Tuesday, 17 January 2017

Local Regeneration in the UK, Work-Based Learning and the Green Global Golden Age

Geography plays an important role is shaping people’s access to work. For example, the mean distance between low-skilled workers’ homes and low-skilled job opportunities is often high. Labour geographers and economists call this spatial mismatch and it has been widely documented in both North American and European contexts (Kain 1968; McLafferty and Preston 1996, Korsu and Wenglenski 2009). There are several reasons for spatial mismatch. In many modern cities low-skilled workers are concentrated in areas furthest from the main employment centres. This is one of the downsides to the planning logic of the scheme, estate, banlieue and project. Poor public transport links and limited access to private vehicles exacerbate this problem (Green et al 2004, Korsu and Wenglenski 2009). Moreover, Kasarda and Ting (1996) have argued that spatial mismatch may compound skills mismatch as people with limited education compete for the low-skilled jobs within their neighbourhoods. This situation could become more critical with technological advances in automation that will render the human labour needed in many contemporary low-skilled jobs obsolete. Spatial mismatch raises a complex set of societal problems as it disables significant numbers of workers from fully engaging in the labour market.

For the most part the spatial mismatch thesis concentrates on issues of ‘real’ Euclidean space: the problem being one of distances between locations – i.e. home and work – and limited access to public and financial services that would allow under-serviced people to defeat this ‘tyranny of distance’. However, this Euclidean perspective, although useful as a means of mapping labour market behaviour, does not tell the full story.  Green et al (2004) following on from the work of Peck (1996) and Morrison (2005) remind us that labour markets are institutional and social constructs “shaped by lived traditions within localities” (Green et al 2004: 302). As such, labour market experiences differ greatly between various sub-groups within the working population. This leads us to think in terms of social and cultural mismatches in the labour market. Van Ham et al (2000) argue that during a lifetime, people build up place-specific social capital such as contacts with family and friends upon which they rely for support. Many people are, unsurprisingly, averse to moving too far from these support hubs. Gender, race and religion also play into an unwillingness by people to search for work in locations deemed too far from their social-cultural support hubs. For example, research shows that men and woman differ in their commuting tolerance, with women more likely to be time constrained due to domestic responsibilities and therefore less likely to tolerate longer commuting times (Gordon et al 1989, Johnston-Anumonwo 1992). Wrench and Qureshi (1996)* have highlighted restricted job-search geographies for black and minority ethnic groups worried about being subjected to racial discrimination. Work by Green et al (2004) concentrates on young job-seekers in Belfast who speak about the risks of working in or moving through an area of the ‘opposite community’.

There are other obvious and less provocative reasons for many people being unwilling to expand their job-search horizons too far beyond their neighbourhoods. We invest a lot of emotion in the place we call home. We know its streets, its back alleys, its courts. We have spent significant amounts of time pondering over the sorry state of the children’s swing park or marvelling at the straight lines of Mr Kelly’s lawn. The local pub puts on really good quiz nights and Sandra from the local café makes a rare lentil soup. We should not make light of these emotional investments in place. Environmental quality, local facilities and social connections are important indicators of well-being and, alongside access to secure and suitable work, rank high in well-being indicator frameworks used by Oxfam and the OECD for example.

A sad irony of spatial mismatch is that within those neighbourhoods where large concentrations of low-skilled workers reside there is often much work to be done. This might include improving the environmental quality of public spaces, building new or retrofitting old public buildings such as libraries and community centres as well as residential properties. It will also certainly involve a significant amount of social care expertise as these communities, like others across the UK, become markedly older in the coming years.  

I recently watched a short film about the Newbiggen Hall Estate in Newcastle. The film is part of Jeremy Corbyn’s social media campaign strategy. Putting aside my personal views on Corbyn and the Labour Party (sympathetic but unconvinced) there was much within this short film that speaks directly to the sad irony of spatial mismatch in the UK labour market. The narrator, a local woman called Fiona Ranson, speaks about her life growing up on the estate. With an emphasis on the local library and education more broadly, she tells us that the estate was a “vibrant” place where local people made full use of the library and other public services. Nowadays the estate looks, in large part, semi-derelict and the library is no more. With an implicit connection made between locality, education and jobs, Fiona then begins to speak of the need for “a vocational education system that is second to none. That has parity with the academic stream”, which is “well-funded” and “challenging”.

There is growing international support, at both policy and academic levels, for significant change in approaches taken to education and skills development. For example, a recent white paper by the World Economic Forum criticises ‘static’ education systems as largely inadequate for addressing profound shifts in the global labour market being brought about by technological advances in information and operation technologies. In similar vein, the Institute for Public Policy Research (IPPR) in the UK echoes calls to meet the skills challenges of technological change, and highlights the equally daunting task of addressing the impact of demographic change on the future labour market, where substantial gaps in skills and experience will begin to emerge as increasing numbers of people retire from the workforce. A key point of consensus within this literature is the need for more Work-Based Learning (WBL) opportunities for citizens at all stages of their learning/working journey.

WBL has also come under some strong criticism. Forward (2008: 7) argues it consigns, in particular, “young workers to a narrow and instrumental training and working life”. Avis (2014), sees some forms of WBL as retrospective in nature, tied to and normalising the inequalities inherent in the capitalist system of production and as such weighted to the self-serving wants of many employers. More progressive approaches to WBL exist however, and these are gaining traction in contemporary literatures on skills development and education more broadly. In these more progressive models, learner experiences of the workplace are central. Here WBL becomes a more bespoke programme of learning, which in its design, implementation and assessment takes into account prior learning and place-specific experiential learning. In these more integrated models the development of the learner/worker over the long term is understood as beneficial to the labour market.

Another key point of consensus in this literature is the need for a multi-stakeholder approach to the development of WBL models that brings together employers, unions and others in pursuit of a fit, fair and productive skills strategy. Key to the potential achievement of a functioning multi-stakeholder approach in the UK have been reforms within the skills system aimed at creating a more regional approach, by linking schools and colleges with employers, regional development agencies and other regional bodies. Given the above discussion on spatial mismatch in the labour market, this regional turn is a welcome one. However, policy-makers in this area must now go further, by giving greater priority to locales hit hardest by underemployment and then creating in these areas more local training opportunities that meet the high educational standards promoted by protagonists of progressive WBL models.

One potentially promising avenue for local skills training is in the green economy. Evolutionary economist Carlotta Perez (2016: 201) writes “green growth should be seen as a ‘mission-orientated’ pathway to promote a major switch in production patterns and lifestyles, creating new sources of employment and well-being”.  I have already mentioned retrofitting existing public and residential buildings to make them energy efficient as one example of potential work in the green economy. There is also a need to build new high quality, affordable, green housing. Another area of possible job creation is urban agriculture, in the form of commercial city farms and market gardens. These green ideas have been with us for some time but, like Perez (ibid: 202), I do think we are now witnessing a cultural shift in consumer demand away from “standardised mass consumption to one that is custom-tailored and sustainable”. This cultural shift is being pushed along by technological change in ICT, which is enabling organisational innovation across the production spectrum. One result of this shift is an emerging spatial clustering of interdependent users and producers. This is particularly exciting when we consider the locality of, at present, service and job deprived housing estates, which are ideally positioned to accommodate the growing number of SME’s required to fuel a green urban economy. And many of the residents are ready to be (re)skilled so that we all might benefit from the opportunities offered by a “Green Global Golden Age” (ibid).        

*WRENCH, J. and QURESHI, T. (1996) Higher horizons: a qualitative study of young men of Bangladeshi origin. Department for Education and Employment Research Series 30. London: Stationery Office.

Dr John Crossan
University of Strathclyde

Monday, 14 November 2016

Public Support for Hosting the Olympic Summer Games in Germany: The CVM Approach

Pamela Wicker, German Sport University Cologne, Germany

John C. Whitehead, Appalachian State University, USA

Daniel S. Mason, University of Alberta, Canada

Bruce K. Johnson, Centre College, USA


Many scholars have asked whether Olympic Games hosts get an economic boost, and virtually all of them conclude with a resounding “No!” The new jobs and tax revenues touted by Olympic boosters invariably overstate the actual economic impact. Perhaps that’s why the people of Boston, Munich, and Hamburg have refused to bid for future Olympics in recent years. But on the days when London and Rio de Janeiro learned they would host the Summer Games, Trafalgar Square and Copacabana Beach erupted in massive celebratory parties. How can we square the different reactions in Boston, Munich, and Hamburg with those in London and Rio?

Maybe it’s because new jobs and tax revenues are not the only benefits of hosting the Olympic Games. Maybe intangible benefits, such as hometown pride and national prestige, make people feel better off even if it’s costly.

Our article attempts to answer the question by estimating the value of intangible benefits Germans would expect to enjoy if they hosted the 2024 Summer Olympic Games. In a nation-wide internet survey in late 2013 and early 2014, we asked Germans to imagine they would vote in a hypothetical referendum to raise their own taxes to finance hosting the Olympics in Germany. We asked them how likely they would be willing to vote in favor of higher taxes at seven different tax amounts from €10 to €250. We also asked a series of questions about the intangible benefits, if any, they would enjoy from hosting the Olympics.

This type of survey, borrowed from environmental economics, is known as the Contingent Valuation Method (CVM). It allows us to estimate the monetary value of intangible goods, for which no markets exist. But instead of asking about clean water or scenic vistas, we asked about the national prestige from hosting the Olympics.

In the weighted sample, 26 percent said they were willing to vote in favor of an average of €51 in higher taxes. But willingness to pay varied widely across regions. Around Cologne, Olympic supporters were willing to pay an average of €100, whereas those in Lower Saxony would only pay about €31. The wide variance in regional willingness to pay may prove useful in planning future referenda on hosting the Games. Overall aggregate willingness to pay exceeded €46 billion, far higher than the likely cost of hosting the 2024 Hamburg Olympics. 

Willingness to pay hinged upon several factors. People who regularly play sports, are happy and proud to see German athletes win, and who believe Germany’s reputation is enhanced by German sporting successes are more likely to support higher taxes. But it wasn’t all about sports. Respondents who believed referendums are an appropriate mechanism for such decisions, who think the government can effectively achieve its sports policy goals, and who think these survey results can influence government policy are also more likely to support higher taxes to host the Olympics.

If all this sounds enticing, read our article in Urban Studies. For CVM geeks, we have another reason you might be interested in the article. This paper shows that CVM doesn’t have to revolve around a one-shot dichotomous choice referendum valuation question. It turns out that is the least efficient incentive-compatible valuation question. Our article shows an example of a more efficient method, combining the referendum with a payment card and a five-point Likert scale. 

Tuesday, 1 November 2016

Civic Education

John Crossan - University of Strathclyde

I have unhappy memories of trying to make “civics” interesting and exciting in a secondary modern school in southeast London in the late 1960s. The boys did what was asked of them, but they were often bored and frustrated. It seems to me that this subject was seen by politicians and head teachers as being in the elementary-school tradition of imbuing working-class youngsters with an appropriate respect for authority and a clear sense of where they fitted into the social hierarchy. (Chitty, 2010: 376).  

Clyde Chitty’s memories of civic education in 1960s England speak to the constructive interpretation of political education theory. For Geraint Parry (1999: 25), constructive civic education is designed to “redirect the goals and activities of future subjects or citizens towards what are perceived to be national priorities”. This approach teaches politics at a distance, emphasizing a descriptive analysis of existing mainstream political technologies “with the implicit acceptance that everything in the political system is as it should be” (Harber, 1984: 118). Teaching politics at a distance reinforces cultural norms that serve to sustain the status quo. It facilitates the myth of a homogenized citizenry whose multiple contestations are reduced to the claims of ‘the people’. More fundamentally, in terms of producing a citizen who is capable of being governed, this educational model entrenches the idea that most of us are intellectually incapable of operating effectively in the formal political arena (see Schumpeter, 1942) – populated as it is by society’s intellectual elites!    

These days, semblances of civic education are often taught via a variety of ‘multidisciplinary’ and collaborative projects involving schools, civic groups and commercial enterprises. For example, there is Tesco’s ‘From Farm to Fork’ programme. Partnering up with Scout groups, youth clubs and schools, the programme is designed to “help our children have a healthier, happier relationship with food” (eathappyproject.com) by uncritically situating the contested position of Tesco and other supermarket giants in the UK food industry and culture. Chitty (2010: 374) calls this form of co-opting of education by capitalist interests “subtle indoctrination” and argues that, due to the prevalence of such practices, “education for political awareness is absolutely vital” (ibid).

However, there also exist other more radical collaborative civic education projects that aim to facilitate the production of an active, democratic citizenship; projects that make explicit the links between the formal learning systems associated with the curriculums of primary, higher and further education, and the informal learning experiences that take place in everyday life. Gandin and Apple (2002) argue that such projects are constructing new epistemological understandings about what counts as legitimate knowledge, using the example of ‘Citizen Schools’ in the Brazilian municipality of Porto Alegre to exemplify their case. 

Citizen Schools construct curricula in line with the interests and concerns of host communities, where the production of a formal educational programme is a collaborative endeavour involving teachers and learners, professionals and non-professionals. It is inextricably connected to community and place, although as Gandin and Apple make clear, anchoring the learning experience in the local by no means precludes the study of social content at other scales or from other locations. On the contrary, echoing Massey’s (1991) formative notion of ‘global sense of place’, where place “is extroverted [and] includes a consciousness of its links with the wider world”, course content invites students to repeatedly reinterpret their experiences of their environment in the light of the global flows – cultural, political and economic – that converge on and, in part, produce that environment. 

The Civic Schools of Porte Alegre are linked to larger dynamics of social transformation, encompassed in the participatory budgeting practices of the municipal government. Participatory budgeting aims to reconfigure the relationship between the state and the citizenry in the formation of municipal policy . Cabannes (2004: 45) contends that reaching the level of empowerment required to ensure the success and permanency of participatory budgeting “implies a clear prioritization of civic and popular awareness and education”. In other words, Civic Schools are about educating for active democratic citizenship.   

The Civic Schools of Porte Alegre constitute a pedagogical process that is socially rooted, participatory and outward looking. They make explicit the interconnections between education, society and politics and in doing so open the learner up to a colourful world of democratic practice that goes well beyond the typically unidirectional, top-down impositions of dominant political systems. The aim of this type of education is to embed within the process of citizenship formation constant reinterpretation of experience, and thereby stimulate conscious social reproduction (Gutmann 1987). This is the ideal of democratic politics.


Cabannes, Y (2004) Participatory budgeting: a significant contribution to participatory democracy, Environment and Urbanization, 16, 1, 27-46

Chitty C (2010) Educating for Political Activity, Educational Review, 64, 2, 371-377

Franklin, A., Ho, A., & Ebdon, C (2009). Participatory Budgeting in Midwestern States: Democratic Connection or Citizen Disconnection? Public Budgeting & Finance, 29, 3, 52-73

Gandin L., & Apple M (2002) Thin versus Thick Democracy in Education: Porto Alegre and alternatives to neoliberalism, International Studies in the Sociology of Education, 12, 2, 99-116

Gutmann, A. (1987) Democratic Education, Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press

Harber, C (1984) Politics and Political Education in 1984, Educational Review, 36, 2, 113-120

Massey, D (1991) A Global Sense of Place, Marxism Today, June, 24-29

Parry, G (1999) Constructive and Reconstructive Political Education, Oxford Review of Education, 25, 1-2, 23-38

Schumpeter, J (1942) Capitalism, Socialism and Democracy, New York: Harper and Brothers

Sintomer, Y., Herzberg, C., & Röcke, A (2008) Participatory Budgeting in Europe: Potentials and Challenges, International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 32, 1, 164–178

[1] See Sintomer et al 2008, and Franklin et al 2009 for broader discussions on participatory budgeting experiments across the globe.   

Tuesday, 11 October 2016

The theory and reality of urban slums: Pathways-out-of-poverty or cul-de-sacs?

Ivan Turok (HSRC, South Africa) and Jackie Borel-Saladin (African Centre for Cities, University of Cape Town)


About one in three urban residents (over 900 million people) in the global South live in informal settlements. These ‘slums’ generally consist of makeshift dwellings and they lack basic services such as water and sanitation. Local residents have no security of tenure, so they can be evicted at short notice.

Informal settlement near Kliptown, Soweto
Photo: Tanya Zack

Informal settlements are likely to absorb most of the world’s population growth over the next three decades. So the difference these places make to people’s chances in life is crucial to the future well-being of a large section of global humanity. Put simply, will they help to lift people out of poverty because they provide affordable entry points to access urban assets, services and livelihoods? Or will they confine people to enduring hardship and vulnerability in squalid and unsafe environments with little prospect of upward mobility?

Considering the magnitude of the issues at stake, the dynamics of urban slums are surprisingly under-researched and over-sensationalised. A better understanding of the relationship between slum characteristics and personal trajectories is important, set in the context of local labour market conditions. The interactions between these three phenomena - place, people and economy - are bound to exercise a decisive influence on whether informal settlements help or hinder human progress by linking people to the opportunities concentrated in cities. 

Without this understanding of how shack areas affect human development, all kinds of implicit assumptions and misperceptions flourish. A common stereotype is that they are ‘no-go areas’ formed in hazardous places by squatters who are anti-social, uneducated and desperate. Stigma really matters when held by powerful elites who target slums for eviction because they are blamed for crime and pollution. The opposite view is that slums are sites of remarkable self-sacrifice, high hopes and resourcefulness in the face of adversity. Their social vibrancy and energy make them worthy of special policy attention.

Neither of these polarised notions recognises that the prospects of slum dwellers are intimately bound up with the labour market context of the city, especially the rate of jobs growth. There are also contrasting perspectives on how informal settlements evolve over time. One is that slums are part of the growth pains of societies in transition that gradually disappear as living standards rise. The other is slums are permanent poverty traps that keep mushrooming inexorably.

 This paper explores which of these processes are more prevalent in practice. Do informal settlements enable people to move out of rural poverty, or confine them to insecurity and misery?

Informal settlement near Kliptown, Soweto
Photo: Tanya Zack

The focus is on South Africa, which is interesting for at least three reasons: the stark social and spatial inequalities, policy ambivalence towards informal settlements, and rising social unrest. Evidence that these places help people to get ahead could shift attitudes and prompt recognition that they warrant more investment in public services. 

The paper draws on data from the Labour Force Survey. It provides clear evidence that households are better-off in informal urban areas than in rural areas, but worse-off than in formal urban areas. Hence shack settlements may be a step up for former rural households in that a fair proportion of adults are able to access urban jobs. However, most are confined to lower-paid, manual and precarious occupations.

The prospects for stronger upward mobility are hampered by sluggish economic conditions and a segmented labour market. The contrasting conditions of shack dwellers and formal urban residents are also among the reasons for increasing frustration and violent protests in these communities.

Further research using longitudinal data is necessary to test these provisional findings and assess the extent and timescales of economic progression accompanying migration between rural and urban areas.

Wednesday, 5 October 2016

Beyond the ‘post-industrial’ city: valuing and planning for industry in London

Jessica Ferm and Edward Jones, Bartlett School of Planning, University College London


As practitioners and academics working on planning in London, we had for many years bought into the hype that London – as a quintessential post-industrial world city – had almost completed the transformation of its economy. Any remaining manufacturing or industry was a hangover from the past and would eventually relocate or die. However, as time passed, it seemed increasingly obvious that many of the residential, prime office and mixed use developments that were springing up across the city were actually displacing viable and indeed thriving industrial and manufacturing businesses. In 2014, we became members of a network of community and business groups, Just Space Economy and Planning, initially set up to influence the development of planning policy in London on economic issues.

One of the most pressing issues for this group has been the loss of buildings which accommodate the diverse small businesses typical of much of London. These businesses can be found in industrial areas, in and around high streets, and interwoven in residential areas. The evidence emerging from this group is largely anecdotal but there is growing capacity and determination amongst its members to formalise this knowledge and use it to influence policy and decision-making. An important first step seemed to be to explore answers to the very basic questions that sceptics might pose. Why should industry still be located in London? Should we really be resisting the dynamics of land use economics, where higher-value land uses outbid lower-value ones? Isn’t this a natural and inevitable process?

As Curran (2007) argued in the context of New York: “Those businesses that could, left the city long ago; those that remain are the ones that need to be there or have a business advantage because of their urban location” (p.1429). The first part of our paper explores this concept further, providing some examples and explanations, as well as thinking about the future. We argue that industries that remain do so because they have close ties to their markets, other businesses in the supply or co-production chain, and labour. Niche manufacturers are much more reliant on being close to their markets, with access to skilled labour, driving agglomeration rather than dispersal. In new urban manufacturing there is now a closer symbiosis between production and design, research and development. This relies on access to skilled labour, which is more readily found in cities. Conversely, we make the argument that cities also need industry, to keep the city functioning to process its waste, to provide materials for its construction, and so on. Moving these essential functions further out has implications for efficiency as well as carbon emissions and environmental sustainability as the length of business to business trips increases. Although goods can be imported, demand from the city’s businesses and residents are moving away from mass produced goods towards more bespoke and ‘just-in-time’ products. The line between manufacturing and services is blurring as businesses increasingly bundle together goods and services to meet such demand (PwC, 2009). Retaining manufacturing and industry in cities also helps the city to be more diverse, and therefore more economically and socially resilient. In our opinion it also makes for a more interesting and vibrant city.

The second part of the paper then explores the challenge of planning effectively for industry in London, particularly in the context of a rapidly expanding population that needs to be housed. The traditional approach has been to protect or ‘zone’ land for industrial use. For a number of years, the Mayor of London has been actively planning for the ‘managed decline’ of industrial land, though the actual loss on the ground has been almost three times the target set for London, and up to eight times in some parts of central London (AECOM, 2016). Hopes seem to be pinned on the potential for industrial activities to be accommodated within the urban fabric in a mixed use context. The final section of our paper reveals that there is a lack of consensus on how industry should best be accommodated in our cities in land use terms, not least because some uses might not be ideal right next to housing. On the other hand, one of the joys of city life is the lively juxtaposition of different activities, and lots of manufacturing is now quieter and cleaner than in the past.

Meanwhile the ongoing and rapid loss of industrial land threatens the viability of London’s businesses today. Growing businesses, employing skilled workers, face displacement or worse when their premises are redeveloped for other uses. Ultimately, we need to move beyond the current approach to ‘managed decline’ of industrial land. Decision-makers need to take a positive, strategic and holistic view, one which appreciates the benefits that industry can bring for the city. There are tough choices to be made in London, a growing city where housing pressures are acute, so solutions won’t be easy. They will require looking beyond planning policy and striving for real leadership to bring together developers, landowners and businesses, exploring a range of design options for integrating industry with housing, as well as alternative models for the ownership and management of land and premises which allow existing businesses to have a far bigger stake in their future.


AECOM (2016) Industrial Land Supply and Economy Study 2015. For the Greater London Authority. Available at: https://www.london.gov.uk/sites/default/files/industria_land_supply_and_economy2015.pdf

Curran W (2007) 'From the Frying Pan to the Oven': Gentrification and the Experience of Industrial Displacement in Williamsburg, Brooklyn. Urban Studies 44(8): 1427-1440.

PwC (PriceWaterhouseCoopers) (2009) The Future of UK Manufacturing. Accessed 22 July 2015: https://www.pwc.co.uk/assets/pdf/ukmanufacturing-300309.pdf

Friday, 30 September 2016

How do parental background and local house prices influence young adults’ homeownership in England and Wales?

Rory Coulter, University of Cambridge, rcc46@cam.ac.uk


Successive British governments have committed themselves to improving social mobility and increasing homeownership. However, declining rates of owner-occupancy amongst young people – attributed in part to the financial constraints imposed by high house prices and hefty mortgage deposit requirements – now threaten both of these objectives and raise the spectre of deepening housing inequality. 

Debates about Generation Rent suggest that the age distribution of housing resources is becoming more unequal as young adults are finding it harder than previous generations to ‘get on the housing ladder’. Moreover, the growing financial difficulty of accessing homeownership could be deepening housing disparities between young people by lifting owner-occupation out of reach of those whose parents cannot afford to provide housing assistance (for example through financial transfers or mortgage guarantees, help with big ticket purchases or free/subsidised accommodation). This could exacerbate the intergenerational transmission of wealth and (dis)advantage, especially in places where house prices are high and it is particularly difficult to enter homeownership.

To examine these issues I enriched the Office for National Statistics Longitudinal Study of England and Wales with new data on average transactional house prices within Local Authority Districts. I then analysed how parental attributes predicted the probability that young people aged 25-34 in 2011 were homeowners, exploring whether these patterns varied with local house prices. 

There were two principal findings:
  1. Children with more socio-economically advantaged parents are disproportionately likely to become homeowners, even after taking into account that young people lead very different types of lives (for example in terms of educational attainments or employment patterns). Disparities in the odds of homeownership between children from more and less advantaged backgrounds are also somewhat more pronounced in areas with higher house prices where fewer young people are owner-occupiers.

  2. Nevertheless, individual factors like qualifications, family type and employment are generally more potent predictors of young adults’ homeownership than parental background or local house prices. Parental factors and local prices also only strongly stratify the homeownership prospects of those more advantaged young people whose life trajectories are conducive to owning. Less advantaged young people are unlikely to become homeowners regardless of local prices or the socio-economic status of their parents. This means that housing policy interventions such as Help to Buy are unlikely to create a more socially mobile housing system unless the intergenerational transmission of (dis)advantage in other areas - such as the education system and labour market - is also addressed.
Going forward, this new evidence about the multiple factors constraining young adults’ homeownership indicates that improving the housing experiences of less advantaged young people requires policy-makers to look beyond social mobility and ownership oriented initiatives. As many young people are prolonging their education and grappling with student debts and a lack of secure well-paid work, interventions to improve young adults’ everyday quality of life need to also target the rental sector. This is important because a lack of social housing means that many young people who cannot or do not want to enter homeownership currently have to remain in the parental home or rely on weakly regulated private rental accommodation that is often relatively more costly, insecure and of poorer quality than housing in other tenures. 

Thursday, 29 September 2016

Special Issue: Urban land and conflict in the global South

Melanie Lombard, University of Sheffield, UK
Carole Rakodi, University of Birmingham, UK


Photo: Melanie Lombard (2007)

2016 is a significant year for the global urban development community. In October, the third Habitat conference will be held in Quito, Ecuador. Elaborate preparatory processes have aimed to ensure that the conference tackles the issues most crucial to the achievement of equitable, efficient and sustainable urban growth and management. During the conference, it is hoped that delegates from all the UN member countries will agree a Declaration on Sustainable Cities and Human Settlements for All, setting out a new global urban agenda. Yet, arguably, land, and particularly conflict over land, should be more central to the deliberations and the agenda itself. 

In cities of the Global South, access to land is a pressing concern. Typically neither states nor markets provide suitable land for all users, especially low-income households. In the context of urban growth and inequality, acute competition for land and the regulatory failures of states may result in violent conflict. Conflicts over urban land undermine land management and planning systems, add to bottlenecks in the court system, and may lead to violent clashes if unresolved. Policy measures such as registration or improved land use planning are often justified, amongst other things, on the basis that they will help to reduce land conflict. 

However, most accounts refer to such conflicts only in passing. The dynamics of conflict related to urban land are rarely examined in depth, perhaps because it is risky to do so. For example, the Habitat III issue paper on urban land refers to the impact of internal displacement on urban areas, the need to protect rural landholders’ rights in peri-urban areas affected by urban expansion, and the increased competition for land following sea level rise, but none of these are examined in any detail.

The draft New Urban Agenda, which has already undergone several iterations at preparatory meetings, refers briefly to the effects of land conflicts arising from informal settlement integration and wider civil conflict. In addition, several of its recommended ‘development levers’ (policies and actions) relate to land, such as planned city extension. However, the possibility that conflict over land might undermine policy implementation is not recognised. Meanwhile, the 2016 report Urbanization and Development – Emerging Futures, which identifies key implementation issues for the New Urban Agenda, refers to conflicts arising from urban inequality and redevelopment, but does not contain a specific chapter on land. Such omissions are surprising, given that equitable access to, and sound management of, land is central to transformative change. They make the publication of this special issue of Urban Studies very timely. 

The publication originated from the authors’ shared frustration at the lack of thorough understanding of urban land conflict, particularly in terms of the actors involved, the relationships between them, the role of land administration systems and the efficacy of existing conflict resolution mechanisms. A key concern is that policies and practices intended to reduce conflict over land have the potential to exacerbate it instead. These points are addressed across the papers in this special issue, which are based on ground-breaking research in challenging contexts including Xalapa, Mexico; Juba, South Sudan; Nairobi, Kenya; and eThekwini (Durban) and Johannesburg, South Africa. 

Our editorial introduction sketches out a framework for land conflict analysis. We suggest that such analysis must, first, consider definitional categories, including the material and emotional dimensions of access to land, conflict and violence, and tenure. Second, it needs to identity and examine the interests and behaviour of the many actors involved in land conflicts. And third, it needs to analyse the interactions and relationships between those involved at different levels: from the individual/household, through the local to the citywide, national and international. It is only from such grounded and detailed research, exploring the drivers, dynamics and outcomes of urban land conflicts, that well-informed, appropriate policies and practices will arise.