The Real Estate and Economic Crisis: An Opportunity for Urban Return and Rehabilitation Policies in Spain

[tweetmeme Jesús M. González Pérez of the Research Group for Sustainability and Territory (GIST), Departament of Earth Sciences, University of the Balearic Islands, has published an excellent new paper titled „The Real Estate and Economic Crisis: An Opportunity for Urban Return and Rehabilitation Policies in Spain.“

In the early 1980s, suburbanization and periurbanization processes became widespread in major cities within Spain. An interesting stage of returning to city centers commenced that materialized in the start of rehabilitation policies within historic centers. These processes coincided with weak population growth, an acute industrial economic crisis, and new democratic policies in municipal councils. Three decades later, we may be witnessing similar processes, although with different origins. The consequences of a construction-based economic model have been disastrous in Spain, from both an economic as well as an environmental point of view. The artificial land boom was significant throughout the country, but was especially prominent within the Mediterranean areas that specialize in tourism and real estate (second homes). The burst of the real estate bubble has shown the irrationality of the economic model and the serious social and environmental consequences that the model has entailed. Within this context, some of the territorial transformation processes that occurred in Spain during the real estate boom period are being studied for the first time. Additionally, changes in land policies (urban renewal of centers and urban renewal in general) within the current economic and real estate crisis are analyzed. An urban rehabilitation that gradually includes new spaces for intervention and for introducing new sustainable methods for recovering degraded spaces, such as the Master Plan for Platja de Palma, a mature tourism destination that seeks a final ‘0 CO2 balance’ scenario, among other objectives.

The introduction to this paper reads:

Studies that link economic cycles with other, specifically geographical cycles—such as those related to territory and cities—are increasingly common. The connections between cities and the economy have long been examined and are the focus of well-known urban studies that range from the classic works by Mumford and Jacobs to more recent ones. In general, urban geography examines the economic activities that have driven urban growth or decline throughout history—the fundamentally important links between urbanization and industrialization. These relationships are more complex in the post-industrial era and the urbanization process has come to depend on a variety of interconnected variables (e.g., globalization, informationalization, the planetary ecological crisis). In Spain, authors such as Méndez, Fernández, Wallerstein, Burriel, Rullan and Lois have studied the interrelationships between the economic system and the territorial structures. Lois studied the transformations in the organization of space that have taken place since 1980. These transformations are due to economic growth, the consolidation of the urbanization process, the revolution in communications and transportation systems, and the multiplication of tourism-related practices, among others. With respect to the territorial impacts caused by tourism, Rullan has connected economic growth cycles to the spread of urban sprawl on the one hand, and the resulting economic downturns to the containment of urbanization on the other.

More recent are studies that analyse the impacts of economic cycles on territories and cities, such as works on landscapes and fundamentally, changing land uses. The scientific output on the latter topic in recent years has grown substantially hand-in-hand with the new techniques and progress in developing geographic databases on the subject. A number of international projects have been developed since the early 1990s, one of the most important of which was launched in 1993: the Land Use and Land-Cover Change (LUCC) scientific plan, which is part of the International Geosphere Biosphere Programme (IGBP) and the International Human Dimensions Programme (IHDP) developed under the auspices of the International Council for Science (ICSU). In Europe, the most outstanding project is the CORINE Land Cover programme (CLC), which has been supplemented by the development of the Land Use-Land Cover Area Frame Statistical Survey programme (LUCAS). In Spain, one prominent programme is the SIOSE (Land Cover and Use Information System) promoted by the country’s National Geographic Institute and the Ministry of Housing’s Urban Information System (SIU). There are also a number of major proposals at the regional level, such as the Community of Madrid’s study on land occupation for urban-industrial uses; its methodology will be applied in the other Spanish provinces.

Read the full document here in PDF format.

Citation: Pérez J.M.G. The Real Estate and Economic Crisis: An Opportunity for Urban Return and Rehabilitation Policies in Spain. Sustainability. 2010; 2(6):1571-1601.


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