Yonah Freemark

Housing Haussmann’s Paris: The Politics and Legacy of Second Empire Redevelopment

Article information

Yonah Freemark, A. Bliss, and Lawrence J. Vale (2022). “Housing Haussmann’s Paris: The Politics and Legacy of Second Empire Redevelopment.” Planning Perspectives 37(2): 293-317.

DOI: 10.1080/02665433.2021.1937293

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Journal website: https://www.tandfonline.com/doi/full/10.1080/02665433.2021.1937293


Georges-Eugène Haussmann’s tenure as Prefect of the Seine from 1853 to 1870 has been credited with—and blamed for—the modernization of Paris. In this paper, we contextualize and evaluate the prefect’s intentions and policies related to housing by bringing archival documents into conversation with 19th-century commentary on Haussmann’s activities, ensuing scholarship investigating the era, and spatial analysis, with a focus on a case-study site in the 13th arrondissement. This examination yields three core claims. First, in exploring the context of Haussmann’s projects, we argue that the Second Empire’s expropriation, clearance, and construction were partly motivated by an interest in ensuring a greater quantity and quality of housing in Paris at reduced costs, or, at least, were presented as such. Second, in evaluating the impact of Haussmann’s work, we argue that projects did not solely result in mass displacement and social recomposition through urban redevelopment, but also sometimes reaffirmed pre-existing demographic distributions, or were constructed on greenfield land. Finally, in reflecting on Haussmann’s legacy on contemporary social housing politics, we argue that the prefect’s enduring influence can be read both in the rhetoric used to justify present-day projects and, in select cases, the location of sites chosen for them.