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‘We want to make neighbourhoods for people, not for investors’: Gentrification as urban strategy and the politics of mobilising land as a financial asset in Antwerp, Belgium

Authors: Callum Ward*, University College London
Topics: Urban Geography, Urban and Regional Planning
Keywords: Antwerp, Planning Gains, Financialisation, Land, Neoliberalisation, Gentrification
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded

Has gentrification as urban strategy been undermined by the financialisation of land? State-led gentrification and land financialisation are interdependent processes, but the extent to which land has been transformed into an investment product threatens to undermine the strategic benefits of gentrification. Exploring this, I focus on the changing politics of urban development in Antwerp, Belgium, where the nationalist neoliberal Nieuw Vlaamse Alliantie (N-VA) took power in 2013, ending half a centrury of socialist rule. Espousing free market discourse, the N-VA dismantled a technocratic city planning system in which land financialisation was closely managed as a gentrification strategy. However, developers have subsequently created high margin investment products rather than housing considered suitable for the middle-classes, with city officials – mindful of creating a ‘ghost city’ – responding by seeking to utilise planning gains legislation to guide the market towards policy goals. Yet insofar as planning gains policies reinforce rather than challenge the power of private developers, they offer little relief in the tension between financialisation and gentrification as urban strategy.

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