Urban planning coalitions: partnering for (and against) displacement in Venice


  • Laura Colini Università IUAV di Venezia IT
  • Laura Fregolent Università IUAV di Venezia IT


State, property market, multistakeholder coalition, Housing, planning regulations




The urban life of Venice is chronically undertreat: the number of tourists accommodation  has outnumbered the residents, touristisation and short term rentals have contributed to raise rents and housing prices, displacing former inhabitants (Salerno, 2023) desertifying services. Venice is transforming itself into a haven for wealthy and affluent individuals (Butler and Lees, 2006), subject to transnational gentrification dynamics (Siegler and Wachsmuth, 2020), and real estate tourist led financialisation (Wijburg et al 2023) involving depopulation, expulsion of weaker social strata, and hoarding of prime sites for property speculation. These persistent issues rely on urban land and housing ownership, coalitions of stakeholders, significantly impacting equity, democracy, and law.

Through interviews, this paper examines the interactions and relationships between several governance coalitions involving public, corporate, and community actors in the speculative redevelopment for transnational tourist and culture oriented gentrification of a former patriarchal complex in the old city of Venice. After  WWII, the ancient Patriarch premises were occupied by military and migrant families, and later refurbished by the residents. This was feasible through short-term leasing agreements that were extended for a period of almost 50 years with the Italian State property agency (Demanio). Under these agreements, the Demanio ensured that the premises were maintained to the minimal standards, while the municipality retained ownership of the land. Interviews with residents reveal that the Demanio conducted only little repairs throughout the years, and as a result, the tenants themselves took responsibility for the premises, treating them as if they were their own, for approximately two generations. In this narrative, the state, municipality, and tenants collectively establish a distinctive ownership structure, a form of  “Governance Property” (Gregory, 2012),which lacks complete formalisation of the right to occupy the premises. In 2013, a national legislation was enacted that permitted local governments to undertake the redevelopment of State-owned asset, provided that they adhered to the objectives of promoting the public good. The technicians of the municipal staff proposed transforming the premises into public housing, but this opportunity to formalise the tenants' status was not taken advantage of. Instead, in 2022, the alignment of two multistakeholder coalitions enabled the redevelopment for market and tourist-oriented speculation.

We argue that this decision to pursue redevelopment was facilitated by a minimum of three circumstances. Initially, the State and municipality implemented the strategy of "waiting for" (Ay & Penpecioglu, 2023) lucrative prospects, without considering the formalisation of renters' rights. Furthermore, this can be achieved through the establishment of two interconnected alliances: an informal and discoursive one among politicians focused on culture and State-led development to stimulate economic investments in historic Italian cities, and a formalised public-private partnership between governmental institutions and a real estate investor to execute a high-end revitalization initiative for  former Patriarchate.  Furthermore, the secreted agreement between the PPP (State agency, municipality, and real estate developer) was made feasible due to the incorporation of the principles of energy-efficient co-habitation, art & culture, and co-working space under the guise of serving the "public good" as required in the national law. The proposed plan would have resulted in the displacement of the residents from the former patriarchal complex and the subsequent transformation of the area into another example of transnational gentrification in Venice. Nevertheless, a coalition led by the community successfully asserted their rights to co-ownership and opposed the redevelopment project, effectively putting a halt to it (Basso et al. 2023).  In conclusion, we address the question how the interconnected examination of legislation, multiple stakeholders coalitions, and various geometries of multi-scalar governance might offer fresh insights and intellectual tools for comprehending the evolving dynamics of rent seeking in historical cities.


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Basso, M., Fava, F., & Fregolent, L. (2023). Resisting Venice: individual and collective housing practices to stay put in the tourist city. Journal of Cultural Geography, 1-23.

Alexander, Gregory S., "Governance Property" (2012). Cornell Law Faculty Publications. Paper 497.http://scholarship.law.cornell.edu/facpub/497

Sigler, T. and Wachsmuth, D., (2020). New directions in transnational gentrification: Tourism-led, state-led and lifestyle-led urban transformations. Urban Studies, 57(15), pp.3190-3201.

Wijburg, G., Aalbers, M.B., Conte, V. and Stoffelen, A., (2023). Tourism‐Led Rentier Capitalism: Extracting Rent and Value from Tourism Property Investment. Antipode.