Managing yards and togetherness: living conditions and social robustness through tenant involvement in open space management
Doctoral thesis, 2010
The subject of this thesis is tenant involvement in open space management in the context of Swedish rental housing areas. When tenants become involved in the management of the shared open spaces in their housing area, it affects their relationships to the place, to each other, to the landlord and to the city in different ways. Previous studies indicate that many positive outcomes can be expected in the form of not only improvements to the physical environment but also social change and various ecological and economic benefits. In many cases, participative open space management has contributed to turning vicious circles of stigmatisation and marginalisation into positive spirals of neighbour-hood regeneration. However, few studies raise critical questions and there has been very little focus on the possible conflicts between different user groups. Moreover, there is little knowledge about how widespread the phenomenon is and which forms it takes. The present study contributes to filling these knowl-edge gaps.
The methodological approach is qualitative and explorative, involving em-pirical as well as theoretical inquiries. The empirical inquiries include tele-phone interviews with housing managers and involved tenants to map, typolo-gise and compare management organisations and involvement processes. To more critically analyse the functions and outcomes of different types of in-volvement processes in situ, a case study has been performed in a suburban housing area, based on in-depth interviews, questionnaires and observations. The theoretical inquiries are guided by three thematic entrances elaborating on the issues of (a) social networking, trust and norms in local communities; (b) citizen participation in urban planning and design processes; and (c) the role of place in social organisation. It is concluded that although the studied participation processes bear a potential for improving the functionality of the yards, developing togetherness and enhancing a positive image of the area, attention must be paid to the risk for conflict and social exclusion. The interest in tenant involvement seems to grow, which is promising in many regards. However, it is important to also be aware of the challenges it poses and how these can be dealt with in the management organisation.
open space management