Neoliberal Reconstruction or Urban Regeneration? the Private Sector and the Provision of Low-Income and Social Housing in Inner-City Johannesburg

Tuesday, July 15, 2014: 11:15 AM
Room: 311+312
Oral Presentation
Aidan MOSSELSON , Geography, University College London, United Kingdom
In academic literature, urban regeneration is more often than not treated as a code-word for gentrification or dismissed as a term developers use to sugar-coat the commercialisation of space and the destruction of public housing. Reinvestment in urban spaces and public housing is seen as part of a global strategy of capital and both a cause and symptom of the spread of neoliberal politics and practices around the world (Smith 2002). Using the case of inner-city Johannesburg and the provision of low-income and social housing in the area, this presentation argues that more nuanced and contextually sensitive approaches are required. In Johannesburg, the provision of low-income housing has been led by the private sector, who have also taken the lead in the regeneration of the city. However, this has not resulted in a solely revanchist or exclusionary city being created, but has had the contradictory effects of fostering increased social cohesion and meaningful regeneration, whilst simultaneously increasing the cost of land and housing in the area. Utilising Pierre Bourdieu’s notions of field, capital and habitus, this presentation explores the multiple factors which have shaped the reinvestment and regeneration process in Johannesburg and shows how a diversity of outcomes and imperatives are possible and in fact present, even in a context shaped by neoliberal approaches to city-building and housing provision. Cities are part of broader social contexts or milieus and are therefore shaped by competing fields and forms of capital. This presentation highlights the multiple impulses and concerns which have shaped housing provision and reinvestment in Johannesburg’s inner-city and discusses what the effects of these have been on communities living in the area and invites scholars, whilst still remaining critical, to adopt new, more nuanced and context sensitive approaches to questions about urban renewal, particularly in the Global South.