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URSI x UGoveRN seminar on conflicted governance

On March 8, 2023, UGoveRN collaborated with URSI, the Urban and Regional Studies Institute of the Faculty of Spatial Sciences at the University of Groningen, to organize a seminar that focused on the role of the state in housing development.

The seminar was inspired by the work of Pierre le Brun, who is a PhD student at the University of Avignon and stayed as a visiting researcher for five weeks at the University of Groningen to work with Dr. Sarah Mawhorter and me, Dr. Sara Özogul. Pierre is studying residential property development in France using mixed methods. His research delves into public housing policies and household property accumulation in France. Talking about his work sparked a discussion about conflicting property market regulations, and the idea for the seminar was born!

Our aim for the seminar was to bring together examples of conflicting property market regulations and their effects from different contexts, in order to reflect on the role of the state in shaping urban built environments.

Governing housing is far from straightforward: across various international contexts, housing development is regulated through webs of policies and programs operating at multiple levels of government. Both real estate developers and government officials must navigate through uncoordinated and contradictory institutional arrangements which can impede the development process.

The seminar started with a presentation by Pierre Le Bruin, who discussed the role of the state in shaping local regulation based on tax expenditures for buy-to-let investments in France. Pierre showcased how tax eligibility affected local dynamics of housing production in two cases: the metropolises of Angers and Clermont Ferrand. He made the compelling argument that processes of decentralization and fiscalisation create tensions and governance conflicts at local levels.

Next, Dr. Sarah Mawhorter shared her experiences with the Regional Housing Need Allocation Process (RHNA) in California, US. Sarah is Assistant Professor of Housing at the University of Groningen, and she studies the planning practices, urban development processes, and real estate market dynamics that contribute to housing inequality—with attention to disparities between renters and homeowners—and the downstream links between housing and health. Sarah pointed out the pitfalls of the RHNA process and provided fascinating data on HNA goals and actual housing production.

My presentation followed, in which I discussed the regulatory complexities in housing production in the Metropolitan Region Amsterdam, in The Netherlands. I am an Assistant Professor of Urban Planning at the University of Groningen, and my research focuses on interactions between actors, regulations and residential property market dynamics in spatial planning and governance. I provided examples of the growing complexities of regulation and discrepancies between regulatory efforts at different levels of government, limiting large-scale housing production in the Amsterdam region.

The happy speakers and UGoveRN's apprentice Anna after a successful seminarul seminar

Following the presentations, the seminar's discussant, Prof. Tuna Tasan-Kok from the University of Amsterdam and UGoveRN’s chair, drew comparisons between the three different contexts and asked compelling questions. Active audience participation made the seminar a fantastic opportunity to further explore the role of the state in housing production.

The UGoveRN network expressed its gratitude towards the Urban and Regional Studies Institute (URSI) for co-organizing and hosting the seminar.

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