“Positive” Gentrification, Social Control and the “Right to the City” in Mixed-Income Communities: Uses and Expectations of Space and Place

Chaskin, R. J., & Joseph, M. L.

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Chaskin, R. J., & Joseph, M. L. (2013). “Positive” Gentrification, Social Control and the “Right to the City” in Mixed-Income Communities: Uses and Expectations of Space and Place. International Journal of Urban & Regional Research, 37(2), 480–502.

Public policies supporting market-oriented strategies to develop mixed-income communities have become ascendant in the United States and a number of other countries around the world. Although framed as addressing both market goals of revitalization and social goals of poverty deconcentration and inclusion, these efforts at 'positive gentrification' also generate a set of fundamental tensions - between integration and exclusion, use value and exchange value, appropriation and control, poverty and development - that play out in particular concrete ways on the ground. Drawing on social control theory and the 'right to the city' framework of Henri Lefebvre, this article interrogates these tensions as they become manifest in three mixed-income communities being developed to replace public housing complexes in Chicago, focusing particularly on responses to competing expectations regarding the use of space and appropriate normative behavior, and to the negotiation of these expectations in the context of arguments about safety, order, what constitutes 'public' space, and the nature and extent of rights to use that space in daily life.

Main finding
The authors findings focused on three dimensions of community tension around space and place: 1) crime, disorder, and safety, 2) behavioral expectations and cultural assumptions; considering them in relation to use and exchange values, and 3) how formal rules, rule enforcement and perceptions of fairness inform appropriations of space that generate or reproduce conflict. The latter challenges the notion that mixed-income promotes low-incomers’ social inclusion and their right to the city. The appropriation of space was done in two ways. First, the privatization of public space by development teams and HOA that reduced and redefined what counted as public, essentially privileging private space. And secondly, the limited resident access to and use of common areas not explicitly for social use - including places assumed to be public (low income folks noted this with rancor) - and a curtailing of “hanging out”.

Description of method used in the article
Methods included in-depth interviews, field observations, and a review of documentary data on three mixed-income developments that are part of the Chicago Homeowners Association (Oakwood Shores, Park Boulevard, and Westhaven Park). In total, 225 interviews were conducted with residents of different housing tenures randomly selected from developer occupancy list. There were two waves of data collections, 18 months apart, and 66 interviews with stakeholders. Interviews were semi-structured with open questions.

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