Theses Doctoral

Mixité de Façade: How historically disinvested neighborhoods negotiate inclusionary zoning in Paris and New York

Maaoui, Magda

This dissertation asks how local planners, elected officials and activists have negotiated the recent implementation of inclusionary zoning projects in historically disinvested neighborhoods of New York and the Grand Paris. Instead of focusing on potential issues with the involvement of the private sector in cases of affordable housing provision, I shed the light on the strengths and limitations of the public sector, its land use ideologies and its accountability in terms of affordable housing provision. I look at a policy program that has widely circulated in both countries since the 1970s. Inclusionary zoning was developed as a strategy to leverage market-rate and affordable housing by channeling capital from private real estate developers. It has also always been rooted in a genealogy of initiatives that were attempting to reverse the exclusionary outcomes of zoning. While inclusionary zoning programs have now been widely adopted across North America and Europe, their use seems to be highly incremental and context-specific, and efforts to compare and contrast programs have not succeeded in systematically explaining what works and what does not work. Few studies consider how neighborhood context, local politics and power relations shape inclusionary zoning outcomes. Few studies consider how the implementation of inclusionary zoning programs in historically disinvested neighborhoods is shaped by path dependency and national contexts, which orient so much of our planning traditions, political economies and multi-scale governance structures. This dissertation intends to fill such a gap by contrasting the Fort d’Aubervilliers housing project where local public sector agents secured a more redistributive housing project (more affordable units and deeper affordability levels) because they had more power and were backed by resources, programs, institutions operating at a more macro level, to the East Harlem housing project where local public sector agents did not secure a redistributive housing project (more affordable units and deeper affordability levels), because they had less power and there was a disconnect with resources, programs, institutions operating at a more macro level.

My research project goes beyond a standard macro-level comparison of national or metropolitan programs. It proposes a finer-grain “N of Two plus Some” comparative framework, with a single case study for a neighborhood in New York and a single case study for a neighborhood in the Grand Paris, both informed by other secondary cases. I present it as a chronological narrative research which “restories” my findings. I uncover the political mediation and micro-processes behind the implementation of two inclusionary housing projects, Fort d’Aubervilliers in the banlieue of the Grand Paris, and Sendero Verde in New York’s East Harlem. I map the multi-level negotiation processes that unfolded in each case among agents of the public sector, using close to 150 semi-structured interviews and shadowing meetings and hearings across the two cities. Findings follow Jenny Schuetz’s proposal that empowered but not autonomous local actors, subject to regional or federal public governance structures, represent the most just and redistributive model of urban governance when it comes to inclusionary zoning implementation (Schuetz et al. 2009). I contrast the story of an affordable housing project “locked” through the cooperation of the agents that make up the mille-feuille multi-scale public sector in the case of Aubervilliers with a contested public-private project where city agendas overlook a community-led neighborhood plan in the case of East Harlem. I underline how local levels of governance - the intermunicipal Établissements Publics Territoriaux in the case of Paris and the City Council in the case of New York - played a critical role in each case to negotiate the social justice outcomes of inclusionary zoning implementation in these historically disinvested neighborhoods, with more or less success. The investigation of two inclusionary zoning cases in East Harlem and the banlieue of Aubervilliers offers lessons about the social justice and equity aspects of real estate development projects undertaken in the two global cities of New York and the Grand Paris. It uncovers the “mixité de façade” question I ask, whether the social mix component of these two projects is truly achieved, or just a façade.
In so doing, I intend to underline that there is a large enough gradient of ways to make the redistribution of economic growth, and goals of social justice, feasible in the two cities I work on. I also hope to reintroduce the type of opportunities the agency of public sector agents in charge of residential landscapes can grant us with, even in historically disinvested neighborhoods. New York and the Grand Paris, two cities which are still respectively at the forefront of securing subsidized housing markets for their residents, allow me to fuel a rich literature on global cities and transatlantic planning. Only this time, I decenter the standard comparative narrative on Paris and New York, and start chronicling the challenges of metropolitan policy making, progressive “New Proceduralism” and “New Public Management” illustrated by programs like inclusionary zoning, by situating the conversation in the historically disinvested neighborhoods of both cities. Eventually, while both contexts differ in several ways, they tell us something valuable. The major takeaway is that a strong public institutional landscape and a solid net of programs and resources available for public agents in charge of neighborhood planning plays a huge role in determining the success or failure of implementation processes for this type of inclusionary zoning-financed housing projects.


  • thumnail for Maaoui_columbia_0054D_16705.pdf Maaoui_columbia_0054D_16705.pdf application/pdf 17.6 MB Download File

More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Freeman, Lance M.
Ph.D., Columbia University
Published Here
July 15, 2021