Models of urban requalification under neoliberalism and austerity: The case of Porto

Tipo de publicação: Artigo

Alves, S., Branco, R. (2017, July). Models of urban requalification under neoliberalism and austerity: The case of Porto, AESOP 2017 Lisbon.

This paper critically analyses the legal and institutional framework set up by the Portuguese government in 2004 to boost ‘urban requalification’ – the Urban Rehabiliation Societies (SRUs) – and its implementation in the city of Porto. Firstly, we present a diachronic analysis that identifies phases of continuity and change in models of urban requalification in Portugal. Secondly, we present the background for the SRU model and discuss the context in which it was implemented in Porto. Thirdly, based upon a qualitative methodology, which uses literature reviews, analysis of political documents, and six semi-structured face-to-face interviews conducted with local and government officials, we analyse practices of urban requalification3 within a specific urban requalification operation, in the Cardosas quarter, which is an example of a large-scale requalification operation promoted by the Porto Vivo SRU in a context of public-private partnership. Discussion of the results of this operation contributes to the debate on the criteria for evaluating the success of urban requalification projects from both processual and substantive perspectives vis-à-vis their effects on families and neighbourhoods.

A set of research questions was formulated with this purpose in mind:

• How have urban requalification strategies and goals been defined in the context of a neoliberal model which was implemented in a time of crisis and what role did partnerships with private actors play in that definition?

• What groups were targeted by the requalification projects and, regarding housing, were there affordability concerns that protected less affluent populations from increasingly hostile conditions for middle class families in the historic centre of Porto?

• Were the local population’s interests and local heritage considered in strategies and implementation, especially in large systematic operations such as the Cardosas?

• To what extent did the Cardosas operation contribute to gentrification dynamics and to the explosive growth of tourism-related activities in the historic centre of Porto?