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From stigma to demolition: Australian debates about housing and social exclusion


Although the concept of social exclusion is well established in the UK and wider Europe, as an alternative to the use of poverty and inequality, it only recently entered Australian housing and urban policy debates. This paper explores the dominant debates that emerged about housing and inequality in two major reports, which investigated future options for East Fairfield (Villawood) public housing estate in New South Wales prior to its demolition. In conceptualising the debates, the analysis draws on the framework devised by Watt and Jacobs (2000, Housing, theory and society, 17(1), 14–26), which identified three different discourses of social exclusion in British housing and urban policy. It is concluded that the dominant debate at East Fairfield estate drew extensively on a moral underclass discourse that implicated public housing tenure as a major cause of inequality. Whilst there is little doubt that serious problems existed on the estate, questions are raised about the utility of this moral underclass depiction and the rationale it provided for adopting demolition as the definitive solution. The experience of East Fairfield demonstrates that demolition is not a low-cost solution in financial or social terms.

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Arthurson, K. From stigma to demolition: Australian debates about housing and social exclusion. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment 19, 255–270 (2004).

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  • housing demolition
  • neighbourhood renewal
  • social exclusion
  • social housing
  • social inclusion