Breaking With Neoliberalization by Restricting The Housing Market: Novel Urban Policies and the Case of Hamburg


Hamburg currently exemplifies the departure from a straightforward neoliberal urban track. The city’s neoliberal path only moved into full swing in the first decade of the 2000s. During this period, urban development was primarily subject to property market mechanisms––with projects being granted to the highest bidder––prompting effects such as rapidly rising rents, deepened social segregation and increased property-led displacement. Since 2009, however, the city’s entrepreneurial urban policy encountered comprehensive resistance movements that eventually led to the rediscovery of a political will for a new housing policy and interventionist policy instruments. This article focuses on the turning point of neoliberal policies and examines the wider scope of the contemporary urban agenda in Hamburg. We first conceptualize potential limits of the neoliberal city in general and then discuss three momentous local policy experiments––the International Building Exhibition, promising ‘improvement without displacement’; the rediscovery of housing regulations through the ‘Social Preservation Statute’; and the ‘Alliance for Housing’, aiming to tackle the housing shortage. We discuss these approaches as funding, regulation, and actor-based approaches to limiting the neoliberal city.