Outcomes of Urban Requalification Under Neoliberalism: A Critical Appraisal of the SRU Model



The context of crisis and austerity has provided a legitimate alibi for the inscription of neoliberal narratives grounded in the virtues of the market in Portugal. In 2004 the state enacted a new model of ‘urban requalification’, enabling the creation of Urban Requalification Societies (SRU in the Portuguese acronym) that initiated entrepreneurial and discretionary models of decision and delivery beyond existing state bureaucracies. Based on both quantitative and qualitative evidence from the cases of Lisbon and Porto, this paper offers a critical appraisal of the efficacy of these organizations to secure the provision of affordable rental housing in situ and to maintain less resourceful families in the city centres. Results show that the SRU model, combined with restrictive funding schemes and neoliberal politics, which have promoted the gradual liberalization of rent controls and real estate speculation, have reinforced processes of social and spatial inequality.



Within the framework of a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Individual Fellowship, Sónia Alves has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme under grant agreement No. 747257. We also acknowledge financial support from FCT—Fundação para a Ciência e a Tecnologia, I.P., under the project Sustainable urban requalification and vulnerable populations in the historical centre of Lisbon (PTDC/GES-URB/28853/2017).


  1. Allmedinger, P. (2016). Neoliberal Spatial Governance. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  2. Alves, S. (2015). Welfare State Changes and Outcomes: The Cases of Portugal and Denmark from a Comparative Perspective. Social Policy & Administration, 49(1), 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Alves, S. (2016). Spaces of Inequality: It’s Not Differentiation, It Is Inequality! A Socio-Spatial Analysis of the City of Porto. Portuguese Journal of Social Science, 15(3), 409–431.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Alves, S. (2017). Poles Apart? A Comparative Study of Housing Policies and Outcomes in Portugal and Denmark. Housing, Theory and Society, 34(2), 221–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  5. Alves, S., & Branco, R. (2018). With or Without You: Models of Urban Requalification Under Neoliberalism in Portugal. In S. Aboim, P. Granjo, & A. Ramos (Eds.), Changing Societies: Legacies and Challenges. Vol. i. Ambiguous Inclusions: Inside Out, Inside in (pp. 457–479). Lisboa: Imprensa de Ciências Sociais.Google Scholar
  6. Alves, S., & Burgess, G. (2018, October 25, 26). Planning Policies and Affordable Housing: A Cross-Comparative Analysis of Portugal, England and Denmark. International Conference on the Global Dynamics of Social Policy, University of Bremen, Germany.Google Scholar
  7. Branco, R., & Alves, S. (2018). Urban Rehabilitation, Governance, and Housing Affordability: Lessons from Portugal. Urban Research and Practice. Scholar
  8. Couch, C. (2016). Urban Planning—An Introduction. London: Palgrave.Google Scholar
  9. Fairclough, I., & Fairclough, N. (2012). Political Discourse Analysis: A Method for Advanced Students. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  10. Fairclough, N. (2013). Critical Discourse Analysis and Critical Policy Studies. Critical Policy Studies, 7(2), 177–197. Scholar
  11. Fairclough, N., & Fairclough, I. (2015). Textual Analysis. In M. Bevir & R. A. W. Rhodes (Eds.), The Routledge Handbook of Interpretive Political Science (pp. 186–198). London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  12. Hall, T., Hubbard, P., & Short, J. R. (Eds.). (2008). The Sage Companion to the City. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  13. Hastings, A. (2000). Discourse Analysis: What Does It Offer Housing Studies? Housing, Theory and Society, 17(3), 131–139.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Jacobs, K., & Manzi, T. (1996). Discourse and Policy Change: The Significance of Language for Housing Research. Housing Studies, 11(4), 543–560.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  15. Konzelmann, S. J., Deakin, S., Fovargue-Davies, M., & Wilkinson, F. (2018). Labour, Finance & Inequality: The Insecurity Cycle in British Public Policy. Abingdon: Routledge.Google Scholar
  16. Machin, D., & Mayr, A. (2012). How to Do Critical Discourse Analysis—A Multimodal Introduction. London: Sage.Google Scholar
  17. Marcuse, P. (2015). Depoliticizing Urban Discourse: How “We” Write. Cities, 44, 152–156.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. Marston, G. (2002). Critical Discourse Analysis and Policy-Orientated Housing Research. Housing, Theory and Society, 19(2), 82–91.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Porto Vivo SRU and Câmara Municipal do Porto. (2005). Masterplan para a Revitalização Urbana e Social da Baixa do Porto. Accessed 15 May 2017.
  20. Saugeres, L. (1999). The Social Construction of Housing Management Discourse: Objectivity, Rationality and Everyday Practice. Housing, Theory and Society, 16(3), 93–105.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Sorensen, A. (2018). Institutions and Urban Space: Land, Infrastructure, and Governance in the Production of Urban Property. Planning Theory & Practice, 19(1), 21–38.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  22. Tulumello, S., Ferreira, A. C., Colombo, A., Di Giovanni, C., & Allegra, M. (2018). Comparative Planning and Housing Studies Beyond Taxonomy: A Genealogy of the Special Programme for Rehousing (Portugal). Transactions of AESOP, 2, 32–46.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Van Gent, W., & Boterman, W. (2018). Gentrification of the Changing State. Tijdschrift Voor Economische En Sociale Geografie. Scholar
  24. Whitehead, C., & Williams, P. (2018). Assessing the Evidence on Rent Control from an International Perspective. Accessed 2 December 2018.

Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Interdisciplinary Centre of Social Sciences - CICS.NOVAFaculdade de Ciências Sociais e Humanas - NOVA FCSHLisbonPortugal
  2. 2.Cambridge Centre for Housing and Planning Research, Department of Land EconomyUniversity of CambridgeCambridgeUK
  3. 3.Instituto de Ciências SociaisUniversidade de LisboaLisboaPortugal

Personalised recommendations