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Monday, July 24, 2006
Worst first or last?
This one came up last week and I really am still not sure what I think about it. One thing I do know, and that is I'm really surprised it didn't make mainstream news. After all, a consultant says that we shouldn't try to deal with the worst-off (mot deprived) areas first and instead, should concentrate on the fringes where things aren't so bad? Sounds like an ideal 'Let Them Rot'-type Sun headline. But that's what TCPA consultant Julie Cowan said in a speech last week.

The ‘worst-first’ social welfare approach to regeneration is increasingly shown to be unsuccessful in the longer term and should be replaced by a new socio-economic model, which aims to proactively boost and capture land and property value for the public good. “This will require some difficult decisions on which neighbourhoods to prioritise for intervention. In the longer term it may be more effective for the worst estates to wait until surrounding cusp estates are at a level which will support and attract regeneration investment.”

Its all a very money-focused (or, to use the euphemism 'market-informed') argument: regeneration only happens by attracting higher-income residents to an area, capturing the consequent increases in property value and 'recycling' these back into providing affordable housing etc. I'm not at all anti- an economic theory of regeneration, but in this case, questions that immediately arise are clear: what about pricing out lower-income families? does the trickle-down effect really work? Can you 'capture' enough 'value' to really be able to make significant changes to the quality of life of the severely deprived? what about ideas of capacity building, skills training, raising the level of income of poor families?

What do you all think about this?


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