Awarded by the ORA (Open Research Area for the Social Sciences) funds for a new research project

Awarded by the ORA (Open Research Area for the Social Sciences) funds for a new research project

Thrilled with the news that our research proposal What Is Governed in Cities: Residential Investment Landscapes and the Governance and Regulation of Housing Production is awarded by prestigious ORA funds, a European scheme in which the Netherlands Organisation for Scientific Research (NWO), British Economic and Social Research Council (ESRC) and French Agence Nationale de la Recherche(ANR) participate. As a consortium lead by Prof.Dr. Mike Raco (UCL) with the contribution of myself and Prof.Dr.Patrick Le Gales (Sciences Po, Paris) we will explore the complex governance landscapes created by property investment markets in Amsterdam, London and Paris for the next 3 years.

Appointed as professor of Urban Governance and Planning at the University of Amsterdam

Honoured and thrilled with my professorship appointment at the University of Amsterdam (UvA). Proudly, I’m one of the 100 women in the Netherlands (and of 19 in Amsterdam) who are promoted in 2018 for professorship, awarded through special funds initiated by former Minister of Education Jet Bussemaker. I have been working at UvA more than two years now, following several exciting positions and appointments I held in the Netherlands, Belgium and Turkey. As of February 2018 I will hold the Chair of Urban Planning and Governance at Faculty of Social and Behavioural Sciences at Department of Human Geography, Urban Planning and International Development. I am immensely grateful and more motivated than ever !

We are organising a special session at AAG Annual Meeting in New Orleans

We are organising a special session at AAG Annual Meeting in New Orleans

CFP Session at AAG Conference 2018, New Orleans

New Investment Landscapes and Contemporary Urban Development: Exploring the Social Relations of the Real Estate Industry


Mike Raco, Nicola Livingstone (Bartlett School of Planning, University College London), and Tuna Taşan-Kok  (University of Amsterdam)


Fainstein’s detailed work on ‘The City Builders’ (1994) clearly defined property developers in the 1990s as the main agents of change within processes of urban development. The position of these actors, shaped by the global circulation of capital, has become more dynamic, and their identities more liquid and complex over time. The ‘social relations’ especially between developers and investors, and their relational positions in the real estate industry, have changed rapidly especially after the crises of 2008. Within the dynamism of the real estate industry, the variety, type, and purpose of market actors across the investment and development sectors has been both adjusting and transforming.


This Call for Papers invites contributions that explore the politics and practices of contemporary urban development with a focus on the real estate industry.  Our working hypothesis is that much of the critical literature on urban development, and many of the policy frameworks that shape planning systems, characterize the real estate and investment sector in a simplified way.  They are often presented, implicitly or explicitly, as a unified interest with a clear subjectivity built around: ‘fast’ returns from investment decisions; a lack of ethical concern with broader public interests; outlooks dominated by the conversion of diverse places into high-return, single-use investment spaces; and a bullying and aggressive approach towards citizens and government authorities who seek to disrupt their programmes and projects.


We call for papers that critically engage with Campbell et al.’s (2014) argument that ‘the view of real estate markets in much critical analysis is very one-dimensional, assuming an inevitability about the nature of development outcomes…researchers and practitioners should develop much more sophisticated understanding of the pressures and priorities of developers and their investors’. Moreover, under conditions of contemporary globalization we are also seeing the emergence of new investment landscapes underpinned by a plurality of institutions and actors.  Projects are now funded by complex investment vehicles with finance sourced through Sovereign Wealth Funds, private family-centred interests, foundations, charities, or even public sector authorities (including local governments and quangos).  There is thus no one ‘developer’ type and yet ‘despite their status as the drivers and coordinators of the property development process, relatively little is known about the perspectives, actions and strategies of property developers’ (Henneberry and Parris, 2013: p.242).


In this session we therefore call for conceptual and empirical papers that examine the diverse social relations of the property development sector.  Proposed papers should address one or more of the following themes or topics:


  • The diversity of property developers and the increasing complexity of property sector actors;
  • The form and character of investment landscapes that fuel urban development projects in cities;
  • Conceptualisations of the variety, type, and functions of the property development and investment sectors and the institutional landscapes of finance;
  • Explorations of the ethics of property development and their influence on projects and practices;
  • The modes of regulation and governance that are used to shape the activities of investors and their effectiveness and influence.


Please email enquiries and abstracts (250 words) to Mike Raco ( by October 13. Authors will be notified of acceptance by October 20, and must register for the conference and submit their abstracts through the AAG website by the October 25 deadline to be added to the paper session.

Cityscope essay on our DIVERCITIES Handbook

Cityscope essay on our DIVERCITIES Handbook

Cityscope correspondent David Hatch has written about the DIVERCITIES handbook on Cityscope’s website. It’s a great piece taking into account the substantial research we undertook in 14 cities. You can read the full text below. Image: Participants take part in this year’s Borgerrio festival in Antwerp, Germany. (Victoriano Moreno/

These cities are coming up with new ways to harness ‘hyper-diversity’

How do you govern a hyper-diverse city? A new handbook recommends approaches that promote urban diversity, foster interaction across communities and aim to increase civic participation.

A Handbook for Governing Hyper-diverse Cities was published by Divercities, a European Union-funded project. Compiled by more than 60 international researchers, the study is based on interviews in 14 countries with about 140 local initiatives. The handbook is designed to offer insights for city leaders and other policymakers on ways to strengthen social cohesion and social mobility, along with economic prosperity.

The authors begin with a simple premise: Diverse cities are an asset. A wide variety of backgrounds, viewpoints and life experiences makes for a dynamic urban society.

From there, the authors go on to suggest strategies that cities can use to make the most use of their diversity. These include:

  • Diversity awareness: New policies should be crafted with diversity in mind, then vetted for their impact on communities before introduction.
  • Enhance visibility: Authorities can improve awareness of new policies and programmes by partnering with local groups that act as intermediaries with citizens.
  • Bottom-up initiatives: To reach all residents, cities should consider funding programmes that are informal, open and participatory, and may not otherwise qualify for support.

[See: Healing Europe’s populist divisions depends on its cities]

The authors caution against one-size-fits-all solutions, warning that these won’t reflect each city’s unique demographic profile. “It is not possible to address the needs of increasingly complex and diverse urban societies with standardized policies and policy instruments,” they write.

Creative approaches

Across Europe, municipalities are implementing innovative methods to encourage diversity and social interaction. For instance:

  • Warsaw’s libraries initiative: Located in an economically depressed area, the small library includes chairs and couches that encourage visitors to linger and mingle.
  • Rotterdam’s “experimental garden”: The volunteer-run community centre has activities that range from knitting and cooking to sports.
  • Antwerp’s Borgerrio: The multicultural street festival in a diverse neighbourhood is a boon to nearby family-owned shops.

[See: What Athens, Amman learned about helping refugees amid tight budgets]

Other cities have launched youth-oriented employment programmes. London’s Project 2020 strives to help jobless and uneducated youth in the city’s Haringey neighbourhood, where unemployment is high. Youths are matched with professionals or trade specialists to learn new skills.

In Paris, the Neighbourhood Maintenance Corporation (Régie de Quartier) provides entry-level jobs such as cleaning and gardening in underprivileged areas. A key goal is to incentivize local residents to take pride in their community.

Leipzig has started an initiative called Godparent Programme for Asylum Seekers. The goals here are to welcome asylum seekers and overcome prejudice by pairing refugees with locals who pledge to serve as godparents for children.

And several cities are taking steps to help marginalized women and girls:

  • Toronto’s Women Moving Forward: Designed to help single-income mothers age 18 to 30, the initiative offers personal and professional mentoring and educational support.
  • Copenhagen’s Pastry Hill Integration House: Located in a former bakery, the programme serves immigrant women and girls in the Bispebjerg district who lack Danish language skills.
  • Istanbul’s Women’s Solidarity Foundation: Intended to empower women, the organization runs workshops that include vocational training.

Complex melting pots

The researchers recommend that cities provide spaces for start-ups, small businesses and training to create greater opportunities for refugees and minorities to achieve economic progress. Funding for such initiatives is critical, but other forms of support, such as expertise and guidance, also are essential.

[See: How a declining German city is reviving itself from the bottom up]

Governing such melting pots, however, isn’t easy. Immigration can stoke tension along religious and ethnic lines. Rumours and stereotypes often proliferate about misunderstood immigrant and minority communities. Resentment can build among isolated populations that may feel marginalized socially and economically.

The Brexit vote in the United Kingdom and the ascendency of real-estate mogul Donald Trump to the U. S. presidency were fueled by fervour over immigration and its impact on security and jobs.

The handbook defines hyper-diversity as more than just demographics, ethnic identity and socio-economic status. The term also encompasses the wide variance of lifestyles, attitudes and activities that comprise an urban environment, along with gender, race, class, ability and sexual orientation.

Learn more about Diversities here, www.