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Social inequality, disadvantaged neighbourhoods and transport deprivation: an assessment of the historical influence of housing policies

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This paper argues that the drive to build housing and to clear crowded slums has led to the dispersal of population. The building of large subsidised housing estates as replacement housing for former slums has compounded social problems by concentrating low income households in cut-off communities. Low income households in poorer neighbourhoods have far lower levels of car ownership than average and yet suffer higher levels of traffic and environmental damage because the dispersal process encourages the growth of car traffic and the polarisation of neighbourhoods. Based on evidence from longitudinal studies of families bringing up children in low income neighbourhoods, and of unpopular housing estates in Britain and Europe, the author argues that social, economic, locational, and environmental problems interact in disadvantaged urban neighbourhoods with negative consequences for families and other vulnerable households. Current patterns of dispersal and low density building encourage the segregation of communities and at the extreme, the creation of 'ghettos' as the US demonstrates. Yet the built environment evolves only slowly, and urban communities are locked into patterns of settlements, energy use and inequality that are hard to change. More collective transport modes would reduce environmental damage while enhancing social integration. It is costly to introduce new transport infrastructure but essential if we are to equalise conditions and opportunities. There are alternatives to the prevailing pattern of outer suburban building and population dispersal: more compact, more mixed-use city neighbourhoods. Denser, more people-friendly, less traffic-dominated neighbourhoods would be more integrated and offer more opportunity. Their energy requirements and environmental impact would be lower, and low income families would not suffer such unequal conditions and their consequences.

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en

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http://eprints.lse.ac.uk/42150/

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