Urban densification in the Merwedekanaalzone: sustainable in many ways, but also socially?
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Cities worldwide continue to grow in population, and for decades urban sprawl has been the answer. However, the limits of urban sprawl are being reached, and instead, it is becoming denser and denser in cities. With urban densification, cities focus on sustainable urban development. Urban densification forces policymakers to use space in a sustainable way, but what does this mean for social sustainability? In the scientific debate on the relationship between urban densification and social sustainability, it is emphasized that this relationship is strongly context-dependent. This thesis presents the context of the Merwedekanaalzone in Utrecht regarding the relationship between urban densification and social sustainability. Like many other cities, the Dutch city of Utrecht is focusing on urban densification in order to meet the housing demand with the increasingly scarce space. The Merwedekanaalzone is one of the areas being densified, where 10,000 homes are being built with unprecedented density by European standards. The project demonstrates sustainability in mobility and the environment, but what about the social sustainability of the developments in the Merwedekanaalzone? Building on existing literature, this research shows through surveys and additional interviews with stakeholders that diverse housing is crucial for optimal social sustainability in the Merwedekanaalzone. Besides explaining the main challenges for achieving social sustainability through urban densification, suggestions for possible follow-up research are mentioned in this thesis.