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)