Town Planning Review

The relentless link between neighbourhoods and segregation: what are the alternatives?

Town Planning Review (2018), 89, (5), 443–462.

Abstract

There is a long-standing critique about neighbourhoods: that whether they are planned, delineated or self-actualised, they often exist for the purpose of social segregation. An important question for planners is whether neighbourhoods can embody progressive ideals and not devolve into enclaves promoting social insularity and separation. This paper reviews the three main strategies that have been proposed over the past century: (1) to look for ways to successfully integrate the segregated neighbourhood into a wider urban system; (2) to position ethnic neighbourhoods as a legitimate example of successful segregation, if there is external connectivity and economic diversity within; and (3) to make neighbourhood-scale social diversity an explicit policy goal, accomplished through housing mix and other spatial planning policies. Each of these alternatives to the neighbourhood-as-segregation narrative has been advanced, with partial success. I conclude that neighbourhood segregation remains a serious issue that needs to be addressed, but that neighbourhoods themselves remain an important element of urban life – and planning practice. Both to sustain the neighbourhood ideal and mitigate its segregationist tendencies, planners need to try to improve upon, and potentially integrate, all three of the alternatives that have been developed.

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Talen, Emily