Governing Cities Facing Demographic Decline: Insights From The Case Of Saint-Etienne (France)

Monday, July 14, 2014: 6:45 PM
Room: 311+312
Distributed Paper
Rémi DORMOIS , Université de Lyon, Lyon, France
Valérie SALA PALA , Sociology, Université Jean Monnet Saint-Etienne, Lyon, France
Aisling HEALY , Université Jean Monnet Saint-Etienne, Lyon, France
Studying the political capacity building process in cities with weak assets for governance represents a real scientific added-value: how to deliver collective actions when economic actors are less inclined to cooperate with public actors? Starting from fieldwork carried out on the policy-making in urban renewal in Saint-Etienne, a French city nearby Lyon which has faced a huge demographic and economic crisis for forty years, we propose to present three main research results concerning shrinkage and governing capacity.

Firstly, in contrast with scholars insisting on the State rescaling, we observe that a form of spatial Keynesianism is maintained. Budget and technical expertise are granted by the French central State for the urban regeneration of Saint-Etienne to limit uneven development within the Lyon’s metropolitan area. State appears as schizophrenic: mainstream urban policies are meant to position French (including shrinking) cities in the international territorial competition and contribute to the increasing of uneven development; but, other policies are implemented to fight against urban decline.

Secondly, if a grant coalition dominated by public actors has been stabilized in Saint-Etienne around the objective of increasing the residential attractiveness of the inner city, the mobilization of local private actors is really limited. Global investors are absent. Local land owners prefer renting flats at low prices but without making works than being actors of the urban regeneration with weak perspectives of financial profit.

Thirdly, while urban regeneration policies have a direct impact on the social profile of neighborhoods (social housing demolitions, development of housing for medium and upper average classes), local contention remains limited. It will be explained by the low share of the middle class in the social structure, by the closure of the local political arenas and by the neomanagerial French urban renewal policy orientation which limits local democratic process.