What is the business of public housing? - A new policy for Gothenburg’s ‘particularly vulnerable areas’
In 2020, the City Council of Gothenburg declared that no part of the city would remain on the Swedish Police’s list of ‘particularly vulnerable areas’ by the year 2025 and charged the municipal housing company The Framtiden Group with fulfilling this goal. The City Council also instructed the Group to make use of the Gårdsten Model, arguing that it has been successful for developing a ‘disadvantaged’ neighbourhood. However, it has also been criticised by researchers who claim that it has involved social control strategies. Because of the deregulation and neoliberalisation of national housing policy, the municipal housing companies’ goals to act as private businesses can stand in conflict with their social responsibilities. Therefore, the purpose of this master thesis is to analyse Gothenburg’s urban development policy discourse in the light of the 2020 municipal budget directive. It asks: 1) How are contradictions between ‘economic benefit’ and ‘social benefit’ within Gothenburg’s urban development policy discourse ‘reconciled’ by the Framtiden Group and one of its subsidiaries? 2) How are contradictions between ‘social control’ and ‘social benefit’ within Gothenburg’s urban development policy discourse ‘reconciled’ by the Framtiden Group and one of its subsidiaries? 3) How is ‘scientific evidence’ constructed within Gothenburg’s urban development policy discourse? By paying attention to how systemic contradictions are discursively ‘reconciled’ in four policy documents and eight interviews with company representatives and affiliated researchers, contradictions are contextualised and made visible by utilising theories on the neoliberalisation of Swedish housing, ‘social mixing’, gentrification and territorial stigmatisation. The analysis shows that the discourse constructs theories that promote increased social control as ‘scientific evidence’ and that future renovations might put tenants at risk of displacement. The ‘particularly vulnerable areas’ are constructed as ‘disorderly’ within the discourse and methods for increased social control are justified by their contribution to perceived safety.