CORDIS - EU research results

Exploring Anti-GentrificAtion PracticEs and policies in Southern European Cities

Final Report Summary - AGAPE (Exploring Anti-GentrificAtion PracticEs and policies in Southern European Cities)

The overall aim of the research project has been to explore and compare the rise of anti-gentrification practices in three Southern European cities Rome, Madrid and Athens, with the final goals to reworking our collective imagination and repertoire of solutions to displacement and contribute to gentrification resistance theory. In order to achieve this overall goal, the project has developed four sub-objectives;
1) to examine the relevance of gentrification resistance theory in understanding the emergence of anti-eviction, anti-speculative and anti-privatisation practices performed in the space of Southern European cities in the post-2008 economic crisis;
2) to study and contextualise different types of displacement within the political and institutional regulatory landscape and housing systems of SE cities;
3) to study anti-gentrification practices in different cities in order to strengthen our knowledge on the prevention of displacement;
4) to develop an anti-gentrification toolkit for SE cities for both policy makers and activists based on the research findings.
The research design and the researcher activities have been planned to meet each of the specific project objectives. The work has encompassed:
- dedicated training on methodology on the topic of the research (qualitative research methods, interview skills, oral history workshop)
- preparation, implementation and development of case studies (fieldwork organisation, ethical approval, risk assessment, pilot fieldwork in each case)
- fieldwork development and interviews with informants in the selected cases. The fieldwork encompassed a selection, active engagement, observation and detailed description of different examples of anti gentrification in the cities. For example; public institutions committed to the prevention of eviction, anti-eviction platforms, neighbourhood groups which have developed an anti-speculative/anti-privatization discourse or anti-eviction platform and tenants’ organisations, NGOs and cooperatives advocating for alternative access to housing and homeless care. The observation focused on target, social composition, types of action and methods.
- comparative analysis of the cases: The comparison focused on the potential and limits of the cases to prevent displacement, on coherence and incoherence of their objectives and narratives, on the tensions between existing property regimes and the alternative proposed and the conflicts over the re-use of (public and private) vacant buildings.
- participation in seminars, conferences and writing papers
- writing and dissemination of the final tool kit aimed at policy makers.
- improve teaching skill by delivering classes in Human Geography.

Main results achieved
The research results are manifold. The first main result of the research is a detailed understanding of urban displacement in southern European cities after the economic crisis (sub-objective 2). A variety of displacement forces are acting simultaneously with different intensity, impacting a variety of people of different social composition. The complexity of the profiles impacted by urban displacement today challenges policy makers in the prefiguration of a solution. In relation to the acuteness of displacement, the second main result of the research is a detailed knowledge of a variety, multiscalarity and simultaneity of the anti-displacement practices that animate the political space of Southern European cities today (objective 3). Urban displacement has acquired new visibility and centrality in political discourses and institutional responses. The varied set of practices (e.g. anti-eviction, anti-privatization, anti-speculation and anti-austerity) mapped by the researcher in the three cases have been strategically grouped under the label “anti-gentrification practices”. Their analysis strengthens our knowledge of gentrification resistance theory (objective 1) and its potential to inform the setting of an anti-displacement urban agenda, which is the overall objective of the research.
The results of the comparison are highly informative for policy makers and have significant impacts both for the way cities frame the issue of urban displacement and for the institutional capacity to address it. The cases have the potential to enrich our repertoire of actions and call for the implementation of displacement prevention and mitigation measures in the face of the growing concern regarding eviction, its consequences and its social and economic cost.

Potential impact and use
The results of the research are highly informative for eviction preventative measures. From the analysis it emerges that there is a lack of prevention in respect to eviction. Prevention should encompass a variety of actions that target the highly complex profile of those impacted by displacement. Direct displacement is no longer a matter for vulnerable categories that can be addressed by a residual welfare model and emergency solution. On the contrary, urban displacement is impacting a wide range of impoverished middle class, elderly people and precarious workers who are mainly young, migrant tenants. Thus, preventative measures should foresee the provision of affordable housing for a wide range of categories. From the case studies it emerges that prevention could be fostered through: i) acquisition and conversion of unused stock into public housing; ii) revision of privatisation schemes to maintain the residential public stock accessible to future generation; iii) mortgage rent shift options; iii) financial aids and city wide moratoria on evictions to protect the most vulnerable categories; iv) measures that differentiate the access to housing (e.g. cooperatives and self-rehab policies).
The research results also have a significant impact on mitigation policies. The research has shown that speculation increased in gentrified areas after the crisis. Anti-gentrification practices call for i) alternative local development plans; ii) mitigation of tourism in central areas; iii) downzoning of speculative development; iv) preservation of the social values of empty parcels of land and buildings recuperated by civil society for social uses; v) active citizen participation which results in operative decisions. In the absence of prevention and mitigation measures, the research investigated practices of civil disobedience such as the demand of squatting movement, which are highly informative for the design of displacement preventing measures. In the field of mitigation, in the absence of participation, counter narratives promoted by neighbourhood groups and urban social movements prove to be highly significant for building awareness about gentrification.
The comparison also recognises the limits in the way the anti-eviction discourse and practices are performed. For instance, the social composition of the group advocating against displacement requires a deep understanding of interclass solidarity which is the weakest point of struggles that seek to preserve private access and homeownership (such as the anti-auction movement in Greece). Moreover, the institutionalisation of social movement practices such as anti-eviction legal aid, or institutional responses such as financial aid or temporary accommodation and emergency solutions, have proven to be limited in scope in the way they frame the target of their action. Implementation of temporary accommodation currently underway in Madrid must learn from the failure of such measures in Rome, in the absence of a permanent housing solution.
The potential and limits of practices mapped by the researcher in the three case studies have been rendered in an Anti-gentrification toolkit for their potential to inform the setting of an anti-displacement agenda. The document has been presented and discussed in a final workshop. The workshop brought together the identified targets from different Southern Europe cities under investigation (people under eviction and anti-eviction platforms, housing policy makers, planners, housing scholars, tenants’ unions, activists and neighbourhood organisations) to engage collectively in a confrontation and discussion of the potential and limits of anti-gentrification discourses and practices in facing the regimes of expulsion that characterise Southern European cities in the current period of austerity.