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The long-run permanence of concentrated landownership: securing control over land through its partitioning into homes

Authors: Antoine Paccoud*, Luxembourg Institute of Socio-Economic Research (LISER)
Topics: Social Geography, Historical Geography
Keywords: Land, housing, inequality, archival research, long-run
Session Type: Paper
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This paper takes a long-run perspective on the evolution of the landownership structure in Dudelange, Luxembourg, drawing on an archive of Land Registry transactions from 1856 until today. It seeks to understand the permanence of the concentration of land ownership over this period – even as the city turned from a rural backwater into a regional centre of steel production, and then into an important residential suburb for the country’s capital and financial centre. In each of these phases, the large landed interests driving the mode of accumulation mobilised the controlled release of land to further their hold over urban development. While the steel giant bought its workforce’s loyalty by selectively offering land plots and housing at discounted prices, agricultural dynasties have managed the production of residential units in the city for the last decades. In both cases, the production of housing involves the partitioning of land plots which grows the number of individual owners but does not threaten the overall landownership structure. Instead, in a context of chronic housing shortages, large landowners have drawn on selective partitioning to raise the value of the remainder of their landholdings and to lock new owners in a property circle that is difficult to disrupt. In a context where taxes are low and in which the safeguard of property rights and house price growth has become paramount, land assembly has proven to be a lengthy and resource intensive process for public bodies as they attempt to develop industrial zones and affordable housing estates

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