Segregation, alienation and social sustainability have put suburbia and large-scale residential areas in focus for urban development projects. The renewal of city districts aims to improve a residential area or district through physical renovation or social efforts.

The need for rearmament as a motor

There are, in the estimation, about 650 000 homes in apartment buildings in Sweden that need renovation and become more energy-efficient. Many of the areas where the houses are located came about at the same time and, in addition to often having a bad reputation and low attractiveness, have an extensive need for technical maintenance and renovation. How the renewal is financed affects the conditions for urban development. There is not always an economic space for increased rents among residents. If the renovation of large-scale apartment building areas is to take all three dimensions of sustainable development into account, the real-estate technical improvements must be implemented in conjunction with those who live and operate in the areas. The measures taken need to work to upgrade the district from a social perspective, as well as environmental.

Swedish public housing companies have decades of experience when it comes to achieving socially sustainable regeneration in socio-economically weak neighbourhoods. Many take great social accounts in renovation and renewal, work with social procurements, operate and support different social or cultural activities for residents and collaborate with other actors. There is an awareness in starting with the residents and their knowledge of how the area functions to live in in the renewal process. Physical renewal needs to be combined with efforts to strengthen the identity of the area and foster a sense of togetherness. Establishing trusting relations between the actors involved is key. Renovation and renewal need to be carried out, not to change the population composition, but to target those living in the district and to adapt the measures to their wishes and economic opportunities.

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