This article examines the adoption, by the New Labour government, of a mixed communities approach to the renewal of disadvantaged neighbourhoods in England. It argues that while there are continuities with previous policy, the new approach represents a more neoliberal policy turn in three respects: its identification of concentrated poverty as the problem; its faith in market‐led regeneration; and its alignment with a new urban policy agenda in which cities are gentrified and remodelled as sites for capital accumulation through entrepreneurial local governance. The article then draws on evidence from the early phases of the evaluation of the mixed community demonstration projects to explore how the new policy approach is playing out at a local level, where it is layered upon existing policies, politics and institutional relationships. Tensions between neighbourhood and strategic interests, community and capital are evident as the local projects attempt neighbourhood transformation, while seeking to protect the rights and interests of existing residents. Extensive community consultation efforts run parallel with emergent governance structures, in which local state and capital interests combine and communities may effectively be disempowered. Policies and structures are still evolving and it is not yet entirely clear how these tensions will be resolved, especially in the light of a collapsing housing market, increased poverty and demand for affordable housing, and a shortage of private investment.