Metropolitan Dynamics: Urban Change, Markets and Governance


Iván Tosics
Metropolitan Research Institute
Budapest, Hungary

Christiane Thouzellier
Interdisciplinary Laboratory on Solidarities, Societies, Territories LISST
(UTM-CNRS-EHESS) UMR 5193 and Recherche Habitat-Logement (REHAL)
University of Toulouse – Le Mirail
Toulouse, France

Central theme
This Working Group aims to deal with the spatial dimensions of housing policies. Changes in housing, whether through new construction, refurbishment, demolition, tenure change, etc. have always also a spatial dimension, through which housing can be considered as a tool to address urban development challenges (densification, suburbanization) and social problems (affordability, homelessness, segregation) through spatially defined strategies.

Taking this spatial aspect into consideration, the Working Group aspires multi-disciplinary analysis – how housing processes can be steered with governance and spatial planning tools in urban areas – from the neighbourhood level through the city level till the metropolitan area level. Thus the spatial level can be smaller but also larger than the area covered by the administrative city borders. The Working Group also recognises that housing is much influenced by other policies and sectors, such as planning, transport, environment, local government services and financing, financial regulation, welfare and taxation.

Within the broader topic outlined above, a special interest area of the Working Group is the operation of local housing markets in the functional urban area. The territories around the core city, from where city jobs are accessible by daily commuting, play special role in the urban housing market, both on the higher (rich suburbs) and on the lower end of the housing hierarchy (transitory areas for those who cannot afford housing within the city). On this metropolitan scale many critical challenges can be handled: urban sprawl and unsustainability, affordability and accessibility, infrastructure and services, segregation or fiscal imbalances. A widespread failure to match housing supply and demand in terms of location, quantity or type of housing may be attributable to problems at this scale. Across a range of countries, change and reform is bringing a new focus to this metropolitan scale, whether from downward devolution to city regions or upward consolidation of local government, often in a climate of fiscal stress. to analyze the relationship between cities and their urban regions, which shows substantial changes over time, marked by growth (urbanization) or decline (desurbanization) of the whole area, or by processes of inter-regional restructuring (suburbanization or re-urbanization). The changes, either gradual or more sudden, influence to a great extent the functioning of the housing market within these urban regions and have differential effects on different parts of that region (also within different neighbourhoods in a city). Causes of changes can usually be found in macro-developments, such as economic growth/decline, migration/demographics, changes in incomes and preferences and, at least in some countries, also in specific policies on different spatial scales.

Activities and output in recent years
Since 2005 the Working Group was present at all ENHR conferences. In the 2017 Tirana conference there was a substantial interest towards the sessions we organized: in four sessions 11 papers have been presented. At the closing session there was an open discussion about the future of the Working Group. Most papers were not about metropolitan but municipal housing policies. On the other hand most papers had some spatial aspects. A decision has been taken to modify the topic of the Working Group towards multi-disciplinary analysis, how housing processes can be steered with governance and spatial planning tools in urban areas – not necessarily on metropolitan area level but giving priority to the spatial dimension.

In 2018 the Working Group participated to the Uppsala Conference. 13 papers were presented in five sessions with discussants and an open discussion in each. The papers concerned multi-disciplinary analysis mainly on big cities. To summarize the sessions in one sentence we could say: how more compact urban development can be achieved with governance and spatial planning tools in urban areas and what the role of housing can be in that. If we bring together the different topics of the papers we see some main issues : compact urban development, the planning and effect of new housing developments, densification, housing mix and social integration, socio-spatial segregation and the link between housing and education.

Future plans and activities

Policy implication

This Working Group is the most urban and planning oriented Working Group of ENHR, dealing with all aspects of urban development. The organizers of this Working Group are counting on growing interest of those members of the ENHR, who are ‘infected’ by urban topics, spatial and/or geographical approaches.