes balance); ‘rescaling’ of neighbourhood functions and social networks NetworkRegional labour market connectivity, polycentric regional economies, transport networks, ‘connectivity’ arguments Neighbourhood connectivity: ‘urban renaissance trickle- down’ arguments

15 Implications for an evaluation Need for a nuanced understanding of the ‘multi-scalar geographies’ of regeneration policy and intervention The harms that demolition visits on residents and places need to be very carefully weighed against the ‘harms’ of inaction in the ‘place’ when set in the context of territories, networks, and the rescaling of economic and social milieus Finding a just balance here is non-trivial But it is essential lest we fall into two traps: – The “local trap” (Purcell 2006): we only seek answers at the micro level, missing the wider prevailing headwinds – The inaction trap: the logical extension of neo-Marxist analyses where our struggle against the system paralyses us at the local level: facing up to pragmatic realities about the space of positions that households and houses occupy whether they choose to or not

16 Conclusion The pragmatic answer is that action/intervention can be justified, but there are difficult questions of definition which call for balanced debate – ‘the public interest’ (whose public interest?) (see eg Campbell & Marshall 2002, Porter) – Balance between process and outcomes in the evaluation of justice It is difficult without addressing these to conclude definitively that HMR is/was an ‘unjust’ policy

17 “Justice and injustice are infused into the multiscalar geographies in which we live, from the intimacies of the household to the uneven development of the global economy” Edward W Soja (2010) Seeking Spatial Justice


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