Social mix and the cities
The idea of balanced social mix, or creating communities with a blend of residents from different housing tenures and income levels, is of common concern for contemporary housing and planning policies in Australia, the UK and the US. In Australia, the state based Shelter organisations have run several workshops about the issue and in the UK the Office of the Deputy Prime Minister has recently released a consultation paper on ‘Planning for Mixed Communities’ (ODPM 2005). Internationally, social mix and the related issue of neighbourhood effects have been the subject of much debate, which is reflected in the flurry of articles and special editions of major international journals, including ‘Housing Studies’ (Vol 17, 1 & Vol 18, 6) and ‘Urban Studies’ (Vol 38, 12). This interest is by no means new as the concept of ‘social mix’ has informed Australian, British and US new town planning policy since the post second world war years. In general, this model of town planning anticipates benefits for disadvantaged residents of coexisting with homeowners and working residents, in balanced heterogenous communities. However, the importance placed on social mix has waxed and waned over time and the policy goals, expectations and meanings and values embedded in the concept of social mix have also varied. During the 1970s in Australia, for instance, the concept was tied to addressing poverty and achieving redistributive ideals and equity in the distribution of government resources and as a reaction against the development of mass public housing projects. At that time, social mix was thought to achieve better access to services for disadvantaged residents and also to build more stable communities.