Ekspert i omdannelsen af udsatte boligområder: “There are many, many ways social workers can help promote and sustain mixed-income communities.”
CFBU arrangerer i samarbejde med Statens Byggeforskningsinstitut konferencen ’Boligdag’, som afvikles den 6. november på Aalborg Universitet i København. Til konferencen giver en række forskere og eksperter indspark til udviklingen og omdannelsen af udsatte boligområder.
En af oplægsholderne er associeret professor ved Case Western Reserve University i Ohio, Mark Joseph, som vil give en præsentation af sine forskningsresultater, der omfatter 15 års forskning i udsatte boligområder og betydningen af beboernes sociale mix.
Som en lille opvarmning til konferencen giver Mark Joseph her et interview om sin forskning.
What initiated your interest in the field of social housing and mixed income development?
- I have been interested in the power of place-based community development as an anti-poverty strategy ever since my summer jobs in university working with young people in social housing. In the early 1990s, I was running a youth enrichment program in a social housing development in Atlanta, Georgia that became one of the United States’ first mixed-income developments under the federal government’s HOPE VI program. I got to see first-hand the anxiety experienced by the families and youth I was working with – wondering what this meant for their future. That planted a seed of curiosity and commitment in me to understand the outcomes of mixed-income development. In 2004, when I was awarded a post-doctoral scholarship at the University of Chicago School of Social Work, I decided to focus my research on mixed-income development.
What are the benefits from working towards a social mixed neighborhood?
- There are many possible benefits to promoting social mixed neighborhoods, including:
1) By increasing the income mix in a neighborhood, this will bring stability and attract market investment that will raise the quality of amenities and resources in the neighborhood, which all can enjoy.
2) An income and social mix will bring people of different backgrounds into closer proximity with each other and, if well-managed, can help bridge social divides.
3) Being around people of different incomes and social backgrounds can increase social networks and social capital leading to positive connections and opportunities.
4) Creating social mixed neighborhoods can help demonstrate the economic and social vitality of diversity and build support for a greater societal commitment to diversity in our neighborhoods, schools and workplaces.
5) A positive experience of interactions with people who are different can help change our mental models and stereotypes and influence individual and professional decision-making.
Are there any pitfalls to avoid when using the mixing of income groups as a fundamental part of developing disadvantaged neighborhoods?
Absolutely, there are many pitfalls to avoid. Failing to meaningfully include the existing community members in the planning and design of community development. Generating displacement – both physical and cultural – of the existing population as a new population moves in. Reinforcing stereotypes and stigma about people of lower incomes or racial and cultural minorities. Creating buildings that are segregated and easily distinguishable as high income or low income. Failing to create gathering places and local amenities that are welcoming of all residents. Shifting power and influence from the original residents to the incoming residents rather than cultivating shared voice and decision-making. Failing to promote positive youth development, with youth as leaders and contributors, instead stigmatizing youth as a nuisance. Failing to incorporating economic mobility strategies alongside the housing development strategies.
Your research shows that mixed income strategies has failed to achieve social cohesion and economic mobility. Why is that?
In the United States and in mixed-income efforts around the world, we are learning the complexity of the social dynamics in socially and economically integrated communities. Human nature is to group with others like ourselves and distrust those who are different. In many cases the roles and processes in mixed-income developments have reinforced social stigma and separation. In the U.S. the realities of racial discrimination and marginalization are a major factor. We believe that social cohesion is absolutely possible in mixed-income developments, it just takes a high degree of intentionality and cultivation through formal and informal strategies. As for economic mobility, we’ve learned that high quality, stable housing is necessary but not sufficient to promote a sustained and meaningful change in an individual’s economic trajectory. It requires strategies to support change at the individual, social and structural levels: a mindset and skills for work, the social support to seek and sustain work and access to employment and advancement in jobs that pay a living wage.
How would you recommend social workers to contribute in the process of working towards a mixed-income community?
There are many, many ways social workers can help promote and sustain mixed-income communities. The first step is to become educated about the rationale for these communities and the past history of these efforts. Do some self-reflection about your own beliefs and stereotypes. Next develop a clear vision for the best possibilities. Then advocate for great inclusion in all communities. Determine a professional role that could support mixed-income implementation, for example: planning, housing development, resident services, property management, community building, education and youth strategies, health and wellness strategies, or evaluation and learning. All of these are critical functions that social workers can play.
Can you give an example of where a mixed-income strategy has succeeded and created a better community?
I would say none have yet succeeded completely, but many are making promising progress. The HOPE SF initiative in San Francisco has a deep commitment to racial equity and inclusion. The Yesler Terrace development in Seattle is the country’s largest mixed-income development and has a strong community building commitment. The Regent Park development in Toronto is the world’s largest mixed-income development and has fantastic community amenities. The Mariposa development in Denver is one of the most gorgeous mixed-income physical transformations. The Eastlake development in Atlanta has a highly successful school and youth strategy.