JRF reveals neighbourhoods prosper with mixed tenure

A planned mix of homes for ownership and rent on three estates built more than 20 years ago has helped them avoid many of the problems associated with large concentrations of social housing.

Research for the Joseph Rowntree Foundation shows that, despite having higher than average levels of deprivation, they have
developed into mature, ‘ordinary’ communities where demand for empty property remains high.

The study, carried out in Peterborough, Norwich and Middlesbrough, concludes that a combination of mixed tenure, well-planned community facilities and a pleasant surrounding environment have enabled the estates to remain attractive places to live.

But it also finds little evidence to support some of the arguments that have been used to justify the spread of mixed-tenure developments, including claims that owner-occupiers act as ‘role models’ for tenants, influencing their attitudes and improving their access to employment networks.

Although residents regarded tenure as a ‘non-issue’, relations between owners and tenants were found to be ‘civil’ and ‘polite’ rather than anything more closely knit.

The researchers from Sheffield Hallam University carried out a series of interviews and focus groups with adults, young people and children on the three estates, and asked housing professionals for their view.

A number of households in each area were invited to keep diaries about their day-to-day activities, noting interactions with their extended families and other residents.

This suggested that one of the most significant effects of mixed tenure was the way that it enabled families to stay living together in the same neighbourhood.

Grown-up children were able to rent homes near their families, while parents who had separated from their partners and moved out of the family home could obtain affordable accommodation nearby.

However, the study notes that tenure mix was only part of the original vision for the developments, which had shopping facilities, schools, meeting rooms and shared parking facilities in place from the outset.

High-quality landscaping and networks of footpaths and cycleways were also part of the ‘masterplan’ that contributed to sustained levels of resident satisfaction.

Chris Allen, co-author of the report, says: “Mixed tenure on these three estates, combined with a high-quality physical environment, has helped create ‘ordinary’ communities and provided an effective way of avoiding artificial concentrations of disadvantage among the residents. It has also allowed people to distance themselves from the prejudice that is frequently encountered by
people living on council estates, as well as enabling them to enjoy a high quality of life.”

He adds: “While some of the claims made for socially mixed communities appear to be exaggerated, we see a strong case for using appropriate planning and housing policies to produce and maintain a genuine mix of tenures in popular neighbourhoods. One key challenge will be to ensure that the current system of
planning agreements between local authorities and developers is used as a mechanism for achieving mixed tenure, rather than a means of avoiding it.”