High density neighborhoods: Who enjoys them?

Michal Mitrany

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Mitrany, M. (1). High density neighborhoods: Who enjoys them?. GeoJournal, 64(2), 131–140. http://dx.doi.org/10.1007/S10708-005-4099-7

Gender and age , neighborhood high density , social relationships

To date, research into the subjective aspects of high density has focused mainly on the negative consequences of overcrowding. This study, in contrast, outlines some of the positive aspects of high density in neighborhoods, exploring the physical-spatial environment of two neighborhoods in the city of Haifa, Israel. It was found that while the relatively high residential density was similar in both neighborhoods (40 housing units per acre), this was more positively evaluated in one neighborhood as compared to the other. This can be attributed to some specific environmental and planning features. In particular, where physical planning enabled the potential advantages of high density to be realized, this was positively perceived and evaluated by local residents. Such advantages mainly comprised accessibility to a variety of services, more frequent public transportation, and access to open spaces within walking distance. Particularly advantageous were the increased opportunities for social gathering. At the same time, however, high density did not foster social relationships at the neighborhood level. The study further identified the gender and age groups that benefited most from the high density. Thus, women evaluated high density more positively than men. Young families with children and senior citizens (over 65) were also more likely to benefit, and to evaluate the high density environment more positively than other social groups.

Main finding
The author finds that well-designed public space and a diverse range of amenities are a crucial component of positive evaluations of high density neighborhoods. These factors were especially appreciated by parents, children, and elders who used open spaces frequently for socialization. People valued social interaction and security in dense neighborhoods, but complained of noise, parking shortages, lack of privacy, and unstable or diverse demographics. People were found to appreciate neighbors who held common values and interest, but did not expect to befriend them. Overall, density was evaluated more positively in public spaces and more negatively in residential spaces.

Description of method used in the article
The author relied on semi-structured interviews and a mapping activity (n = 210) to explore how people felt about their neighborhood, such as the services provided, roads and transportation, local population, density, and personal space.

Of practical use

Organising categories

Interviews Spatial Methods Survey
Physical types
Parks/Gardens Streets
Geographic locations