How land-based financing tools are reshaping land acquisition practices in the expansion of public infrastructure: the case of the Grand Paris Express.


  • Juliette Maulat Université Paris 1 Panthéon-Sorbonne


land-value capture, public land, land acquisition, metro, Paris city-region




The sale and redevelopment of public land are increasingly being used as tools for financing public policies and urban infrastructure (Artioli, 2021). In the realm of transportation, major public operators such as ports, airports, and railways are increasingly viewing their properties not just for service production but as assets for disposal or development to generate new income (Adisson, 2015). While the use of land as a financing tool is not novel, as demonstrated by examples in Japan (Aveline, 2003), and Hong Kong (Aveline-Dubach and Blandeau, 2019), it is gaining traction among public transport authorities worldwide, in Asia (Bon, 2017), Africa (Bon, 2021), North America (Schorung, 2019), and Europe (Adisson, 2015; O'Brien, Pike, & Tomaney, 2019; Delépine, Maulat, Pedro, forthcoming). Land-based financing tools are being promoted as "alternative" approaches to traditional methods like taxes, loans, and operating income (Peterson, 2009; Suzuki et al., 2013; O'Brien et al., 2019). The proliferation of these financing tools can be attributed to various factors related to sectoral changes, state recompositions (Adisson, 2018), and the increasing financialization of infrastructures (Christophers, 2017; Whiteside, 2019). These processes raise significant questions about their urban and social-spatial impacts, as the pursuit of capital gains may prioritize lucrative programs over issues like affordable housing, public spaces, and new facilities.

Urban research has studied the drivers, tools, and outcomes of the sale and development of public land (Piganiol, 2017; Adisson, 2018; Adisson and Artioli, 2020; Artioli, 2021), but there's been less focus on how land-value-capture strategies affect how public transport authorities buy and control land for infrastructure expansion. The paper aims to address this gap by examining the Grand Paris Express metro project. It investigates how land value capture objectives influence the land-purchase and management practices of the state-owned authority (the Société du Grand Paris) in charge of this mega-project (200 km of new lines, 68 new stations by 2030). For the new metro, SGP is purchasing approximately 500 plots of land in the Paris city-region through mutual agreement, expropriation, or temporary occupation. While these land acquisitions are guided by the SGP's main mission of building the transport project, some of the land is also intended to be developed through joint-development to generate income for the metro and contribute to the housing needs the region.

The paper draws on documentary analysis, press reviews, and interviews with representatives from Société du Grand Paris, the State, local governments, and urban planners. The results are presented in three stages. Firstly, the paper outlines the objectives, resources, and land management practices implemented by the Société du Grand Paris since 2011. It demonstrates how the announcement of new joint-development objectives in 2021 (targeting 1 million m2) signifies a subtle shift in the land acquisition and management strategy, influencing not only the objectives but also the choice of instruments and resources. SGP's strategy is no longer solely focused on the rapid completion of the metro project but also on securing future land development opportunities. This shift affects land management practices, plot selection, volume, location, and tools chosen for land management (including occupancy agreements, acquisitions through agreement, and expropriation). Finally, the study examines the consequences of SGP's land acquisition practices on land values, urban transformations nearby stations, and the relationship between this state agency and local governments. The results contribute to a new research agenda on the links between LVC instruments, urban planning, and city-region governance (O'Brien et al., 2019; Artioli, 2021).


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