Research field: Housing policy and neighborhood planning

Common approaches to the study of housing policy analyze it as a component of economics of the state and the city, as part of real estate development and management, or as welfare policy for needy populations in society. In contrast, Naomi Carmon analyzes housing policy as a powerful tool in the hands of governments that use it in order to advance their goals and benefit selected groups. She formulated this approach during her doctoral research, which examined changes in housing policies in a number of Western countries, and evaluated the use of housing policy by the Israeli government to achieve the goal of nation building – one nation out of waves of immigrants arriving from dozens of countries, and the goal of population dispersal throughout the country (Carmon & Mannheim 1979-E; Carmon 1981-E). This approach was further developed by Naomi and served her and the colleagues who worked with her on later studies: in the analyses of Israel’s housing policy during the first 50 years of the State’s existence (Carmon 2002-E), the Israeli mortgage policy (Benchetrit and Carmon 2006 – H), as well as the affordable housing policy in the country (Tamar Lanir’s thesis, 2003 – H). Recently, this approach was used for examining affordable housing in London and New York as examples of housing policy of neo-liberal governments in global cities (Marom and Carmon 2015–E).

As part of housing policy, various agencies influence the planning of neighborhoods. The neighborhood has often been a topic of Naomi’s research (see the chapter on Neighborhood in the International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences that Carmon was invited to write [Carmon and Eizenberg 2015-E]). Her doctorate, which dealt – among other topics – with the social composition of neighborhoods, was a pioneering study within international literature. In recent years, she has dealt extensively with the issue of “socially mixed housing”, i.e., the relational fabric in places of residence in which inhabitants come from diverse socio-economic groups, in terms of ethnic origin, and/or religious belonging and/or household income. Naomi and her students studied this issue in a variety of contexts. They investigated social relations between old-time residents from the lower socio-economic class of the city Rosh Ha’ayin and the new residents in the municipality, members of the middle class (Rivka Ventura Farchi’s thesis 1997-H); between secular and religious residents in Ra’anana (Hadas Druker’s thesis 1988-H); between new members/residents of the “expansion” of a Moshav to the old-time residents there (Tlila Uzan’s thesis 2002-H); and between Jewish and Arab residents of Nazareth Ilit, a development city that was established for Jews (Hana Haj Yichya’s thesis 2003-H).

Naomi also examined the inter-ethnic relations between Arabs and Jews in a study she undertook with Oren Yiftachel, a former post-doctoral student. The focus was on the attitudes of the Jewish population in the Galilee concerning their Arab neighbors and Arabs in Israel in general (Yiftachel and Carmon 1997 – E). It was found that the Jews who came to live in new communities that were established in the region of the Galilee, in which there was a clear Arab majority, tended to have more positive attitudes toward their Arab neighbors and toward Arabs in general, compared with the Jewish public in Israel. These results, which supported findings from previous studies, led to an interesting conclusion/hypothesis, which deserves further study, that is, there is a difference between two kinds of mixed neighborhoods: the first– a minority group immigrates to a space in which the dominant/majority group resides, and the second – members of the dominant/majority group immigrate to a space in which the minority group is the majority. In the first case, the attitudes of residents from the dominant group toward the minority will tend to be negative, as a rule (leading to the strengthening of stereotypes and negative prejudices), while in the second case – the case studied by Oren and Naomi – the attitudes will tend to be positive.

Naomi Carmon’s unique contribution to the literature on socially mixed housing can be found in her recommendation to create homogeneous clusters of residents within large heterogeneous neighborhoods. This recommendation is grounded in her earlier and later findings (Carmon 1976–E; Carmon and Ziflinger 2007-H; Marom and Carmon 2015-E) and is also based on the insights of well-known sociologists, such as Herbert Gans and Pierre Bourdieu (ibid, pp. 1007-1008). An important argument behind this recommendation is that living in a homogeneous residential area allows for the development of “bonding social capital” that is needed for everyday life (especially among poor families and new immigrants), while heterogeneous housing encourages the growth of “bridging social capital”, which has the potential to support social mobility of the persons who have such capital (Amoyal and Carmon 2011-H).

More in Research fields: