Neoliberalization, Housing Institutions and Variegated Gentrification: How the ‘Third Wave’ Broke in Amsterdam


Neil Smith argues that in the last two decades gentrification has become a generalized global urban phenomenon. His theory is at a high level of abstraction, as it links urban gentrification to globalization, financial capitalism and neoliberalization. With these global processes, all cities have experienced ‘third wave’ gentrification. The theory, however, leaves little room for variegations of gentrification, apart from characterizing geographical differences as idiosyncrasies or as minor variations. This downplays the role of intervening mechanisms that impinge upon the pursuit and social outcomes of gentrification. This article aims to amend abstract theory by looking at Amsterdam from a historical institutional perspective. In Amsterdam, gentrification was particularly made possible by a process of neoliberalization within the housing system. However, as institutional change is incremental and based on layering and conversion, many older institutional arrangements remain in place. These arrangements tend to slow gentrification and assuage social consequences. Nevertheless, neoliberal modifications to the housing system have been accelerating the pursuit of gentrification. Current policies will very likely lead to exclusionary displacement.