Urban policy

Cochrane, Allan (2009). Urban policy. In: Kitchen, Rob and Thrift, Nigel eds. International Encyclopedia of Human Geography. Amsterdam, the Netherlands: Elsevier, pp. 84–88.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-008044910-4.01098-1


In one sense urban policy is no more than the cluster of public policy initiatives intended to have some sort of impact on the lives of urban residents. At a basic level, it is distinctive because it is targeted on territories or geographical areas rather than particular ‘client’ groups.

However, such a definition is primarily descriptive and provides little help in assessing the impact of urban policy over time, because the targets (including the geographical areas) and nature of the initiatives keep changing, without the reasons for this ever quite being made explicit and without ‘lessons’ being learned.

Nevertheless, there are important insights to be drawn from the study of urban policy. The ways in which its various strands and themes overlap and interweave at different times and in different places reflect and shape contemporary understandings of the city and its potential, as well as highlight the changing shapes of welfare and postwelfare states (neoliberalizing and beyond).

Historically, the emphasis may have been on ‘inner cities’ and those living in them, but now it is urban economies that are to be revitalized or restructured in order to make cities competitive and improve the economic well-being of residents.

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