This paper explores the increasingly important role of 'social mix' in the management practices of the NSW Department of Housing. Social mix is a policy response to the many perceived social, cultural and economic problems related to the concentration of public tenants within larger housing estates. Social mix involves the integration and assimilation of public housing tenants into areas dominated by private home ownership and private rental. Such policies are based upon the belief that social mix has the ability to alter many of these problems simply through the presence of a 'community'. However, this paper questions the normative construction of homeowners as possessing a 'community' which, by implication, will be passed on to public tenants. Through an in-depth case-study, it is shown that 'community', as constructed by social mix policy rhetoric, may in fact further disadvantage public tenants through processes of othering, stigmatisation and oppression, which operate outside these traditional understandings of community. In addition, this research shows that, rather than increased community integration, it is the physical function of neighbourhood and its direct role in service provision which is the most advantageous constituent of social mix for public housing tenants. © Institute of Australian Geographers 2004.