Thesis defence A.L. Ouwehand: neighbourhoods

11 June 2018 15:00 - Location: Aula, TU Delft - By: webredactie

Menging maakt verschil. Hoe bewoners buurt- en wijkverandering ervaren en waarderen ondanks en dankzij herstructurering. Promotor 1: Prof.dr. P.J. Boelhouwer (Bk); Promotor 2: Prof.dr. W.G.J. Duyvendak (U-Amsterdam).

Social mix, a mixed population according to income and ethnicity, has been an important paradigm in urban development and housing and became the corner stone of renewal in post-war areas in the Netherlands in recent decades. In public as in academic debate, however, this concept has also been heavily criticized. The assumed positive effects of mixing for social cohesion and mobility would be limited or even negative.

In this doctoral dissertation the central research question is: How do residents with different ways of life perceive and assess their changed and changing neighbourhood? The study in the post-war residential district Zuidwijk in Rotterdam focusses on the change as the result of autonomous  moving processes in the existing social rental sector (the influx) as well as the result of demolition and new housing construction, often for owner-occupancy (the intervention).

In general the residents of Zuidwijk are positive about their dwelling and immediate vicinity. They have experienced their move to Zuidwijk as a step up in their housing career. All residents value the green character and quiet setting of Zuidwijk, but are critical about the (shooting) incidents that happened in the past. The perception of residents from all clusters, be they Dutch natives or not, is that the influx in the existing social rental dwellings mainly, some even say totally, consists of households with a migrant background. The influx of mainly allochthonous households is seen as a problem by all residents. Dutch-native residents emphasize the negative effects on liveability and neighbourhood reputation and regret the loss of decorum and respectability. The allochthonous households emphasize the negative effects on integration and want to live in a mixed neighbourhood with Dutch native residents.

In general the residents are positive about the impact of the social mix strategy: demolition and new housing development. Exceptions are found with the households of older allochthonous residents and allochthonous single-parent families. People in both groups have a low income and state that the new-built dwellings are not meant for them. Ethnic diversity is not seen as a problem in the population composition of the new-built houses for owner-occupiers. These residents have to work to be able to buy a dwelling and by doing so they ‘prove’ to be decent and respectable.

Mixing makes a difference: it is important that the influx in the social rental dwellings not only exists of households with a migration background and a low income. Throughout the history of restructuring in Zuidwijk, the dominant narrative has been that the newcomers (meaning households with a migration background) did not have ties with the neighbourhood and only came there to obtain a cheap rental dwelling. This study disproves this narrative: a large number of them have come to live in Zuidwijk as youngsters and have grown up there. They identify themselves very strongly with Zuidwijk and, after a number of removals with their families, have rented or purchased a dwelling on their own.

Ethnic diversity will become more normal while more and more allochthonous residents will grow up in the neighbourhood. The growing presence of allochthonous middle-class households in the new built houses may reinforce that. On the other hand the tensions and problems in the neighbourhood are heightened by the polarized national political debate about integration. The municipality and housing association do have an important role in acting adequately to signals and complaints of residents and supporting mutual contact of residents, but the austerity of the housing association and municipality in recent years has decreased the possibilities in this regard. 

More information?

For access to theses by the PhD students you can have a look in TU Delft Repository, the digital storage of publications of TU Delft. Theses will be available within a few weeks after the actual thesis defence.