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Urban renewal programs aim to target both the physical and social environments to improve the social capital, social connectedness, sense of community and economic conditions of residents of the neighbourhoods. We evaluated the impact of an urban renewal program on the health and well-being of residents of a socially disadvantaged community in south-western Sydney, Australia.
Pre- and post-urban renewal program surveys were conducted with householders by trained interviewers. The urban renewal program was conducted over 16months and consisted of internal upgrades (including internal painting; replacement of kitchens, bathrooms and carpets; general maintenance), external upgrades (including property painting; new fencing, carports, letterboxes, concrete driveways, drainage and landscaping), general external maintenance, and social interventions such as community engagement activities, employment initiatives, and building a community meeting place. The questionnaire asked about demographic characteristics, self-reported physical activity, psychological distress, self-rated health, and perceptions of aesthetics, safety and walkability in the neighbourhood. We used the paired chi-square test (McNemars test) to compare paired proportions. A Bonferroni corrected p-value of <0.0013 denoted statistical significance.
Following the urban renewal program we did not find statistically significant changes in perceptions of aesthetics, safety and walkability in the neighbourhood. However, post-urban renewal, more householders reported there were attractive buildings and homes in their neighbourhood (18% vs 64%), felt that they belonged to the neighbourhood (48% vs 70%), that their area had a reputation for being a safe place (8% vs 27%), that they felt safe walking down their street after dark (52% vs 85%), and that people who came to live in the neighbourhood would be more likely to stay rather than move elsewhere (13% vs 54%). Changes in psychological distress and self-rated health were not statistically significant.
We found an increase, in the short-term, in the proportion of householders reporting improvements in some aspects of their immediate neighbourhood following the urban renewal program. It will be important to repeat the survey in the future to determine whether these positive changes are sustained.