Why are cities in a constant process of decline and renewal? What social conditions drive regeneration? How significant is housing in the renewal process?

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 “Why are cities in a constant process of decline and renewal?  What social conditions drive regeneration?  How significant is housing in the renewal process?

For most of the twentieth century inner cities have been the focus of economic and social decline.  A major factor in urban decline is economic structural change.  For example, the collapse of manufacturing employment in the 1970’s profoundly impacted on the industrial north.  Manufacturers abandoned traditional locations and skilled workers were forced to relocate and seek employment in new towns and cities.  When employment opportunities decentralise so too do the workforce and urban decentralisation follows1.  During the 1970’s many large cities stopped growing and some lost population, London for example declined by about 20%. Those who remained were mainly unemployed, poor, sick, elderly or recent immigrants.  The result of a decline in population, a downward spiral of worsening job prospects and decaying urban fabric has often been inner city decay2.

Out-migration in some cities maybe balanced by in-migration so the problem is not necessarily out-migration itself but rather the nature of the out-migrants.  This is reflected in the loss of the most affluent and mobile residents because inner city facilities cannot provide for their needs3.  This creates social polarisation in which the urban area is left with a concentration of social housing and falling tax revenues while at the same time there is a growing demand for services.  With the prospect of a bleak future local authorities and landlords neglect public housing, social facilities become run-down and underlying socio-ecological problems escalate.

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Economic structural change in industrialised areas led to the inability of “post-industrial” economies to utilise the potential of many industrial areas.  One example of this is the changing riverfront of London’s South Bank and the East London Docklands1.  The Docklands had once been the hub of London’s commercial and industrial prosperity.  For centuries it had been at the heart of Britain’s global trade.  By the 1970’s it fell into decline and dereliction following the London Port Authority’s decision to containerise cargo at Tilbury.  This once prosperous urban area became degenerated with poverty stricken slums, high unemployment and low-income. ...

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