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Social Mix and the Problematisation of Social Housing

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Social housing in Australia is at a significant juncture. High levels of housing stress, increasing levels of socio-spatial polarisation and reduced government funding are posing complex policy challenges. Social mix policies are one response to these challenges, arising from the problematisation of social housing estates as socially excluded. This problematisation is examined through case studies of two Sydney social housing renewal projects: Telopea and Riverwood North. Drawing on interviews with government, private-sector and not-for-profit housing practitioners, the paper identifies two distinct discourses of social exclusion within this problematisation—culture of poverty discourse and equity discourse—that shape the implementation of social mix. These discourses reveal that implementing social mix is more complex than simply managing the cohabitation of residents in different tenures. Rather, the practice of social mix is embedded within discourses about the nature and causes of social exclusion. These discourses, in their turn, inform the multiple and sometimes conflicting aspirations pursued through social mix policies.
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Keywords: Social housing; discourse; problematisation; social exclusion; social mix; urban renewal

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: University of Newcastle, Australia

Publication date: December 1, 2013

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