How do conflicts shape the local governance of housing production? Findings from the Paris metropolitan area.



housing, conflicts, Paris metropolitan area, media coverage




Opposition to infrastructure development for the 2024 Olympics, to the construction of high-rise buildings (including the Tour Triangle), and to the megacomplex EuropaCity are among the most heated urbanization conflicts to have arisen in the Paris metropolitan area in recent years. Behind these highly publicized conflicts, the development of urbanization and urban planning policies are also shaped by more low-key conflicts. The tension between the imperatives of densification and adaptation to climate change is putting increasing pressure on urbanization in the Paris region. And most of the conflicts lie in residential development (Torre et al. 2014). Assuming that mobilizations against housing production are common, recurrent and structural, this paper focuses on opponents to housing projects as key agents of housing policy implementation. It addresses the following two questions: Which collective actors mobilize to block housing construction, and in which areas of the metropolitan territory? How do these mobilizations affect local urban policy-making?

Conflicts are defined as relational processes that constitute a contentious form of political participation in local urban governance. Focusing on conflicts is a way to capture dynamics of local politicization of urban development issues and to consider factors and actors of transformation in local urban politics (Gualini 2015; Melé 2003). Conflicts reveal modes of local governance involving public and private actors in the (non-)implementation of housing projects: local politicians (in government or in opposition), a wide range of associative actors (including neighborhood community and environmental associations), real estate developers, etc. By adopting such an approach, this contribution is positioned at the intersection of debates in policy analysis - particularly around urban governance - and planning theory.

Empirically, this contribution examines a broad set of conflicts over housing development projects in the Paris metropolitan area between 2017 and 2022. The conflicts were identified through a systematic analysis of the local press (newspaper source: Le Parisien), which led to the identification of 150 cases of conflict. This database constitutes the main material for this paper, supplemented by about fifteen interviews (with political actors, associations, and planning lawyers). This research is thus in line with a body of literature on conflicts over the use of space, based on systematic analysis of the local or regional daily press (For example, see : Drozdz 2016; Hjalager 2020; Villeneuve et al. 2010).

This database shows the relative importance of different association profiles (neighborhood associations, supra-local associations, environmental associations). It reveals the strength of "ordinary" conflicts structured around the mobilization of neighborhood collectives – and, in contrast, the relative weakness of mobilizations led by supra-local associations, especially environmental ones. Moreover, the interventions of each type of association are differentiated according to the socio-economic and morphological characteristics of the various urban areas of the metropolis. We observe a higher intensity of mobilization in socially mixed areas. And the mobilization of supra-local and environmental associations is stronger in the most socially privileged areas. Our approach also allows us to highlight the links between the associative and political arenas. Finally, we examine the impact of these mobilizations on both urban governance practices and public policy outputs.

Author Biography

  • Julie POLLARD, University of Lausanne

    Senior lecturer, Institute of Political Science


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Gualini, Enrico, ed. 2015. Planning and Conflict: Critical Perspectives on Contentious Urban Developments. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group.

Hjalager, Anne-Mette. 2020. “Land-Use Conflicts in Coastal Tourism and the Quest for Governance Innovations.” Land Use Policy 94:104566.

Melé, Patrice. 2003. “Introduction : Conflits, territoires et action publique.” in Conflits et territoires, edited by P. Melé, C. Larrue, and M. Rosemberg. Presses universitaires François-Rabelais.

Torre, André, Romain Melot, Habibullah Magsi, Luc Bossuet, Anne Cadoret, Armelle Caron, Ségolène Darly, Philippe Jeanneaux, Thierry Kirat, Haï Vu Pham, and Orestes Kolokouris. 2014. “Identifying and Measuring Land-Use and Proximity Conflicts: Methods and Identification.” SpringerPlus 3(1):85.

Villeneuve, Paul, Catherine Trudelle, Mathieu Pelletier, and Marius Thériault. 2010. “Les Conflits Urbains : Une Approche Analytique.” Environnement Urbain 3: 1-d-8.