Introducing Business Improvement Districts (BIDs) in Sweden : A social justice appraisal
, Feras Hammami
- Sage Publications
In a context of growing socio-spatial polarization and of restructuring state–market relations in urban governance, a new phenomenon is emerging in Swedish cities, that is, partnerships for urban regeneration inspired by the Business Improvement District (BID) model. Through an empirical case study research on one of the most long-standing BID partnerships in Sweden – that is, BID Gamlestaden in Gothenburg – the article critically assesses whether the BID model as it has been applied in Sweden represents a socially and politically sustainable tool for urban regeneration. Namely, the study analyses the complex constellation of power entrenched in the BID, with a focus on the relations with urban governance actors ‘above’ (city planning department, public housing, real estate companies, media, politicians) and ‘below’ (residents and local businesses). Despite general claims around BIDs as successful tools for uplifting distressed neighbourhoods, BID Gamlestaden presents shortcomings regarding issues of urban social justice in terms of democratic participation and representation (democracy), disciplining and sanitizing strategies (diversity) and gentrification risks (equality). In fact, while BID partners notice improved attractiveness and sense of security and higher estate values, this improvement is based upon the removal of the most socio-economically vulnerable residents and the disciplining of residents’ and businesses’ behaviours and aesthetics. This study warns about the risk that BIDs as they are currently implemented in Sweden are used as a ‘neoliberal fix’ to move social problems elsewhere rather than solving them, which might lead to new landscapes of exclusion and gentrification.
business improvement district