Headlines: July 8th, 2004

Radical solutions are needed to transform Britain’s poorest estates into ‘neighbourhoods of choice’ and, says a leading American authority on regeneration, policies for renewal in disadvantaged areas should aim to do more than create jobs or provide better homes in order to deliver sustainable, long-term improvements.Bruce Katz, Vice-President of the Brookings Institution says such policies need to create ‘neighbourhoods of choice’ which are places that can attract new, higher-earning residents as well as encouraging local people to stay when their own standards of living start to rise.

He will make his call for radical policies when he speaks at the Joseph Rowntree Foundation’s Centenary Event in London. He will tell an audience of 350 senior policy makers, practitioners and researchers that neighbourhood policy must include components for both people and place. Renewal strategies must ensure disadvantaged communities also become ‘neighbourhoods of connection’, linking local families to good quality education, training and other opportunities.

Mr. Katz will acknowledge that UK policy on neighbourhood renewal is generally better at joining up the work of different agencies and services, but he still believes Britain can learn from the best and worst American experiences.

He will argue that special efforts should be made to respond to concentrations of poverty in existing housing estates and that this could include the kinds of demolition and redevelopment underway in the United States. Large-scale developments of subsidised social housing, concentrating and isolating poor families have to be avoided and central government needs to give more power to local government to encourage tailored solutions to problems in individual neighbourhoods. He will also call for the private sector to be engaged ‘early and often’ in setting local priorities.

He believes British cities can learn from places like Baltimore and Pittsburgh that are re-establishing themselves as ‘immigrant gateways’, viewing immigration as a necessity for their future economic, fiscal, and social health.

Mr Katz will draw parallels between today’s need for sustained action in neighbourhoods experiencing concentrated poverty and the need identified a century ago by Joseph Rowntree to achieve greater understanding of the underlying causes of social problems.