2.39 - Social housing, urban shrinkage and infrastructure: analysis of a right-sizing approach in two medium-sized shrinking cities in France (Le Creusot and Montluçon)

Project Description

In shrinking cities, infrastructures are impacted and appear oversized owing to the population decline. This raises unusual concerns for the municipalities, mainly because infrastructures are planned for a long-term purpose and to supply high demand. The adaptation of infrastructures is needed; however, this is complex to implement for the concerned municipalities due to the lack of financial resources and uncertainties about the evolution of the demand. In the urban shrinkage debate, right-sizing has become an increasingly relevant topic: by consolidating urban built environments, right-sizing promises to decrease the financial concerns of shrinking cities and increase quality of life. Right-sizing entails a set of different policies, such as demolition of vacant housing, consolidation of the construction in the city centre, or reuse of vacant spaces for community gardens. Although this approach is perceived as a relevant to shrinking cities, several studies have pointed out the limits of its application due to being tied to austerity principles and, therefore, at odds with the objective of promoting quality of life.

This project looks at the ways shrinking cities are dealing with the problems related to infrastructures in a context of population decline. It will highlights the main challenges, what are stakeholder’s abilities and question the right-sizing approach. To do so, the project will focus on the case of social housing in two medium-sized shrinking cities located in France, Le Creusot and Montluçon. Constructed in large numbers during former industrial times, a significant part of the social housing supply is vacant. The adaptation of social housing is needed quantitatively and qualitatively; however, this is challenging for the territories concerned, owing to uncertainties of the social housing demand, the financial deficit and the decrease of national support. By using urban renewal document analysis (from 2000 to 2020), interviews with local stakeholders, archival records on social housing development and newspaper articles, the research will provide further evidence on the social housing approach constructed though the time in Le Creusot and Montluçon and the main changes observed. It will allow to discuss the right-sizing approach, and more broadly the issue of infrastructure adaptation in shrinking cities.

Research Team
  • Fanny Augis (PhD student)
  • Paulo Santos Conceição (Supervisor)
  • António Cunha Ferreira and Tetsuji Uemura (Co-supervisors)
University partners of the project 
  • Technische Universität Kaiserslautern (TUK), Cambridge Architectural Research (CAR), École Normale Supérieure Paris (ENS), Spatial Foresight (SPF), TU Dortmund University (TUDO), University of Amsterdam (UVA), University of Porto (UPT) Adam Mickiewicz University Poznan (AMU) and University of Guadalajara (UDG).
Financial support
  • This work was supported by the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the Marie Skłodowska-Curie under Grant 813803 (2019 – 2022), and the Faculty of Engineering at the University of Porto.
Time Frame
  • Concluded in 2023