Special Report: Working-Class Homeownership
Special Housing Offers and Lifestyle Evolution in a Working-Class Neighborhood under RenovationBy Pierre Gilbert
The growing differentiation within the working class is expressed by a divide between unstable populations in low-income housing and stable homeowner populations in suburban areas. By promoting access to homeownership within low-income housing, urban renewal policy is likely to modify the processes of this residential divide. This article, based on a monograph of a neighborhood in Lyon, France, highlights the fact that, instead of the expected arrival of the middle class, the new homeowners taking advantage of access entry come from stable, working-class populations. Becoming homeowners in low-income housing enables them to enjoy a small degree of residential mobility while retaining the connection with family, friends, and local acquaintances essential to a domestic equilibrium. Their residential trajectory leads them to invest heavily in their private life and distance themselves from the neighborhood and its less “respectable” residents. This results in centrifugal processes that, until now, led to the departure of stable population groups. Although urban renewal modifies the population of the low-income housing complexes by slowing down these centrifugal processes, the cohabitation of the newcomers with the most unstable population groups does not result in closer social relations between the two.