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The Contribution of Housing, Planning and Regeneration Policies to Mixed Communities in Scotland

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2 Background, Context and Methods

2.1 Although the term "mixed communities" has been current in policy and research for some time, the study confirmed that it remains a somewhat ambiguous term with no single definition. Indeed, several respondents explicitly stated that they would like to have clearer shared definitions available. For this research, "mixed communities" was taken to mean the mixture of households with different social and economic characteristics within residential areas. Characteristics which might be mixed include household composition, presence of children, age and ethnicity. It is however the mixing of households with different incomes which has been of special policy interest. The primary focus of this study is therefore on housing, planning and regeneration activities which seek to avoid spatial polarisation of wealth and poverty, and particularly the concentration of deprived households in particular places.

2.2 Wanting to have mix, not segregation, of household types and incomes can flow from an ethical view of what residential areas in a 'good' society are like. This has clear links to the national aspiration of creating strong, inclusive communities. Interest in income mix also stems more practically from problems which have emerged in areas which house a high proportion of deprived and low-income households. Some neighbourhoods, most of which were first developed as public housing estates in cities, have in recent decades suffered not only physical decay but social problems. Some working in regeneration feel able to say that this or that estate has 'failed'. If living in a 'failed' neighbourhood with many other deprived households affects residents' outcomes, that runs contrary to the national aspiration to tackle inequalities. And, if the decline of such neighbourhoods necessitates repeated policy interventions, it undermines the target to create sustainable places. The belief that areas with high concentrations of deprivation are more vulnerable to stress and decline than more mixed areas explains the particular attention to income mix, and hence to tenure mix in policy.

2.3 This report acknowledges that the benefits of mixed-income communities are disputed. The research did not try to evaluate whether mixed communities are the most effective or efficient way to secure specific social policy objectives. Statements in this report that some approach or policy may promote mixed communities should not be taken as suggesting that it is therefore necessarily a desirable policy to pursue. Several recent reports have summarised the policy questions and the history of interventions in the UK1. A wider review of the UK evidence on mixed tenure has been undertaken as part of the GoWell research programme. This involved a critical review of past reviews and syntheses of mixed tenure research 2 and a systematic review of primary and secondary research on mixed tenure in the UK.

Which policies might contribute to mixed communities?

2.4 There is no specific "mixed communities" policy in Scotland. Mixed communities are relevant to a wide spectrum of housing, planning and regeneration activities. Some of these are national policies, such as the allocation of public funds to build new housing or carry out physical regeneration. Some are powers which local authorities have discretion to use, such as the granting of planning permission. The national government issues guidance and recommendations to local authorities, but outcomes are also determined by the activities of non-state actors such as private developers and registered social landlords ( RSLs), as well as by the preferences of households and individuals. The state does not tell people where to live, or housebuilders what they ought to build. Powers to permit development are reserved by the state, but with the presumption that these powers are used for fairly narrow planning ends, such as preventing nuisance and eye-sores, and ensuring public goods like effective transport are provided.

2.5 Given this, producing a complete list of policies and legislation and then assessing each one's contribution to mixed communities is not straightforward. Instead, to understand the part played by different government activities, one might start by looking at the current national position in housing and deprivation, and then thinking of the general kinds of policies and practices that seek to alter this position locally. One key feature is that during the past quarter-century, there has been substantial change in the overall mix of housing tenure (see Chart 2.1). The social rented sector has decreased considerably in size, largely in favour of owner-occupation.

Chart 2.1 Housing tenure in Scotland 1984-2008

Chart 2.1 Housing tenure in Scotland 1984-2008

Multiple sources: GROS; Census; Scottish Household Survey. Figures before 2001 are not directly
comparable with later figures.

2.6 This has come about through sitting tenants exercising their right to buy local authority homes, and through selective demolition of unfit and hard-to-let stock. These have affected some kinds of dwellings, some neighbourhoods, and some regions, much more than others. One implication of the reduction in the social sector's size is that it has increasingly come to house mainly households that are income-poor or otherwise deprived. Spatial concentrations of deprived households and people have thus become closely tied to spatial concentrations of social housing. Social rented housing is the majority tenure in the 10% most deprived areas, and is the commonest tenure in the next 10% (see Chart 2.2) 3.

Chart 2.2 Housing tenure by deprivation deciles

Chart 2.2 Housing tenure by deprivation deciles

Source: Scottish Household Survey 2007, using SIMD 2004

2.7 Given this strong link between housing tenure and deprivation, we can identify a set of types of housing, planning and regeneration policies which might lead to communities with a greater mix of incomes. Firstly, there are people-based policies which aim to change people's circumstances so that, for example, some households within an area are no longer deprived. If those households do not move, deprivation rates will fall. Secondly, there are policies which seek directly to enable or encourage movement of people so that more mixed communities are fostered. If non-deprived households move in number into low-income areas, local deprivation rates will fall, although the national incidence of deprivation will not. Thirdly, there are policies which change the housing mix in neighbourhoods, providing new housing which will attract residents who will make it a more mixed community. Further, using a fairly crude distinction, policies might be aimed at deprived areas, where the intention is to reduce the proportion of deprived households, or at better-off areas where the intention is increase the proportion of deprived people. Table 2.1 summarises this way of categorising mixed communities policies, with examples of relevant activity in Scotland.

Table 2.1 Types of housing, planning and regeneration activities that might contribute to mixed communities; examples in square brackets are social processes rather than policies

People-based policies

Influencing population movement

Changing housing

Aimed at deprived areas

  • Person-based regeneration
  • [upward social mobility]
  • [gentrification]
  • Housing-led estate regeneration
  • Estate-based low-cost home ownership schemes

Aimed at non-deprived areas

  • [downward social mobility]
  • Strategic use of housing benefit in private rented sector
  • Some new affordable housing investment
  • Section 75 contributions
  • Some intermediate housing schemes

2.8 With this overview in mind, we can look at each of the policy areas and consider what specific policies and practices might be relevant to achieving mixed communities.

Housing

2.9 Housing policies are taken to be needed where the market fails to provide adequate housing at an affordable cost. Therefore, they include a number of activities relevant to mixed communities, including housing investment, social housing allocations, and personal subsidies for housing. Local Housing Strategy Guidance for Local Authorities suggests taking account of the principles of creating mixed communities as a means of guarding the sustainability of their stock and preventing concentrations of deprivation. This must be set against the imperative that funds be used as efficiently as possible to provide housing for those in need. Practically, it is much more expensive to build social housing in the most affluent areas, because land is, on average, more expensive there. Data on affordable housing investment are analysed in detail in Chapter 3. Investment has also been made in various forms of intermediate housing, which is more lightly subsidised, and aimed at different beneficiaries; the spatial distribution of intermediate housing may bear on mixed communities.

2.10 There are existing policies on the allocation of social housing which prescribe that it is done solely on the basis of need. It is important to monitor whether or not this means that in practice the most disadvantaged households are most likely to get tenancies in the most deprived areas; this is done in Chapter 3 using SCORE data on allocations to homeless households. Personal housing subsidies such as Housing Benefit may contribute to mixed communities if they enable people to continue to live somewhere they would not otherwise be able to afford. The role of Housing Benefit has not been examined in detail for this paper; there is scope to look further at its role in mixed communities in future research.

Planning

2.11 Planning policies have become increasingly important in the delivery of new social housing. Local authorities are empowered to seek on-site provision of affordable housing as a condition of granting permission for private development. Provision can be secured through a legal agreement made under Section 75 of the planning act. The guidance in the former SPP3 guidance (now part of the Scottish Planning Policy document) provides an overall framework for this, advising that "the benchmark figure is that each site should contribute 25% of the total number of housing units as affordable housing". Depending on how local authorities choose to implement Section 75, it may contribute to mixed communities by creating new mixed-tenure neighbourhoods. This paper includes detailed analysis of how Section 75 policies are working at present.

2.12 More broadly, national policies give local authorities powers to guide development through their local development plans and associated guidance. Local plans cannot prescribe tenure, but can contribute to broad mixed communities objectives. For example, local planning policies may require a mix of dwelling types which is suitable for different household types and sizes. In this way, planning policy can encourage housing development which can accommodate a community that includes households at different stages in the life course. National and local planning policies also play the central role in promoting mixed-use and sustainable development, which, as discussed in the next section, are concepts closely related to mixed communities.

Regeneration

2.13 Following the observation above that one way to create more mixed communities is to improve the circumstances of deprived people in deprived areas; there are major national streams of people-based regeneration funding. The Fairer Scotland Fund is much the largest of these. It is used by local authorities and their partners to carry out regeneration projects, with an increasing emphasis on employment-related work. As part of the Concordat between national and local government in Scotland, the ring fence associated with the Fairer Scotland Fund ended in March 2010, with the sums allocated to local authority areas rolled up within general settlements to local government from 2010/11. An investigation of the role of the Fund was not possible in this research. However, given that its allocation is expected to have regard to deprivation measures like the SIMD, positive outcomes from funded interventions should contribute to mixed communities objectives. The links between housing and deprivation are explicitly recognised by the smaller, though still substantial, Wider Role funding available to RSLs.

2.14 In practice, regeneration practitioners deploy a range of funding sources and approaches in accordance with locally specific needs and opportunities. There are national funding sources for physical regeneration, such as the Town Centre Regeneration Fund and the Vacant and Derelict Land Fund. One question is whether local authorities are able to use these funds strategically to support holistic regeneration of deprived areas that leads to mixed communities. Similarly, bending of mainstream funding, for health or education for example, may be desirable to assist local regeneration. Lastly, the inclusion of new private housing within the regeneration of deprived social housing areas may provide funding by cross-subsidy as well as leading to the creation of mixed-tenure and mixed-income neighbourhoods. Important questions here include both how much can be achieved by such cross-subsidy, and whether the national policy environment facilitates this kind of approach. Unfortunately this kind of complex regeneration activity is not easily summarised in numeric data, and the study could look at only a small number of examples. The findings in relation to complex, long-term area regeneration projects should be seen as tentative.

Related concepts

2.15 As noted above, "mixed communities" do not have a definite and commonly accepted definition, and it is thus worth commenting on two related terms. " Mixed use" is considered to be an adjunct but distinct concept which addresses spatial patterns of land use. It describes an organisation of uses where, for example, employment, commercial and residential uses are located in the same space, or nearby enough to enable easy movement between them. Its opposite is segregation of uses into distinct zones between which movement takes some time. Mixed use was not addressed in this study for two reasons. Firstly, mixed-use development in Scotland has been researched and reported thoroughly in other recent work 4. Secondly, it relates foremost to built form and the mix of legally designated uses, whereas mixed communities relates to people and housing tenure. The two, of course, intersect when one thinks about how people interact with the built environment, and how built form supports or discourages different kinds of interaction among people. This is important given that control of the built environment is one of the few levers available to planning policy to influence individual behaviour.

2.16 " Sustainable communities" is another related concept, broader and perhaps even more nebulous than mixed communities. Mixed communities may be seen as socially sustainable in that it is thought that they do not need repeated interventions for regeneration and renewal. Sustainable development however also addresses immediate and long-term ecological impact, environmental quality and adaptability. A series of demonstration projects have recently been brought together under the umbrella of the Scottish Sustainable Communities Initiative ( SSCI). This will provide clearer definitions and examples for policy and practice in Scotland. This may include lessons for mixed communities, and some of the projects examined for this study are also part of the SSCI.

2.17 Lastly, in common parlance, as opposed to policy terminology, " community" is understood to mean not only the people who live in a place, but also some degree of interaction, solidarity or identification amongst them. Similarly, promoting mixed communities is sometimes taken to mean not only promoting greater mix in the composition of neighbourhoods, but also encouraging social interaction among people of different social class, age, ethnicity and so on. This kind of interaction is hard for state intervention to promote directly, although, as noted, shaping the public realm by planning policy is one tool. Education policies on the allocation of school places may be important indirectly, as, more directly, may be programmes for "community development" or "cohesion". However, these latter all fall outside the scope of this study.

Research methods

2.18 The research was carried out under Communities Analytical Services' framework agreement with the Centre for Housing and Planning Research at the University of Cambridge in November and December 2009. The starting point was a position paper, produced by the "Creating Places" team in the Regeneration Division, and a round-table discussion with national policy leads on housing investment and management, planning and architecture and regeneration. This suggested that whilst higher profile initiatives such as the SSCI were well known and well described, less was known about how the everyday operation of mainstream policies, some with large monetary value, might be contributing to mixed communities. Detailed follow-up telephone interviews were carried out with 13 local practitioners in housing, planning and regeneration across Scotland, mostly in urban and mixed urban/rural authorities. Further phone interviews were carried out with a small number of selected national policy leads and analysts. Centrally collated statistical sources were reviewed for their potential to serve as evidence on policy contributions to mixed communities. With the assistance of Scottish Government statisticians, original analysis was done using these sources to address specific questions.

2.19 The study was intended as a rapid survey of a broad area. Whilst efforts were made to contact practitioners working in different parts of the country and in different types of organisation, the number of interviews was small and they were not systematically selected to be representative of the national picture. The findings in this report should thus be considered indicative rather than final.