Urban Policy

Cochrane, Allan (2020). Urban Policy. In: Kobayashi, Audrey ed. International Encyclopedia of Human Geography 2nd edition, Volume 14. Elsevier, pp. 93–96.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1016/B978-0-08-102295-5.10229-X


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. 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. Urban policy is not simply a set of more or less technical activities but it is framed through contested meanings and contested politics. The ways in which the various strands and themes of urban policy overlap, and interweave at different times and in different places, reflect and shape contemporary understandings of the city and its potential. Urban policy further highlights the changing shapes of welfare and postwelfare states (neoliberalizing and beyond). There are continuing tensions between different forms of urban policy oriented toward solving the (social as well as economic) problems associated with urban life and those seeking to use the urban as a catalyst for social and economic change and urban development.

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