The Good, the Bad and the Ugly:
(Im)Migrants in the Urban Renewal and State-Led Gentrification of Madrid and Barcelona
Using geo-referenced and multiple linear-regression analyses, this study contrasts and relates the location of investment/disinvestment cycles led by local governments’ urban renewal programmes, and the residential patterns of large immigrant groups. Narrowing on a set of neighbourhoods paradigmatic of this entanglement, it examines (i) socio-spatial and housing changes (2001-2016) that show the regressive effects of these programmes and (ii) how migrants have been used or framed in these policies.
The paper shows ethnically diverse areas (where worse-off immigrants settled) as primary targets of renewal programmes. These were mostly run-down, but central and pericentral neighbourhoods with valuable historical/cultural heritage, and thus locking potentially high investment returns. Narratives of decay but also of celebration of local ethnic communities’ symbolic attachment to these neighbourhoods were used to justify public interventions aiming at attracting private investment and well-off international migrants, and simultaneously "normalizing" the neighbourhood’s social configuration. This was achieved through a mixed strategy of stigmatization and improvement of both their built and symbolic environment (Wacquant et al. 2014; Weber 2002). In both cities, despite major differences, the interplay between state-led gentrification and (im)migration operates at both material and symbolic levels, revealing the dual use of migrants to foster urban accumulation strategies. Unveiling the role of the State in these processes further contributes to the comparative urbanism’s debate on rent gaps (Slater 2017).