Lived Realities of Relocation

Thursday 4 February 2016

Previous studies of relocation – mainly from the US and the Netherlands - tell us that housing and neighbourhood conditions and resident satisfaction tend to be higher after relocation, though less consistently in respect of the housing than neighbourhood. However, little is known about people’s actual experiences of involuntary relocation, and the need for more in-depth qualitative research has been expressed in order for us to understand what ‘displaced’ families go through in the relocation process.

In this longitudinal qualitative study of 14 families, who had been relocated from high rise flats into [mainly] new build homes as part of the regeneration of their areas, we focused on prior attitudes to relocation in relation to post-move experiences, identifying the factors that mediate this relationship. We observed that the main change in attitudes was a retrospective reassessment of prior attitudes: some relocates looked back in the light of their new location and wondered why they had put up with such poor conditions for so long in their previous home and wished they had been able to move sooner.

As Jackie summed up: “I wasn’t unhappy [in the high rise flat]’s only when I’ve left that I thought to myself, I’m stuck in the flats for years...i just kinda got on with it”.  The majority gained residential benefits from relocation. There were more social and community gains rather than losses. For some, the psychosocial gains seemed equally important, if not more so, than social gains.  Many reported positive experiences for their children: “I know they’re out there safe” (Maya).

How can we support families going through, the sometimes difficult process of, relocation? Our recommendations include: practical measures so that people are better prepared for change; and the availability of post-move counselling and support for some. We also emphasise the importance of the development of community facilities alongside new housing developments.

The research is available in this open access article in Housing Studies: “You Can't Always Get What You Want…”? Prior-Attitudes and Post-Experiences of Relocation from Restructured Neighbourhoods and is summarised in Briefing Paper 25: Attitudes and experiences of relocation.