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FAPESP Week France


Back to news   |   26/11/2019 20:23

Financialization of housing policies is a reflection of old practices, says researcher

Fabrice Bardet, of Université de Lyon, highlights during FAPESP Week France that the real estate sector has gained relevance in the structural transformation of contemporary capitalism; Bardet carries out collaborative research that aims to understand the historical perspective on this process in France and Brazil.

By Maria Fernanda Ziegler, from Lyon  |  Agência FAPESP – The production of urban space has changed profoundly in the last thirty years due to public policies and the increase in the importance of transnational financial circuits.

“The real estate sector has gained relevance in the structural transformation of contemporary capitalism, a process known by authors from various fields of knowledge as financialization,” said Fabrice Bardet (photo), of the Université de Lyon, in a lecture given on November 22nd in Lyon, at FAPESP Week France.

Bardet recently published a paper on what he calls the “accounting counter-revolution,” which has changed or intensified the form of financialization of urban policies and, above all, housing. The study perspective focuses on the governance of urban public policies in a particular place in order to understand who the “owners of cities” are.

“In the 1970s and 1980s, the main players in France were the landowners, the State, the developers. Today there’s a new type of ‘owner’: the financial investor. And this new player has the power to redesign the development of cities,” he said.

The study’s focus, he notes, is not on the question of circulation of capital, but rather on calculating what the cities of tomorrow will be like.

“The financial calculation is invading organizations as well as public spaces. Before, the owners of cities used accounting techniques to calculate wealth. For that it was necessary to look to the past, calculate the price of the terrain, and the tax, building, and maintenance expenses. The financial technique tries to evaluate the future. It isn’t only the operating margin that matters, but also the return and how much it will increase in value. As can be seen, they’re completely different standards that don’t look at profit in the same way,” he said.

However, Bardet affirms that, although they appear to be two distinct eras, one is the consequence of the other. “We’ve discovered that, way back in the beginning, the accounting players were already using financial techniques. It may be that what we call financialization today is merely the extension of a very old practice of a system built very well in France,” he said.

Bardet has for the past five years been carrying out collaborative research with professors Lucia Shimbo and Cibele Rizek, both from the São Carlos Institute of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo (USP).

The plan now is to launch, in partnership with Brazilian researchers, a collaborative research project on urban studies and real estate development from the historical perspective on financialization. The project is supported by France’s Centre Nacional de Recherche Scientifique (CNRS).

“It’s a way for us to develop our perspective in relation to the development of the financial assessment of territories and also to have discussions with colleagues interested in the relationship between inhabitants and their territories. Our interest also lies in creating a link with what we now call environmental assessment,” said Bardet.

The FAPESP Week France symposium is taking place between November 21st and 27th, thanks to a partnership between FAPESP and the universities of Lyon and Paris, both in France. Read other news about the event at

Photo credit: Maria Fernanda Ziegler / Agência FAPESP