Keeping out the Poor: Banishment as an Urban Renewal Strategy
Over the past decades, we have witnessed increasingly repressive policies towards all sorts of urban outcasts, alongside ongoing efforts to attract population segments deemed more favourable. While at some point attempts to keep the poor away from city centres were confined to the poorest and most visible segments, such as the homeless and rough sleepers (see e.g., Mitchell, 1997), removal efforts have gradually expanded and now include much larger groups of unwanted people. In the wake of New Orleans’s urban renewal policies after Hurricane Catrina, Lees et al. (2008) discerned a ‘fourth wave of gentrification’ wherein systematic state-led social cleansing has come to play a fundamental role in gentrification processes. The ‘literal and figurative effacing of the proletariat in the city’ (Wacquant, 2009: 199) can take many forms - varying from legal bans from parks and other places (Beckett and Herbert, 2009, 2010, 2017), systematic racialized evictions (Roy, 2017), or one-way tickets for homeless families (Bosman and Barbara, 2009). Since 2006, the so-called Rotterdam Wet (van Gent et al., 2017) allows Dutch cities to refuse a residence permit in certain neighbourhoods for people who have lived in the metropolitan region for less than six years and who have no income from work, pensions, or student loans. In Denmark, the Ghetto Plan seeks to stop municipalities from moving people on benefits into public housing in areas officially designated as ‘ghettos’ (Simonsen, 2016; Milne, 2018).
In recent years, the city of Landskrona, a small town in the south of Sweden, has implemented a housing policy that is mainly aimed at preventing poor people from migrating to (or within) the city. The pressure on Landskrona’s housing market is low compared to nearby larger cities and university towns, where housing prices and rent levels result in an increasingly excluding housing market. In the absence of these ‘market forces’, Landskrona’s city authorities have embarked on a set of excluding policy measures. We argue that these measures herald a new era of urban population management and urban renewal in Sweden. These measures also imply that our conventional conceptual apparatus to capture social change in the city - in particular, the management of poor population segments -does not lend itself very well to understand contemporary population and renewal policies in the city of Landskrona. We are not witnessing processes of gentrification, there are no legal bans addressing poor people, there is no outright displacement, and poor people are not evicted from their homes. The new policies are not even directly aimed at restricting the freedom of movement of poor population segments like in the examples above; rather, they are aimed at restricting the freedom of private landlords and, in that way, indirectly overseeing the movement of poor people. We find the term ‘banishment’ (Roy, 2017) particularly useful to grasp the new urban renewal tactics that are unfolding in Landskrona.
Based on an empirical study of Landskrona’s rental policies, this chapter aims to develop banishment as a concept to capture a certain variation of displacement that is currently difficult to place in the available conceptual apparatus.