CE55 - Sociétés et territoires en transition

The socio-legal embeddedness of land markets: landownership structures and regulatory systems in a comparative perspective (France-Luxembourg) – DISTRILAND

Submission summary

There is a resurgence of interest in how the distribution of propertied assets affects economic and social phenomena, in a context of rising wealth inequalities, and of increasingly flexible fiscal and planning regimes. We propose to extend the study of the political economy of land by undertaking a comparative assessment of the socio-legal embeddedness of land markets in France and Luxembourg, through two case studies: the urban areas of Aix-Marseille and Luxembourg. The DISTRILAND project will analyse how the intersections of historical landownership patterns, regulatory regimes and institutional structures impact a range of outcomes, including housing production and urban and spatial planning.
While closely interlinked, France and Luxembourg diverge with respect to a number of underlying conditions: the concentration of landownership, the fiscal treatment of land and the legal treatment of property. In Luxembourg, both an industrial and a financial revolution have occurred over a land surface whose structure of ownership has remained very concentrated since the 19th century. In the absence of sustained intervention by public bodies in land markets, and of low taxes on property and inheritances, access to land has grown to become one of the central political issues in the country. In France, despite a greater degree of land regulation, local governments have contributed for decades to a progressive privatisation of land reserves in order to meet housing demand and to capture economic resources. The recent context of austerity urbanism has further reduced their financial leeway and has led to the sale of public land.
The socio-legal embeddedness of land markets calls into question the capacity of local governments to regulate land uses. The DISTRILAND project would be the first comparative investigation of landownership patterns. It will draw on a mixed-methods approach that combines large-scale micro-level data sources with interviews with key stakeholders, with the potential to inform land and fiscal policies at the international scale.
The project’s main objective is to empirically generate a typology of landowners that takes into account both land wealth portfolios and land-related strategies, captured through land value chains (using land registry data and property transactions) and interviews. The DISTRILAND project aims to reconstruct how the commodification and financialisation of land affects urban development, and seeks to inform public policy on how to best respond to contemporary landowner strategies, be they centred on conservation (i.e. land hoarding) or transformation (i.e. property development).

Project coordination

Laure CASANOVA ENAULT (Etudes des structures, des processus d'adaptation et des changements de l'espace)

The author of this summary is the project coordinator, who is responsible for the content of this summary. The ANR declines any responsibility as for its contents.


ESPACE Etudes des structures, des processus d'adaptation et des changements de l'espace
TELEMME Temps, espaces, langages europe méridionale méditerranée
UPHF Université Polytechnique Hauts-de-France - LARSH

Help of the ANR 695,851 euros
Beginning and duration of the scientific project: August 2023 - 36 Months

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