Planning and Housing

The scholarship we publish on our Planning and Housing list looks at all available evidence to inform the creation of better homes and a better built environment for all of us individuals and communities, in the Global North and the Global South.

We have published the highest-quality work in this area by authors like Yvonne Rydin, Nick Gallent, Kate Henderson, Hugh Ellis and Alan Murie. The international Urban Policy, Planning and the Built Environment series examines the interdisciplinary dimensions of urbanism and the built environment – extending from urban policy and governance to urban planning, management, housing, transport, infrastructure, landscape, heritage and design.

Planning and Housing

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In this chapter I make the case for the importance and significance of social class to the lives of public housing tenants. Class may well provide homologous conditions and solidarity, but it is also the great divider of society into those who work and those who benefit from those who work. The Bridgetown Estate is a microcosm of class in Ireland. Class originates and is sustained in relations between groups, much more than it is something based on static positions. I argue in this chapter that class is both materially and morally significant to the lives of the people of the Bridgetown Estate. The class system produces scarcity, lack, and inequality because the material production of the society is tethered to a profit-seeking capitalist model. There is therefore a strong connection between the ontology of the estate and the frameworks and epistemologies that are used to explain why things are the way they are. My argument is that estates such as the Bridgetown Estate are effectively vehicles and containers for class relations and class processes and that this understanding leads to a very different form of explanatory critique than one based on the deprivation–disadvantage paradigm.

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This final chapter brings the reader back to the place that is the Bridgetown Estate and explores the relationship of the estate to the broader city, while returning at the end of the chapter to the phenomenology of place. The Bridgetown Estate was a product of an emerging ‘modern’ Ireland along with many other similar estates in the city. But, as well as being a local place for people to live in, the estate has always been connected to the city economically and culturally. The chapter makes a connection between class history and class geography and shows how the two are intimately connected. The city is a class text of buildings and streets, but too often we don’t read it properly or don’t know how to read it properly. The ‘production of space’, as Henri Lefebvre defines, it is closely related to processes that reflect the capitalist nature of the societies we live in. The landscape is organised according to capitalist principles of power and planning. The Bridgetown Estate reflects such processes in its constitution, conception and sheer physicality on the landscape. It is a class object located within a class geography.

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It’s Not Where You Live It’s How You Live is an ethnographic study of the lives of the residents of a public housing estate in Dublin. The phrase comes from the residents themselves, who used it on a number of occasions to assert that they were as good as anyone else. The book is a deep, complex and prolonged exploration of the lives of the working-class people of the Bridgetown Estate. The difficulty that residents face, however, is that their lives are shaped and conditioned by mechanisms and structures that place them in particular locations both in the social world and in the physical landscape. The study focuses on residents’ positioning and limitations within a changing field of public housing, the types of work that they do, how they make ends meet financially, how their lives are affected by austerity and longer-term changes in capitalism. In this book the emphasis is placed on the importance of class relations and processes and how they shape and mould lives and lock people into positions of subordination and suffering. There is also a strong focus on the importance of gender, especially for the women of the estate and the importance of solidary relations of love, care and solidarity for them. This book uses a critical realist theoretical framework to understand and make sense of how public housing estates are constituted in that, as well as what we see and what happens, we also need a causal criterion to understand them.

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It’s Not Where You Live It’s How You Live is an ethnographic study of the lives of the residents of a public housing estate in Dublin. The phrase comes from the residents themselves, who used it on a number of occasions to assert that they were as good as anyone else. The book is a deep, complex and prolonged exploration of the lives of the working-class people of the Bridgetown Estate. The difficulty that residents face, however, is that their lives are shaped and conditioned by mechanisms and structures that place them in particular locations both in the social world and in the physical landscape. The study focuses on residents’ positioning and limitations within a changing field of public housing, the types of work that they do, how they make ends meet financially, how their lives are affected by austerity and longer-term changes in capitalism. In this book the emphasis is placed on the importance of class relations and processes and how they shape and mould lives and lock people into positions of subordination and suffering. There is also a strong focus on the importance of gender, especially for the women of the estate and the importance of solidary relations of love, care and solidarity for them. This book uses a critical realist theoretical framework to understand and make sense of how public housing estates are constituted in that, as well as what we see and what happens, we also need a causal criterion to understand them.

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In this chapter we meet a group of people for the first time and with whom the rest of the ethnography will engage. We get a sense of movement in and beyond the estate, of people walking and talking and sharing stories about their lives past and present. This chapter focuses on an activity and practice of visiting a religious house that happens once a week and all that goes with that visit. In this chapter we enter the world of the informal food bank and the practice of charity. The importance of the practices of sharing and solidarity among people who are struggling to put food on the table is central here. This visit and practice occurs on the same day each week and it is on this journey meet Rosy, Charlie, Steph, Tina and Teresa and others as they seek out resources that might make life a little bit less difficult. We begin to get an insight into their lives both past and present as they go to what they call ‘the other place’.

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This chapter explores the theme and issue of ‘dis-ability’ as it has arisen in the course of conversation and everyday life and how it affects members of the group, and what the term means for people as a concept and as something that is present corporeally in the mind and the body. There is ongoing debate between members of the group about being officially accepted or designated by the state as ‘disabled’. To be officially categorised as disabled gives some moderate benefits for things such as fuel and travel allowances, which are welcome, but the designation is rejected at another level by some of the group, who refuse to see themselves as disabled. The relations between body and mind, between physical capacities and the soft tissue of comprehension and understanding, are very much part of the conversation here. The chapter explores how these issues have developed over the course of a lifetime and are connected to people’s participation and experience in and with the institutions of the state. We learn how bodies and minds change and deteriorate over the course of a life and what this means to the people in the group.

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This chapter opens Part II of the book and connects the manifest phenomena of the ethnographic chapters to the causal mechanisms and structures that play a pivotal role in shaping and making the estate what it is. Such structures are more often than not unperceivable, and only visible in their effects, but are critically important. Forces such as the winds of global capitalism, the policies of austerity, the influence of patriarchy and the state’s housing policies all feed in and out of the estate, shaping it, moulding it, changing it. Jobs, work, housing, life, all are affected by such generative structures and hence the need for a causal criterion for understanding life on the estate. I use a theoretical framework of transcendental critical realism that argues, as well as what we can see and what happens in events, as it were, we also need a causal understanding of how things come to be the way they are. To have a critical realist understanding of public housing means acknowledging the realms of the empirical and the actual, but also, importantly, understanding the ‘real’ of the mechanisms and structures that align and realign the lives of estate residents.

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This chapter introduces the reader to this study and asks, ‘What sort of an object is a public housing estate?’ There are opening remarks on the importance of class and gender and the necessity of bringing such dynamics to the fore in writing about public housing estates. There is engagement with concepts such as deprivation and disadvantage that dominate discourse about public housing estates, and the problems with such concepts and why they are both inadequate and mystifying. This chapter begins to place the people of the Bridgetown Estate with their positioning within a set of class relations as workers both paid and unpaid and what this means for their lives. The chapter draws a contrast between the analytical and the normative in that I am trying to understand how public housing estates are effectively constituted, while at the same time asking critical questions about the hardship and suffering that are a result and product of one’s position within class processes and class relations. I argue that class is both morally significant and inherently material.

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Class and Gender Struggles in a Dublin Estate
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This ground-breaking and compelling book takes us deep into the world of a public housing estate in Dublin, showing in fine detail the life struggles of those who live there.

The book puts the emphasis on class and gender processes, revealing them to be the crucial dynamics in the lives of public housing residents. The hope is that this understanding can help change perspectives on public housing in a way that diminishes suffering and contributes to human flourishing and well-being.

Combining long-term research into residents’ lived experience with critical realist theory, it provides a completely fresh perspective on public housing in Ireland and arguably, beyond.

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This chapter continues the exploration into the lives of the group as they discuss and try to navigate day-to-day life with very limited means and resources available to them. Having little money focuses the mind, and here we see how much this is the case with the constant thought as to the cost and prices of everyday items, whether they be food or clothes or cigarettes. Life and consciousness are thoroughly permeated by ideas of price and cost, and people are implicitly thinking all the time as to how they will manage from day to day. Practices of borrowing and lending are integral to the functioning of life on the estate and function as systems of financial solidarity and support. Lives are circumscribed very tightly by the minimum of resources available to people, and they must creatively work out how to live under such conditions.

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