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Policies for mixed communities: faith-based displacement activity?

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The belief that it is fairer if communities are ``mixed'' can be traced at least to the late nineteenth century and the founders of the Garden City Movement. The idea is now firmly established in Organization for Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) and national policies. This article reviews the evidence and argues that this is essentially a faith-based policy because there is scant real evidence that making communities more mixed makes the life chances of the poor any better. There is overwhelming evidence that the attributes that make neighborhoods attractive are capitalized into house prices/rents. The result is that poor people cannot afford to buy into nicer neighborhoods, which anyway have amenities of no value to them. Moreover, ``specialized neighborhoods'' are an important element in agglomeration economies and seem to be welfare enhancing. Thus, policies for mixed neighborhoods treat the symptoms rather than the causes of poverty. Efforts to improve social equity would be more effectively directed toward people themselves rather than moving people around to mix neighborhoods.

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