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UBC Theses and Dissertations

Social mix in urban neighbourhoods : an assessment of the concept and a review of social mix in Vancouver’s neighbourhoods Ng, Winnie Siu-Che


This thesis reviews the concept of social mix as it has been developed and used by urban planners over the past several decades and it provides an account of the degree to which Vancouver's twenty two neighbourhoods are "socially mixed". The two new socially mixed neighbourhoods planned and developed by City of Vancouver, False Creek and Champlain Heights, are used as case studies for the discussion of the criteria used to determine the degree to which an area is "socially mixed". One conclusion drawn from the literature and from the City of Vancouver case study is that it is debatable as to whether social mix as a social policy tool is an expedient means of accomplishing improved conditions for the intended beneficiaries. If the aim is to benefit lower income groups, these groups have problems and concerns which go well beyond their locational distribution in a neighbourhood or city. The problem of defining the area which should be socially mixed compounds the problem. There is the micro level, meaning integration of the block or neighbourhood, and the macro level, meaning integration of the community but not of its blocks or neighbourhoods. While it is felt that studies of both micro and macro integration are essential elements of a successful social mix policy, this thesis focuses on the macro level. The implementation of social mix policy via the “new area development approach" by the city of Vancouver is documented in the case studies of False Creek and Champlain Heights. Without precluding the new area development strategy, this thesis finds the enrichment strategy along the lines of the now defunct Neighbourhood Improvement Program, or possibly a city-wide social mix policy, can offer feasible alternatives to the present practice of concentrating on the creation of new neighbourhoods while virtually ignoring the rest of the existing residential areas. In order to provide background data for considering social mix strategies in Vancouver, certain socio-economic characteristics of the 22 neighbourhoods are presented and compared against the city and metropolitan averages based on the 1981 census. Vancouver has used the city average as the criteria for its new neighbourhood social mix housing policy. This study uses the same variables used by the City, that is data on age, household type, household size and income. In addition, tenure and length of occupancy have been included. The social mix literature has shown that improvement of social mix policy would require addressing the complex issues of the operational definition of social mix, clarifying the objectives of a social mix policy and the establishment of measurable criteria. If the attainment of economic and social goals for disadvantaged populations is the overriding purpose, social mix policy is only a very small step. Measures well beyond a social mix policy are required to achieve expanded choice and opportunities for disadvantaged group. However, given the limited authority and funding of the municipal level of government in Canada, a social mix policy is one of the positive steps a city administive body could implement, as long as this was viewed as only a small part of a much broader strategy.

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