Locations and methodology

The research is focusing on eight Romanian towns, leaving aside the capital city, nevertheless including a satellite town of it. The selected localities allow comparisons since they belong to several development regions and counties, being in different stages of transforming bankrupted socialist industries into assets of real estate development. Excepting Bragadiru (as a suburb of Bucharest) and Bârlad, all the other cities are county seats but differ in the number of persons with domicile in these localities, being: second-tier cities (following the capital city of above 2 million inhabitants) with a population of about 300.000, third-tier cities (with a population around 100.000), and a high-income commuter town formed after 1990 (with 25.000 inhabitants). Read our fieldnotes in Romanian here.

Continue reading “Locations and methodology”

Rezumatul raportului științific pentru anul 2023

În anul 2023, ultimul an al cercetării “Formarea claselor sociale și reurbanizare prin dezvoltare imobiliară într-o periferie estică a capitalismului global” (2021-2023), proiect PCE 65/2021, Cod PN-III-P4-ID-PCE-2020-1730 (REDURB), activitățile proiectului au inclus:

  • Realizarea volumului de proiect și contractarea publicării acestuia la Editura Routledge.
  • Participare la conferințe internaționale cu prezentări despre rezultatele proiectului REDURB.
  • Publicare de articole în reviste.
  • Identificarea și pregătirea unor posibilități de diseminare în anul 2024.

Summary of scientific report for 2023

In 2023, the last year of the research “Class formation and re-urbanization through real estate development in an eastern periphery of global capitalism” (2021-2023), PCE project 65/2021, Code PN-III-P4-ID-PCE-2020 -1730 (REDURB), the project activities included:

  • Completion of the project volume and contract for its publication at Routledge Publishing House.
  • Participation in international conferences with presentations on the results of the REDURB project.
  • Publication of articles in magazines.
  • Identification and preparation of dissemination possibilities in 2024.

Uneven Real Estate Development in Romania at the Intersection of Deindustrialization and Financialization [Edited by Enikő Vincze, Ioana Florea and Manuel B. Aalbers ]

This is the collective English language volume realized by the team of the REDURB project as its major outcome to be published at Routledge according to the contract signed with this publishing house.

The central objective of our book is twofold. On the one hand, we analyze the conditions of possibility for the emergence and advancement of real estate development in a semi-peripheral country in Central and Eastern Europe (CEE). On the other hand, we study the role of real estate development in subordinate territories like Romania in capital accumulation and financialization, re-urbanization of deindustrialized cities, and class formation, viewed in the context of uneven territorial development at different scales (from the global to the local and back). We observe these connections in parallel with describing the processes of state restructuring.

Using Romania as a case study, we aim to illustrate how global transformations are mediated through localized processes, such as the dismantlement of state socialism and the delegitimization of its socialist urban development model based on industrialization and centralized planning, leading to marketized urban planning and privatized urbanism. Additionally, we examine the creation of the private sector and the market economy through neoliberal policies and structural adjustment programs, which have created the conditions for the commodification and financialization of housing and real estate. We also investigate economic restructuring following deindustrialization, the opening of national economic borders to global capital flows, and the broader phenomenon of dependent and uneven development.

One of our main findings displays the key role played by former (privatized and then usually dismantled) industrial platforms and state enterprises in the emergence and advancement of real estate development in a semi-periphery context such as Romania, in parallel with deep economic restructuring. Throughout the book, we employ a series of case studies of transformed industrial plants from eight Romanian cities as illustrations of the processes mentioned above, through which we shed light on the materialities and realities of these larger processes and the actors at different levels who enacted them. Moreover, we do not simply look at where these play out but use the case studies to shed light on how these processes operate at the urban level and, in doing so, add meaning or substance to them. Our volume contributes in several ways to ongoing debates in critical urban studies, as well as to Marxist perspectives in urban sociology, uneven development, and subordinate financialization.

The Romanian second- and third-tier cities used as an entry point for our analysis disclosed dimensions of real estate development that would remain hidden if the authors had focused on the capital city alone and, even more, if they had continued exclusively addressing the global cities to renew theory. We decided to disrupt the privilege that capital cities enjoyed in the mainstream urban studies literature, even those that promised to go beyond the Global North and Global South divide. Through our approach we do not advocate for the exceptionalism or particularism of our selected cities but for the need to address the variegated roles of uneven geographies in global capitalism simultaneously shaped by universal processes and local path-dependencies and current conditions. We do not claim that the becomings of provincial Romanian cities as locations of capitalist transformations are “naturally” different due to their “non-Western” or “post-socialist” nature. But we affirm that they are (re)constructed as peripheral while being exploited through the local potential they offer to (real estate) capital investments on the global stage of uneven development, providing new territories for the creative formation of capitalism on the ruins of destructed state socialism. We argue for putting the second- and third cities of an East-European periphery on the map of urban studies: this is how understudied cities might be turned into a source of urban theory, going beyond the status of illustrating it.

We hope that further research into the two great transformations – the transformation of state socialism, developmental states, and welfare states into neoliberal capitalism and the transformation of the prior industrial platforms into sites of real estate development – might inspire political activism.  Such a focus of inquiry into capitalist transformations can support activism committed to the fight for more just cities and economies, including the enlargement of the non-profit housing sector, access to public services, diminishing territorial inequalities and uneven development, and, eventually, to searching for an alternative to the capitalist political economy which facilitates the investment of capital (into housing) according to private interests and not for serving people’s housing needs.


Introduction (Enikő Vincze, Ioana Florea and Manuel B. Aalbers)

Part I. Political Economy Transformations and the Role of Real Estate Development

Chapter 1 … (Manuel B. Aalbers)

Chapter 2. The winding road of privatization: a path for real estate development into former state socialist economies (Enikő Vincze and Ioana Vlad)

Chapter 3. De-risking in a context of uneven development and deindustrialized spaces: the advancement and financialization of real estate as business in Romania (Ioana Florea and Enikő Vincze)

Part II. Territorialized Synergies Between Local Public Administrations, Middle Classes, and Real Estate Actors in Second and Third-Tier Cities

Chapter 4. Putting ‘the fix’ in the ‘spatial fix:.’ restructuring class alliances and financialized real estate in the city of Bârlad (Ioana Florea, Livia Pancu and Florin Bobu)

Chapter 5. Coal-based energy urbanization and real estate development in Târgu Jiu (George Iulian Zamfir)

Chapter 6. Spatial planning at the fringes: land fragmentation and sprawling in Bragadiru (Mihail Sandu-Dumitriu)

Chapter 7. The urban growth machine and the city challenged by real estate-driven development (Marina Mironica)

Part III. Re-making the City Via Urban Governance, Regeneration, and Branding

Chapter 8. The pressure of inter-urban competition on entrepreneurial governance aspirations: the case of Craiova (Ioana Vlad)

Chapter 9. From the ‘city of fire’ to the ‘boutique city’: urban regeneration and transnational capital investments in post-socialist brownfields (Sorin Gog)

Chapter 10. The political economy of city rebranding: from an industrial center to the “El Dorado” of real estate development (Enikő Vincze)

Conclusion (Enikő Vincze and Ioana Florea)

Deindustrialization and the Real-Estate– Development–Driven Housing Regime. The Case of Romania in Global Context [Enikő Vincze]

The article was published and can be downloaded from the journal Studia UBB Sociologia in an Open Access regime, 2023, Vol 68, issue 1, 25-73.

The article examines how deindustrialization as economic restructuring and housing regime changes evolved interconnectedly in Romania during the Great Transformation from state socialism to neoliberal capitalism. This article also explores how they acted as conditions for the emergence of a real-estate-development-driven housing regime (REDD-HR) alongside other factors. The analysis is from the perspective of the geographical political economy on the variegated pathways of these phenomena across borders and secondary statistical data collected by two research projects conducted in Romania in the past two years. In the Eastern semiperiphery of global capitalism or a country of the GlobalEasts with a socialist legacy, after 1990, the state restructured the economy by privatizing industry and public housing. During state socialism, the housing regime supported industrialization-based urbanization, whereas deindustrialization-cum-privatization in emerging capitalism facilitated the appearance of real estate development. On the one hand, the article enriches studies on deindustrialization by highlighting the role of housing in the transformation of industrial relations; on the other hand, the paper revisits housing studies by analyzing deindustrialization as a process with an impact on the changing housing regime. Altogether,deindustrialization-cum-privatization and the changing housing sector are analyzed as prerequisites of the REDD-HR.

Keywords: deindustrialization, housing, real estate development, Romania, semiperiphery, capitalism

The article resulted from research conducted under the PRECWORK and REDURB projects between 2021-2023.

Trends of institutional residential investments in a “super-homeownership” country [Enikő Vincze and Ioana Florea ]

Working paper presented at the EURS Seminar and Special Issue Institutional Investment in Urban Housing Markets: Global Trends, Local Manifestations and the State, 22-23 November 2023, Brussels

This article illustrates how institutional investors in real estate advanced in the context of a “super-homeownership” country, as Romania and other parts of Eastern Europe have been called (Florea et al. 2022). We trace the history of this “super-homeownership” housing regime and discuss its implications. We uncover how this housing system influenced the pace and strategies of institutional investors in urban housing markets and their advancement in interconnected markets such as office and retail. Through this entangled history of changing housing regimes and actors of the urban residential market, the transforming role of the state in ensuring spatiotemporal fixes for the global capital under “catching-up” pressures and narratives can be reflected upon. The findings are based on our research project, “Class Formation and Re-urbanization through Real Estate Development at an Eastern Periphery of Global Capitalism” (2021-2023). In its frame, we used secondary data analysis from reports of real estate consulting companies, the Romanian National Bank, and local governments; we analyzed materials on real estate and economic news platforms; we took interviews of diverse actors who are directly or indirectly involved into the real estate market (public authorities, real estate developers, brokers, and consultants).

Our case has the potential to bridge across theories of real estate/housing financialization (Aalbers 2017; Aalbers, Fernandez, and Wijburg 2020), uneven development and spatial fix (Smith 1990; Jessop 2004; Harvey 2001, 2005, 2019) and core-periphery relations (Wallerstein 1974; Kühn and Bernt 2013; Rodrigues, Santos and Telles 2016; Santos 2023). We explore this potential by focusing on the state’s role in forming and restructuring the housing market and the larger real estate market in the context of dismantling state socialism that created new spaces for the geographical expansion of capital from core capitalist countries. Thus, our article engages in theoretical debates by enquiring how the state facilitated the formation of the capitalist mode of housing and real estate production in an era of the globalization of the financialized accumulation regime and in a space pushed to “catch up” from a semi-peripheral status with the core capitalist countries.

The sections of the paper are:

Historical pathways and possibilities for the advancement of institutional investors

The legacy of a mixed housing system (1945-1989)

Manufacturing a market-dominated housing regime (1990s)

Housing as a financial asset in a super-homeownership country (2000s)

Increasing investment fever (2014-2020)

What comes next in rental housing

Industrial spaces, real estate development, and housing rights [Enikő Vincze]

Housing is a complex phenomenon produced at the intersection of social and economic policies, but both in academia and in politics, it is conceptualized and debated as a rights issue or an economic matter of production/consumption/investment. In this paper, I discuss the historically shifting connections between these two dimensions while also relating the production and distribution of housing to alternating industrial relations.

I am writing this piece of analysis in Cluj-Napoca, a city that, in the past seven years, has become the most expensive locality in Romania from the point of view of the housing market. In the past three decades, changes to the political economy were built across the whole country on the “creative destruction” (Harvey, 1982) of state socialism, including its economic and housing regime. Therefore, in the first two sections of the article, I will address housing as a right and housing as an economic matter in the context of these transformations. In a third step, I will demonstrate that the transformation of former industrial platforms into assets and sites for new real estate development contributed to forming a new housing regime that prioritizes the interests of capital accumulation and neglects housing rights. Most importantly, in this article I will argue that after three decades of capitalist transformations in Romania when housing became accessible predominantly through the market, there is a political imperative to prioritize housing as a social need and human right, and subordinate the concerns of capital accumulation to this perspective.

The article was published in Romanian and English in Transeuropa Journal, https://transeuropafestival.eu/wp-content/uploads/2023/10/EAJ-3_ENG-1.pdf

Conectarea orașelor din România la urbanizarea planetară prin dezvoltare imobiliară [Enikő Vincze, Ioana Florea, George Iulian Zamfir]

Articolul a fost publicat pe 23 octombrie 2023 ;i este accesibil în totalitate pe platforma Critic Atac.

Plasându-ne în cadrele teoretice mai sus discutate, în acest articol propunem înțelegerea orașelor din România ca locații ale urbanizării planetare a capitalului, și ilustrăm acest fenomen prin dezvoltarea imobiliară care are loc în orașe din țara noastră și le creionează noua față în procesul re-urbanizării lor. Fundamentele analizei de față au rezultat din proiectul de cercetare REDURB, care abordează dezvoltarea imobiliară ca un produs al descompunerii economiei socialismului de stat și al creării economiei de piață prin intervenții ale statului, precum și ca un factor constitutiv al capitalismului – datorită faptului că ea funcționează ca un domeniu al acumulării de capital.

După o scurtă trecere în revistă a contextului istoric al urbanizării în România, așa cum a fost ea încorporată în economia politică a timpurilor, secțiunile articolului discută trei cazuri (Bârlad, Brașov și Târgu Jiu) dintre cele opt orașe studiate prin REDURB. Prin aceste exemple ilustrăm trăsăturile specifice ale modului în care orașele devin, prin dezvoltarea imobiliară (realizată pe foste platforme industriale), noduri importante pentru fluxurile capitalului imobiliar care, pe de o parte, este beneficiarul, pe de altă parte este motorul re-urbanizării.   

Cazul municipiului Brașov ilustrează o paradigmă a re-urbanizării care se întâmplă prin dezvoltare imobiliară, o afacere în continuă expansiune prin fluxurile capitalului global și românesc, jucând și rolul de a eradica trecutul industrial al orașului, atât spațial, cât și simbolic, în timp ce ea se folosește de fostul patrimoniu industrial ca o sursă pentru profit. Municipiul Bârlad este un caz în care detașarea de modelul de dezvoltare socialist bazat pe industrie se face prin dezindustrializare, aici, însă, dezvoltarea imobiliară nu este atât de atotcuprinzătoare și profitabilă ca în Brașov, dar joacă un rol important în crearea unei alianțe de clasă în jurul noilor dorințe consumeriste. În acest context, municipiul Târgu Jiu se re-urbanizează printr-un model de excepție, dominat de CEO în proprietate de stat care continuă să funcționeze ca un sector energetic strategic, iar perimetrul orașului (datorită urbanizării socialiste nefinalizate) oferă terenuri pentru noile construcții private, astfel încât acestea nu au nevoie de spațiile fostelor fabrici, în timp ce primăria construiește locuințe publice noi (ANL și sociale) pe terenurile municipalității.   

Din cele descrise în acest articol reiese faptul că re-urbanizarea, așa cum se desfășoară ea în România capitalistă, sub impactul dezvoltării imobiliare pentru profit, este problematică. Pe această bază, întrebarea pe care ne-o punem, răspunzând la provocarea făcută de Critic Atac pentru setul de articole despre orașele de azi ale României, este ce ar trebui făcut ca re-urbanizarea să servească interesele publice, și nu cele ale sectorului privat. Deocamdată asta pare, însă, o întrebare fără sens, pentru că, după deceniile în care statul s-a restructurat, doar sectorul privat pare capabil să producă locuințe, infrastructură urbană, bunuri de consum, și să ofere servicii de toate felurile. Dar măsurile luate de stat ca răspuns la crizele create de pandemie, creșterea prețului la energie și inflație demonstrează că statul continuă să fie puternic (cum a fost și până acum, pentru că a creat cadrele legale pentru privatizare, comodificare, financializare). Intervenția pe piață a statului azi este explicit dorită, doar că nu în direcția investițiilor publice în bunuri și servicii publice, care să le facă accesibile tuturor, ci în direcția susținerii investițiilor private care asigură profitabilitatea capitalului și contribuie la perpetuarea și adâncirea inegalităților urbane. Se mai poate întoarce această tendință?

Politica urbană națională a României, o strategie pentru perioada 2022-2035, elaborată pe baza analizelor și propunerilor făcute de Banca Mondială și cu scopul de a ne alinia la agenda urbană europeană, nu vorbește în nici unul din capitolele sale (sustenabilitate spațială, economie, mediu, social, sau bună guvernare) despre provocări și intervenții privind criza urbană și inaccesibilitatea financiară a orașelor re-urbanizate (subordonate dezvoltării imobiliare pentru profit), inclusiv a mediului lor construit și noului fond de locuințe. Decidenții politici sunt concentrați pe cum să asigure în continuare condiții de investiții fără risc pentru capital, iar cel din urmă, inclusiv cel imobiliar, se adaptează rapid la mimarea respectării cerințelor legate de înverzirea economiei și orașelor, dar, și mai rău, se grăbește să deservească militarizarea și economia de război. La o recentă întrunire a CEE Property Forum organizată în Viena, Victor Constantinescu, Managing Partner, România și Co-Head of Real Estate, Kinstellar a declarat în acest sens: „Vedem oportunități în cheltuielile militare și de apărare care creează oportunități pentru producția locală.”

Real estate properties from industrial platforms to financial assets. The case of Cluj [Enikő Vincze]

Lucrarea a fost prezentată la conferința “Liminal Spaces of Living | Inhabiting Liminality,” organizată între 25-29 septembrie 2023 în Iași și în Cluj de către Facultatea de Arhitectură a Universității Tehnice Gheorghe Asachi din Iași.

Dezvoltare inegală, dezindustrializare și capital imobiliar în România [Enikő Vincze]

Articolul a fost publicat în Revista Calitatea Vieții și se poate descărca în regim de Open Access de pe platforma revistei.

Din punct de vedere empiric, studiul s-a inspirat din analizele preliminare ale unor materiale colectate prin două proiecte de cercetare desfășurate în prezent, cu mențiunea că ambele operează nu doar cu statisticile discutate în articol, ci și cu seturi de date calitative deduse din interviuri semi-structurate, cele din urmă, însă, nefiind folosite aici. Cele două proiecte, implementate de echipe de cercetare formate la Universitatea Babeș-Bolyai, sunt „Muncă precară și locuire periferică. Practicile socioeconomice ale romilor din România în contextul relațiilor industriale și dezvoltării teritoriale inegale” și „Formarea claselor sociale și reurbanizare prin dezvoltare imobiliară într-o periferie estică a capitalismului global”. Combinând rezultatele preliminare ale celor două investigații, în acest articol îmi propun să demonstrez că, în România, restructurarea economică prin dezindustrializare a fost factor central în transformarea socialismului de stat în capitalism (neoliberal), a creat oportunități de investiții de capital străin în această țară atât în reindustrializare, cât și în dezvoltarea imobiliară, pe lângă sectorul serviciilor în creștere. Astfel, începând din anii 1990, transformările din România au jucat un rol în capitalismul global aflat în căutare de noi spații în Europa Centrală și de Est (ECE) pentru fluxurile de capital și în soluționarea, prin circulația în teritoriu a capitalului, a crizei supraacumulării sale în țările capitalismului avansat (spatial fix, Harvey 2001).

În prima parte a articolului autoarea face analiza restructurării economice capitaliste prin dezindustrializare, exemplificând fenomenul dezvoltării inegale ca o condiție a acumulării de capital, iar în partea a doua, discutând despre investiția de capital în dezvoltarea imobiliară, ilustrează cum funcționează dezvoltarea inegală ca un produs al acumulării de capital. Încheierea lucrării sintetizează contribuția ei la studiile despre dezvoltarea inegală, care constă în analiza dublei sale ipostaze, în contextul periferializării multi-scalare și transformărilor capitaliste din România, aceasta funcționând atât ca o cauză cât și ca un produs al acumulării de capital.

The spatiality of deindustrialization and real estate financialization in Romania [Enikő Vincze & George Iulian Zamfir] 

Paper presented at the Panel Real estate finance and society, Conference Intersections of finance and society, the panel on Real estate finance and society, 14-15 September 2023, Vrije Universiteit Brussel

Real estate development in Romania evolved as a site of capital accumulation in the context of the country’s integration as an emergent market into the already financialized global economy. The state, fostered by transnational actors, played a crucial role in this process through facilitating the two major transformations that put Romania on the path to capitalism: economic restructuring via deindustrialization and the reconstruction of the financial system. Privatization triggered both, as the promotion of the private sector in productive economy, housing, and banking were essential for changing the state-socialist political economy. In addition, dependent development defined their evolution while Romania opened to the transnational flux of investments, playing a role in the spatial fix of capital from global capitalism’s core countries. Nonetheless, the place-based economic formations underlay by vernacular political arrangements, have produced various instances of how deindustrialization and financialization have jointly shaped the forms and trends of local real estate development.

This paper contributes to an urban political economy of real estate and finance by linking the analysis of the increasing role of financial actors in real estate development (Aalbers, Fernandez & Wijburg, 2020) with an examination of how deindustrialization influences these processes. We investigate these connections at specific geographical locations, which embody instances of unequal development in semiperipheral Romania; thus, our proposal is to complete the focus on the temporality of financialization (Christophers & Fine, 2020) with the perspective addressing its spatiality. Our comparative lens highlights the variegated local formations of global processes that are also dependent on distinct land ownership patterns. It brings together the case of a second-tier regional city (Cluj-Napoca) with a robust service and IT sector, which exhibits characteristics of advanced financialization appealing to foreign real estate capital; and a third-tier town (Târgu Jiu) illustrating a case of delayed deindustrialization, in which the coal-mining industry continues to play a significant economic role and domestic real estate businesses are provided with investment opportunities. The paper is based on the findings of the REDURB research project entitled “Class formation and re-urbanization through real estate development at an Eastern periphery of global capitalism” conducted with the support of the Romanian UEFISCDI program.References: Chapters 2 and 17 of The Routledge International Handbook of Financialization, edited by P. Mader, D. Mertens, and N. van der Zwan, 2020