The re-emergence of public purchase of land in the Paris region: encouraging financialized urban redevelopment as a fix for municipalities’ funding gaps?


  • Theo Bendahan Laboratoire Techniques Territoires et Société, Université Gustave Eiffel, Paris


Property rights, land policy, financialization, urban political economy, Public land purchase




This contribution interrogates the recent re-emergence of state-led land acquisition practices in the Paris region, most notably evidenced by the rise of a dedicated, publicly-owned land agency, and highlights their potential contribution to the financialization of urban redevelopment. In the past decade, a growing body of research has drawn attention to the key role played by governments in “creating and maintaining the conditions for urban assets to be traded as financial commodities on capital markets”, for example through providing permissive “socio-regulatory infrastructures” or through enhancing the profitability of investment into the built environment (Halbert and Attuyer, 2017). Overall, most studies have however tended to focus on a supposedly “minimal, hands-off role for the state in financialization”, while consequently less attention has been drawn to the ways in which more direct forms of intervention on land markets, on the part of both national and local public organisations, may actively construct new frontiers for the anchoring of finance capital into the built environment (Beswick and Penny, 2018).

The present paper seeks to contribute to this growing literature on the “financialization/state nexus” (Ibid.) by illustrating how the active purchase of land by state actors, while officially presented as a way to contain land prices and bolster the production of affordable housing, might simultaneously contribute to the financialization of urban redevelopment. Whereas public land acquisition by the central state had known a relative decline in France since the 1980s, such practices have experienced a significant revival in the Paris region since the late 2000s, namely through the creation of a tax-funded land agency known as the Etablissement public foncier d’Île-de-France (EPFIF). Focusing more specifically on the intervention of this organisation in the suburban municipality of Fontenay-sous-Bois from 2011 to 2022, the paper demonstrates how the territorial power-building of this new state land agency partly relies upon its ability to sell back some of its acquired land assets to financialised property developers. In turn, it also shows how the growing interdependencies emerging between developers and public land authorities have been instrumentalised by the municipality in order to maximise the extraction of land value uplifts, in an attempt to “fix” local investment gaps resulting from a decline in funding from the central state. Ultimately, some of the urban forms emerging from this renewed public intervention on land markets – monofunctional office space – tend to reflect the priorities of financial investors and asset management companies, at the expense the socio-spatial objectives initially defined by the municipal authority (Guironnet, 2016).

The contribution draws on a previous graduate research, conducted while working as a project officer at the aforementioned public land agency in 2022. Its methodology has relied on participant observation, mapping and spatial analysis, as well as on the extensive study of primary sources (such as legal texts, internal reports, financial sheets and notarial deeds). 4 semi-structured interviews with professionals within the land agency and at the municipality of Fontenay-sous-Bois have also been conducted. On a theoretical level, the paper hopes to draw attention to the active contribution of land policies to the emergence of renewed public-private growth coalitions, which revolve around rent maximisation and extraction in a context of centrally-imposed austerity policies and budgetary cuts (Adisson et al., 2023).

Author Biography

  • Theo Bendahan, Laboratoire Techniques Territoires et Société, Université Gustave Eiffel, Paris

    PhD candidate in Urban Planning


Adisson, F., Halbert, L. and Maisetti, N. (2023). L’austérité urbaine en banlieue : consolidation budgétaire, coalitions de développement urbain et mixité sociale contrariée, in Artioli, F. and Le Galès, P. (eds.) La métropole parisienne, une anarchie organisée, Paris : Presses de Sciences Po, pp.

Beswick, J. and Penny, J. (2018). Demolishing the Present to Sell off the Future? The Emergence of ‘Financialized Municipal Entrepreneurialism’ in London. International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, 42(4), pp.612–632.

Guironnet, A., (2017). La financiarisation du capitalisme urbain : Marchés immobiliers tertiaires et politiques de développement urbain dans le Grand Paris et le Grand Lyon, les projets des Docks de Saint-Ouen et du Carré de Soie. PhD thesis. Université Paris-Est, pp. 1-588.

Halbert, L. and Attuyer, K. (2016). Introduction: The financialisation of urban production: Conditions, mediations and transformations. Urban Studies, 53(7), pp.1347–1361.