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From "win-win" to "lose-lose" : how neoliberalism undermines the sustainable city - a case study of Hamburg

Wiesemann, Eva LU (2014) In Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science MESM01 20141
LUCSUS (Lund University Centre for Sustainability Studies)
Abstract
Throughout the last years, more and more cities around the world have integrated sustainability into their development goals to deal with today’s multiple environmental and social challenges. Simultaneously, an exploding strand of research stresses the potential of cities in a transition towards sustainability. However, in most cities claiming to be sustainable, policies often remain rather limited to climate change mitigation and environmental protection measures, while social issues fall behind. Many sustainable cities therefore suffer from increasing housing prices and gentrification, which in turn lead to the displacement of poorer parts of the population. This points to an often-overlooked trade-off between environmental and social... (More)
Throughout the last years, more and more cities around the world have integrated sustainability into their development goals to deal with today’s multiple environmental and social challenges. Simultaneously, an exploding strand of research stresses the potential of cities in a transition towards sustainability. However, in most cities claiming to be sustainable, policies often remain rather limited to climate change mitigation and environmental protection measures, while social issues fall behind. Many sustainable cities therefore suffer from increasing housing prices and gentrification, which in turn lead to the displacement of poorer parts of the population. This points to an often-overlooked trade-off between environmental and social goals in sustainable cities.

Environmental gentrification literature suggests that the reason for this trade-off lies in the fact that the attractiveness associated with green cities increases the demand for housing and draws in a wealthier population. As rents are allowed to rise uncontrolled, they become a financial burden to the original inhabitants who are eventually forced to move to the outskirts of the city. According to critical urban theory, the reason for the city’s failure to secure affordable housing is the neoliberal logic underlying urban planning. Environmental sustainability is hence co-opted for marketing the city and primarily aimed at attracting tax payers and businesses. Embedded in this neoliberal paradigm, sustainable cities fail at achieving quality of life for everybody, since the measures only benefit the wealthier population, while poor residents are excluded from the city.

Using Hamburg as a case study, this thesis investigates the hypothesis that environmental sustainability initiatives can have negative social repercussions when embedded in neoliberal planning. In order to do so, it draws on a mixed-method approach consisting of semi-structured interviews with city representatives and activists, official documents and statistical data. The results show an even stronger effect than expected: not only does the identified neoliberal paradigm create a trade-off, but even a “lose-lose” situation, in which neither environmental nor social sustainability goals can be achieved. A new approach in city planning is thus necessary which better incorporates the needs of the inhabitants, and recognizes housing as a basic need rather than an economic commodity. (Less)
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author
Wiesemann, Eva LU
supervisor
organization
course
MESM01 20141
year
type
H2 - Master's Degree (Two Years)
subject
keywords
environmental gentrification, sustainability science, sustainable cities, critical urban theory, social mix
publication/series
Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science
report number
2014:004
language
English
id
4451798
date added to LUP
2014-06-23 11:37:51
date last changed
2014-06-23 11:37:51
@misc{4451798,
  abstract     = {Throughout the last years, more and more cities around the world have integrated sustainability into their development goals to deal with today’s multiple environmental and social challenges. Simultaneously, an exploding strand of research stresses the potential of cities in a transition towards sustainability. However, in most cities claiming to be sustainable, policies often remain rather limited to climate change mitigation and environmental protection measures, while social issues fall behind. Many sustainable cities therefore suffer from increasing housing prices and gentrification, which in turn lead to the displacement of poorer parts of the population. This points to an often-overlooked trade-off between environmental and social goals in sustainable cities.

Environmental gentrification literature suggests that the reason for this trade-off lies in the fact that the attractiveness associated with green cities increases the demand for housing and draws in a wealthier population. As rents are allowed to rise uncontrolled, they become a financial burden to the original inhabitants who are eventually forced to move to the outskirts of the city. According to critical urban theory, the reason for the city’s failure to secure affordable housing is the neoliberal logic underlying urban planning. Environmental sustainability is hence co-opted for marketing the city and primarily aimed at attracting tax payers and businesses. Embedded in this neoliberal paradigm, sustainable cities fail at achieving quality of life for everybody, since the measures only benefit the wealthier population, while poor residents are excluded from the city.

Using Hamburg as a case study, this thesis investigates the hypothesis that environmental sustainability initiatives can have negative social repercussions when embedded in neoliberal planning. In order to do so, it draws on a mixed-method approach consisting of semi-structured interviews with city representatives and activists, official documents and statistical data. The results show an even stronger effect than expected: not only does the identified neoliberal paradigm create a trade-off, but even a “lose-lose” situation, in which neither environmental nor social sustainability goals can be achieved. A new approach in city planning is thus necessary which better incorporates the needs of the inhabitants, and recognizes housing as a basic need rather than an economic commodity.},
  author       = {Wiesemann, Eva},
  keyword      = {environmental gentrification,sustainability science,sustainable cities,critical urban theory,social mix},
  language     = {eng},
  note         = {Student Paper},
  series       = {Master Thesis Series in Environmental Studies and Sustainability Science},
  title        = {From "win-win" to "lose-lose" : how neoliberalism undermines the sustainable city - a case study of Hamburg},
  year         = {2014},
}