Does the urban gentry help? A comparative study of the social consequences of gentrification for the daily lives of urban residents of mixed neighbourhoods, New Haven, United States and Rotterdam, the Netherlands, 1975-2000
01 / 1999 - 01 / 2004
Dutch urban policy increasingly embraces the idea of 'mixed neighbourhoods' in inner cities. Ethnically and economically mixed neighbourhoods are expected to be a way to combat segregation and supposedly related problems, such as poverty, unemployment, crime, decay of built environment. The advocates of mixed neighbourhood argue that the presence of upper- and middle-class people will contribute to the 'social capital' of the residents in the area. Therefore the residents will be better able to bring their problems to the notice of politicians and policy-makers. This will make it easier for the neighbourhood population to fight decay and neglect. The arrival of these better-off is a form of 'gentrification': the radical socio-economic upward shift of a centrally located city neighbourhood. This positive consequence of gentrification appeals to many. But we know very little about its occurence. Part of this gap in our knowledge is empirical. Does the presence of the better-off indeed change things? How do different groups of residents experience these changes? What variables cause or prevent the changes? Does the organisation of politics and the welfare state play a part, as the literature on gentrification suggests? Part of this gap may be caused by the absence of sociological theorising in the debate on gentrification. What does theory about collective action, physical proximity and social identifications of conflict, co-operation and trust teach us about the possible consequences? The central question hence is: what are the social consequences of gentrification for the residents in subsidised housing immediately adjacent to these gentrified areas and how can these consequences be understood? A number of hypotheses will be investigated. Social consequences of gentrification might vary according to housing policy, to the political system and to the level of segregation. To inquire these differences, two cases will be compared: the Heemraads square area in the inner city of Rotterdam, the Netherlands, and the Wooster square area in the inner city of New Haven, CT, USA. In addition to providing evidence of the consequences of gentrification this research will contribute to (a) sociological theories of physical proximity, collective action, and social cohesion; (b) comparative knowledge of the consequences of certain housing policies (and the larger welfare states in which these are embedded; (c) a way of doing research combining quantitative and qualitative data.