Meanings, politics and realities of social mix and gentrification – a view from Brussels

Mathieu Van Criekingen

in Mixed Communities

Published by Policy Press

Published in print October 2011 | ISBN: 9781847424938
Published online May 2012 | e-ISBN: 9781447305538 | DOI:
Meanings, politics and realities of social mix and gentrification – a view from Brussels

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In Brussels, since the early 1990s, notions of ‘social’ and ‘functional mix’ have acted as core political values in urban policies and planning frameworks that assert the indisputable need for a multi-dimensional ‘revitalisation’ of the city. This chapter traces the historic origins of these common-sense representations in order to excavate the politics behind them in the Brussels case. The rise of social/functional mix as mainstream political values is strongly associated here with the changing political position of the local bourgeoisie in the wake of the federalisation of the Belgian State, and expresses, on the one hand, aspirations to ‘open up’ inner-city working-class neighbourhoods to the middle classes while fostering ‘territorial cohesion’ and, on the other, attempts to regulate the development of an oversized office market in the core city. Very recently, the adoption of a ‘Plan for the International Development of Brussels’ backed by economic elites pushing neoliberal political agendas indicates the re-conceptualisation of social mix as an urban asset to be marketed in new city-branding strategies for the ‘Capital of Europe’. The second part of the chapter turns to an exploration of the migratory dynamics associated with the ‘revitalisation’ of Brussels' historic core — i.e. who is moving in/out the area?; where do out-migrants relocate? — in order to critically confront the notions of ‘social mix’ and ‘territorial cohesion’ at the city scale. The results suggest trends towards rising socio-spatial inequalities between different parts of the agglomeration fuelled by diverse gentrification-induced displacement processes.

Keywords: social mix; Brussels; revitalisation of city; inner-city neighbourhoods; territorial cohesion; international development

Chapter.  6108 words. 

Subjects: Urban and Rural Studies

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