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Keywords:

  • reurbanisation;
  • demographic change;
  • inner city;
  • European cities;
  • comparative analysis

Abstract

European inner city areas are increasingly regaining their residential attractiveness after years of decline. Although the demographic dimensions of such residential shifts are gradually being acknowledged by urban scholars, they still remain under-researched, especially with regard to the role of household-driven processes in the stabilisation of inner-city neighbourhoods and the reshaping of residential perceptions, wants and needs.

Given this background, our paper looks at the underlying dynamics of reurbanisation processes in different European cities. Reurbanisation is understood as a process of populating and diversifying the inner city with a variety of residential groups of different ages and socio-economic backgrounds. We discuss why and how reurbanisation is changing inner-city districts, while arguing that the demographic or household-related view can lead to an improved understanding of current urban change. We demonstrate that – in contrast to a prevailing tendency to understand reurbanisation as an expression of a ‘back-to-the-city’ movement – it relates more to city-mindedness as a housing preference rather than to the actual return of suburbanites to the city. A typology of reurbanisation processes (distinguishing between different driving forces, and respective impacts on inner-city area and housing markets) is provided, and the role of both social and demographic factors discussed. In particular, the paper examines overlaps and differences between reurbanisation and the concept of gentrification, arguing that, although they are partly driven by similar dynamics, the two processes are, in a qualitative sense, distinctive. Copyright © 2009 John Wiley & Sons, Ltd.