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Living conditions and settlement

Many rural areas contain great natural assets, inexpensive housing, association activities, peace and quiet and local communities – all factors that could attract the potential settlers living in the cities. Several studies show that these people exist.  One of the centre’s pillars of research is “Conditions and settlement”. The target is here to elucidate location-bound resources including the local communities social cohesiveness in the form of social capital, where social capital is understood as social networks (for instance in collective activities), which represents value in the local community just as physical capital and economic capital. In connection with this it is also relevant to study, in how many different places locals have the opportunity to meet (in libraries, schools, community houses, gymnasiums, football clubs, shops, harbours, town squares etc.), how many especially active people or enthusiasts are in associations and elsewhere, and whether local communities are influenced by including or excluding networks - in other words the type of social capital.

Among other important location-bound resources are local knowledge, special local entrepreneurships, the strong connection many residents have to the place they are born and raised, cultural history and forms of organisation. All these elements have significance for the local development as well as external framework conditions like rural area policies, legislation, infrastructure, the regional labour market, and global trends in patterns of settlement and life forms.

It is important also to elucidate the factors that dampen living conditions and the desire to move to rural areas. Examples are a lack of jobs, inadequate infrastructure (including roads and rails, accessibility to nature and broadband), few public services (for instance school, hospital, doctor, educational institutions, libraries and eldercare), conflicts between locals and settlers, groups of people on benefits renting so-called “Låsby Svendsen” houses, social inequality and dilapidated houses. Furthermore it is important to elucidate, in part, the difference between rural and urban areas, and, in part, the difference between various rural areas, which include variations from scenic areas with a growing population situated close to an urbanized area, to peripheral rural areas without any attractions and on to small islands with a massive decline in population growth – places where villages risk vanishing completely. In this respect it is also important to elucidate the condition of health and life satisfaction of the local population as well as their different coping strategies, so as to be able to contribute to the municipalities’ and actors’ concrete efforts.