Accepted Paper:

The engineering of citizens: urban renewal in a Dutch social housing area  


Martijn Koster (Radboud University)

Paper Short Abstract:

In a social housing area in Utrecht, the Netherlands, urban renewal policies aim at gentrification. Existing apartments are sold or demolished and new houses built. Meanwhile, tenants are 'engineered' to participate as 'active citizens' who take responsibility for the redesign of their neighborhood.

Paper long abstract:

This paper presents a study of urban renewal in Overvecht, an underprivileged neighborhood in the Dutch city of Utrecht, with much social housing.

The paper sets out to understand how citizens are being 'engineered' by the key players in urban renewal: the municipality and the housing corporations.

Currently, social housing apartment blocks are being sold or demolished. Single family dwellings are being built, of which many are for sale. As such, the municipality and the housing corporations hope to create a heterogeneous housing mix which should lead to gentrification.

The urban renewal process has strong citizenship agendas, as presented in the participatory procedures that accompany it. Tenants are summoned to behave as 'active' and 'responsive' citizens. Doing so, they are being 'engineered' to take responsibility for a redesign of their living environment which is largely based on external interests.

These citizenship agendas are also present in the focus on gentrification, or, as it is generally referred to, the creation of a 'mixed neighborhood' (gemengde wijk). This implies a mix of different social-economic, but also ethnic, groups, with the purpose of countering a supposed culture of poverty among the poor through providing the latter with positive role models and new social networks which may enhance their access to the labor market.

In this study, I discuss how residents of apartment blocks that will be demolished experience the redesign of their neighborhood. I show how they perceive the participatory procedures and their rights, obligations and opportunities. Eventually, I set out to understand how these processes affect their citizenship.

Panel W078
Urban renewal, uncertainty and exclusion (EN)