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“Why invest in Romania?” Investment strategies and state interventions advancing real estate development in semipheripheries

Talk by Prof. Enikő Vincze, housing justice activist at Căși sociale ACUM!/Social housing NOW! in Cluj, Romania, given within the seminar series organized by the Torino-based Beyond Inhabitation Lab project

A synopsis based on the recorded presentation of 21.03.2024 and the PowerPoint presentation prepared for the talk.

The talk was inspired by the results of the research project conducted between 2021 and 2023, “Class formation and re-urbanization through real estate development in a semi-peripheral country of global capitalism” (www.redurb.ro). The project’s major accomplishment is the collective volume Uneven Real Estate Development in Romania at the Intersection of Deindustrialization and Financialization, edited by Enikő Vincze, Ioana Florea, and Manuel Aalbers, forthcoming at Routledge.

The project’s emphasis on transforming industrial platforms into real estate development sites underscores the global interest in Romania’s real estate sector. The author’s interview with the CEO of Blitz Agency in April 2022 illuminated the appeal of former industrial platforms for real estate development. These sites, often in semi-central urban areas, provide the necessary infrastructure and space for large-scale redevelopment. They have the potential to optimize the price per square meter, a crucial objective for investors. Furthermore, they facilitate the creation of mixed-use real estate, aligning with the evolving urbanistic plans that no longer endorse industrial production in cities.

“Why invest in Romania?”

This is a question equally crucial for the Romanian state and the investors. The country’s favorable fiscal regime has attracted diverse investors, as evidenced by the CBRE (real estate services company) data. In the first half of 2021, the total volume of real estate investments in Romania reached 303.6 million euros, with the most significant contributions coming from Austrians, Americans, and Czechs. Buyers from South Africa, Sweden, Switzerland, Germany, and Greece also participated, while Romanians contributed only 1% to the volume of real estate investments.

The REDURB research project: fieldwork and approach

Figure 1. Romania’s counties’ GDP per capita compared to the national average GDP/capita

The REDURB research team covered four second-tier and four third-tier cities in Romania’s eight counties belonging to different development regions (see Figure 1 above): Ioana Florea (Bârlad and Iași), Sorin Gog (Reșița), Marina Mironica (Cluj), Livia Pancu (Bârlad and Iași), Mihail Sandu-Dumitriu (Bragadiru), Enikő Vincze (Cluj and Brașov), Ioana Vlad (Craiova), George Iulian Zamfir (Tg. Jiu). Figure 1 reflects the uneven development between these counties from the point of view of the percentage of GDP per capita compared to the national average. 

Each team member made several field visits, collected and analyzed interviews, documents (of the World Bank/ International Monetary Fund/ European Commission, and local/national/ transnational developers/investors), databases and reports (of National Statistical Institute, Cadaster Agency, National Trade Registry Office, Romanian Central Bank, Eurostat, termene.ro, datagov.ro, CBRE, ERSTE, Property Forum, Colliers, Imobiliare.ro). Another team member, Manuel Aalbers, contributed to situating the Romanian case on the larger map of Central and Eastern Europe and the world. In his chapter prepared for our collective volume, he noted: “The ‘lumpengeography’ of deindustrialized land in Romania became a reserve space to be redeveloped, a golden opportunity for global pension fund capitalism” (forthcoming REDURB collective volume).

The theoretical/conceptual frame of the REDURB analysis was built on the conviction that we need to consider both global and local processes and actors and the role of both economy and politics in explaining why real estate development as a business emerged and advanced in Romania as it did. Figure 2 details the four factors revealed as necessary for the emergence and advancement of real estate development. It also shows the concepts extracted from Marxist political economy, critical geography, and urban sociology: spatial fixing and capital switching (both reflecting ways how capital solved its overaccumulation crisis since the 1970s by expanding across territories and economic sectors and circuits of capital), respectively uneven development and accumulation by dispossession (pinpointing on how peripheralization at different scales, in the relation between countries but as well as within one country between regions and cities, always creates capital accumulation opportunities). 

Figure 2. The approach and conceptual scheme of the REDURB research project

The Brașov case study

The REDURB research project’s contribution to the critical study of real estate development evolves at the intersection of case studies and theorizing. The Brașov case study illustrates how private investment strategies and state interventions transformed a socialist industrial platform (Tractorul Factory) into a site for capitalist real estate development (a mixed-use Coresi district including shopping, residential, office, and hotel areas). Figure 3 reflects this change, evident in the built environment, through an old factory picture and the collage of the author’s photos taken in Brașov in 2021 and 2022.

Tractorul factory (120 hectares; 20,000 employees)

Figure 3. The transformation of an industrial platform into a site of mixed-use development

The above case shows that advancing such an extensive real estate development requires an investment of 350 million euros. The investor’s expected revenues from commercial rental of 5 million euros/year and a gross rate of return via residential rental of 5% per year talk about the financialized nature of such a project. Otherwise, the global actor that ensured the possibility of this development (the real estate branch of the French multinational retail Auchan), a non-financial company in itself, is also financialized. In 2018, Auchan Holding transformed Immochan into Ceetrus to act as a global investor-developer with mixed-use projects, and even before that, in 2006, it owned 49.9% of the capital of Oney Bank. Moreover, in 2019, Ceetrus issued its first corporate Green Bonds, placing it with institutional investors for 300 million euros to (re)finance green assets (buildings) and registering them on the Luxembourg Stock Exchange.

Meanwhile, Ceetrus promotes itself on its website as “an impact property investor aiming to transform its sites sustainably for the prosperity of local communities” and calls us to “imagine a brand new world, in which cultivating life has value and caring for the fragile makes us stronger.” Nevertheless, what makes Ceetrus stronger are definitely its 8 billion euros of real estate assets, 50 development projects in 10 countries from Europe and Asia so, owning a diversified global portfolio, the 300 retail-driven sites, which were developed for rental purposes, and 20 million square meter lands that might be anytime used as a collateral for loans. In Romania, Immochan/Ceetrus owns 120 hectares of land of the former Tractorul factory and owns/ administers the Coresi Shopping Resort; additionally, in 2019, it purchased in Reșița the Mociur platform of the former Machine Building Plant, where it elaborated a master plan for a future complex development.

Regarding the local processes that made the emergence of this real estate development project on the former Tractorul from Brașov possible, one should mention, most importantly, the privatization of the factory. In 1997, Tractorul was included in the First Private Sector Adjustment Loan that Romania received with conditions from the International Bank for Reconstruction and Development. After four unsuccessful privatization attempts, in 2007, the national privatization agency decided to liquidate Tractorul through the Transylvania Insolvency Office, and measures were taken to dismiss the employees. The factory’s assets were sold to a British investment company at a competitive open auction via the local firm Flavus Investiții. The latter declared from the beginning that it wanted to use the land for real estate development, while the state pretended not to agree with this. The European Commission analyzed whether the auction was legally conducted and eventually gave a green light to it. Flavus Investiții obtained authorization for its Zonal Urbanistic Plan (ZUP), which aims to regenerate the area. Due to the crisis, the company did not start any demolition or development there. In 2012, it sold the land, buildings, and ZUP to Immochan presented above. In 2014, most of the buildings were demolished, and the first stage of the development of Coresi District as a multifunctional area began with Coresi Shopping Resort opened in 2015.

To further develop the land for a mixed-use project, Ceetrus collaborated with local developers. The most important one, Kasper Development, assumed the realization of the Coresi Avantgarden Residential Complex, completing its first stage in 2017 with more than 2000 flats, followed by a plan of making another 3000. In the interview given in October 2021, the CEO of Kasper Development presented her project and business in the following way: “I engaged in a partnership with Ceetrus in 2016 for residential development through a joint firm called Imologia. I would have never been able to accomplish such an endeavor on my own, primarily because I lacked the money to purchase 100 hectares of land. No local builder could have afforded what Immochan did. They had the money, owned the land, and were experts in such investments. We are different from other developers who earn profits from densification. … We operate with a profit margin of less than 15%, whereas most businesses in the city seek profits of at least 30%. Coresi’s business model entails planning, construction, monitoring, advertising, and sales enterprises; only a portion of the construction work is subcontracted. Currently, the typology of our customers is divided into three categories. About 65% of customers are those who buy for their use. The remaining 35% are two categories of investors, those purchasing 2-6 flats, and the more affluents buying between 10-30 flats as an investment.” In the case of the Coresi Business Campus, the collaboration between the global and a local actor was that the latter, Ascenta Management, the initial owner of 20 hectares of the old Tractorul platform, sold these parcels to Immochan in 2017, who transformed most of the old industrial halls into new office buildings, some of them keeping architectural elements of the past. Moreover, Hotel Qsmo, constructed and opened by Ceetrus in 2021, was given to the management of Kronwell, owner of a highly branded local hotel.

Additionally, the Brașov City Hall also contributed to the fulfillment of the Coresi project on a former industrial platform: it ensured the authorization of the general and zonal urbanistic plans and the demolition and construction projects; it made a street crossing the district as an infrastructure that contributed to the increase of its exchange value, it committed itself to entrepreneurial urban governance as any other city which looks to increase its local budget by attracting investors, and recently, it announced its greening plans welcomed by Ceetru’s CEO as an essential step towards making Brașov more touristic, i.e., bring more customers for its developments.

Patterns of real estate development

Real estate development on former industrial lands via urban regeneration is among the major spatial patterns of this business’s advancement. Urban sprawling (toward city peripheries and metropolitan areas, often using agricultural land or even green areas) and densification within existing districts are also major spatial patterns.

The geographical locations/ lands and buildings resulting from deindustrialization (linked to the privatization and insolvency of former industrial platforms) presented a unique opportunity for real estate development. These emptied spaces, ripped for (re) development and were in dire need of private capital, offered the potential for significant returns on investment. Additionally, due to their development, these territories increased the exchange value of the surroundings.

Romanian developers dominated residential real estate development, except when the land emptied by deindustrialization was vast (such as Tractorul in Brașov). They invested capital in this business in the capital and regional cities of Romania, being backed up or not by institutional investors.

The capital and regional cities attracted foreign capital for commercial real estate development (retail, including shopping malls and offices). The most significant transactions were made in the office buildings sector, e.g., by NEPI, Globalworth, and AFI Europe. 

The Romanian third-tier cities, with their promising potential for investments in retail real estate development (mostly hyper- and supermarkets but also shopping malls), have attracted foreign capital interested in enlarging their global portfolios. For example, Prime Kapital and Atterbury Europe through the Romanian Iulius Group. The population’s eagerness to consume following Western models further enhanced the appeal of these cities for real estate development. 

The major food-retail companies also acted as real estate developers (e.g., Lidl, Kaufland, Profi, Auchan, Mega Image, Carrefour, Cora, Metro, and Selgros) wherever they decided to expand, attracting further investments in other real estate sectors.

Being the most profitable, the built-to-rent estates are the most wanted investments by institutional investors or investment funds. Therefore, the latter are active in those segments of real estate markets where built-to-rent is dominant. Earlier, this was the commercial real estate. However, recently, due to the interest rate increase, the residential market is expected to be strongly marked by a turn from homeownership to private rental, indicating a shift in investment opportunities.

After 2014, more multinational retail companies transformed their businesses into mixed-use real estate development and management. They also entered a new phase of financialization, a transition from reliance on bank loans to attracting capital from investment funds. Examples from the REDURB project are Ceetrus and AFI Europe.

The role of deindustrialization in the emergence and advancement of real estate development

Deindustrialization-cum-privatization facilitated the primitive accumulation of capital as it transposed the ownership over the means of production to the hands of the emerging property-owner class. The private property funds created by the state in 1992, responsible for the privatization of factories, owned shares in these enterprises that they could capitalize on later when they were transformed into private equity funds, some with real estate investments. The winners of deindustrialization could direct their capital towards real estate development and investments into funds with shares in real estate. Deindustrialization contributed to the creation of debtors/ entrepreneurs involved in privatization and real estate development, which impacted the flourishing of the banking sector.

Deindustrialization enabled the owners of privatized and bankrupted factories to extract long-term income from renting the lands and buildings usually purchased at a low price from the state to different enterprises, from small productive units through artists to warehouses and sports halls. Deindustrialization emptied spaces on which, when the capital was ready, it could be invested for new residential, retail, or office buildings or mixed-use complexes, from which the owners could combine profit from selling with profit from renting. Lands emptied from industrial production could be used as collateral and catalyst for loans based on land value.

Deindustrialization facilitated the collaboration between local and global capital. It also contributed to the contraction of the productive economy, which benefited consumption-based and financialized growth (as suggested metaphorically by Figure 4, using pictures made in the Redurb research project).

Figure 4. The metamorphosis from production to consumption, from industry to real estate, or from communism to capitalism

What can we learn from real estate development studies in semiperipheries?

Existing real estate literature in urban studies, sociology, and critical geography is mainly about the financialization of real estate development; however, it is based on recognizing the centrality of real estate development in the political economy regime. The REDURB research project revealed the relations between local geographies, global moment, and great transformations, asking how the dismantling of the socialist economy, financial system, and housing regime created a high demand for private capital and opportunities for foreign capital in all of these sectors. Furthermore, REDURB showed that uneven development manifests in uneven real estate development and its uneven financialization across and within countries, as well as peripheralization and unevenness, which advance at different scales. It exhibited that capitalist transformations in Romania (and in CEE) were backed up by a process in which international organizations urged governments to ensure the conditions for the formation of a market economy and catch up with Western development patterns; therefore, REDURB stressed the role of politics, state, and trans-statal actors in economic restructuring.

Existing literature addresses financialization as a process that transforms real estate assets and landed properties into financial assets and creates new capital investment opportunities due to the penetration of the financial markets into the real estate markets. It shows that several segments of the financial markets are connected to the real estate market: the mortgage market, including mortgage securitization; stock and share markets, where diverse investment funds administer large pools of money. The REDURB research project revealed the role of deindustrialization in the emergence and advancement of real estate development, showing that the latter is both a spatial and financial process and, in this way, it re-territorialized the analysis of financialization. Therefore, it could unveil how de-industrialization can be connected to financialization due to various political and economic path dependencies and the current context of transformations.

Existing literature on the financialization of real estate development stresses that investments in real estate development serve the interests of the investors/developers rather than the actual socio-economic needs of people. It shows that when real estate investors/developers are embedded in global capital flows, their investments gain a strong de-contextualized character because they follow the investment logic inherent in their global portfolios. The REDURB research project, completing the existing few initiatives from CEE studying subordinate and uneven financialization and studies conducted in the Global South, re-contextualized the phenomenon at the juncture of local and global actors and processes in the region but kept as central the idea of subordination of real estate and urban development to the interests of capital.      

Toward a potential debate

Thinking about possible connections between the REDURB analysis on real estate development as a product and as a constitutive element of capitalist transformations and the Beyond Inhabitation Lab studies about the struggles against contemporary and historical forms of dispossession, one should consider considering the following question. If real estate development for profit is a central pillar of global capitalism as it is, how can we imagine and practice struggles against exploitation and dispossession happening via a capital accumulation regime into which this business is so embedded? What kind of alliances should housing movements look for in their endeavors among social movements with other causes or among political initiatives at local and international levels looking to transgress capitalism?   

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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.

Contents

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.