The effect of resource sustainability interventions on social sustainable development in the built environment
There are several sustainable development targets for the Swedish housing market. The sector as a whole is expected to contribute to the reduction of greenhouse gases. Housing prices should increase and not inflate. Meanwhile, the development of the built environment should contribute to well being and decrease segregation. Prioritization amongst these targets is often done through policy and by actors in the housing market. This thesis focuses on the trade-offs between environmental and social sustainable development targets. The thesis builds on two studies of development in the built environment. The main study describes an environmental upgrade of housing in a disadvantaged area of Gothenburg, and the second investigates a redevelopment area with high environmental ambitions.
Environmental targets, such as CO2 reduction, have in some cases been profitably achieved in housing projects in Sweden. The principal study of this thesis describes the implementation of volumetric billing of water at Bredfjällsgatan which successfully reduced water usage and was profitable for the implementing real estate company. However, the system’s change also increased the average monthly costs for the households, and the average monthly costs increased even more in households where the inhabitants were unemployed. The lock-in effect of welfare dependency is increased by rising monthly expenses. This group lacks economic incentive to save water since welfare pays for water usage. The analyses of water consumption data show that while economic incentives account for some reduction of water consumption, other parameters such as household size, crowdedness of apartments, and household level of education are also important factors. Households receiving welfare are not economically affected by the implementation of volumetric billing of water but are further socially excluded from society when trapped in welfare dependence. The real estate owner states economic and environmental aspects as motivators for the system’s change. Social sustainable development targets on a societal level are not an outspoken priority to the same extent. The real estate owners in disadvantaged housing areas should be recognized as important actors in the development to tackle segregation of the housing market.
The second study presents empirical insights from a housing area that is being built with high environmental ambitions. Perspectives of sustainable development amongst developers in the area differ, but it is apparent that social dimensions of sustainable development receive less attention. The complexity of social dimensions is not fully addressed. Social sustainable development is for example thought of as comfortable outdoor environments in the area, while the larger societal impacts of the housing project were not considered to the same extent. Integration, affordability, and equity were given direct focus; instead these targets are often assumed to be reached by varying apartment sizes and mixing tenure in the area.