WHIG - What is Governed in Cities: Residential Investment Landscapes and the Governance and Regulation of Housing Production
Major cities have been faced with unprecedented development pressures over recent decades as their populations and economies have expanded, and their built environments have become highly attractive locations for global investment in property markets (Aalbers and Christopers, 2014; Hunter, 2016). These pressures have been particularly acute in the production and consumption of housing, where the impacts of investments on markets, citizens, and places are of growing significance (Moreno, 2014).
Urban housing markets lie at the interface between broader processes of structural change including: the growing financialisation of urban built environments; an increasingly global orientation to the strategies and portfolios of investors; the mobilisation of technologies and knowledges by private actors to define and operationalise urban investment 'markets'; an increase in the production of internationally oriented new housing, and in the conversion of residential units for short-term rentals; the gradual erosion of state powers and resources under conditions of austerity and indebtedness; and the growing power of governmental and non-governmental expert networks in shaping contemporary forms of development and regulation. Investment landscapes have, therefore, taken on a new complexity, and urban projects are now funded by a diverse range of global and national investors and underwritten by complex and opaque financial arrangements.
Policy-makers have found it increasingly difficult to find the right mix of interventions to regulate and govern housing production. The housing sector has been subject to persistent policy failures characterised by a worsening 'crisis' in major metropolises, fuelled by growing demands for ‘affordable’ housing on the one hand, and the expansion of top-end, luxury units or buy-to-let for small households, short-term visitors, or students on the other (Fernandez and Aalbers, 2016; Forrest and Hirayama, 2015). Western economies are becoming more urban and metropolises are becoming more productive, but housing is increasingly inaccessible, particularly for young people and those on lower incomes (Storper, 2013; Storper et al., 2015; European Commission, 2016; Shetty, et al., 2014; 2017). The social impacts of these policy failings are being felt by a growing range of residents and have longer term implications for the competitiveness of urban economies.
In this context, the aim of this project is to draw on a precise comparative, inter-disciplinary methodology to examine the form, character, and regulation of new investment landscapes, and their impacts on the governance of housing and the built environment in metropolitan centres that are challenged by the financialisation of urban built environments: Metropool Regio Amsterdam, Greater London, and Grand Paris.