Gentrification & upward social mobility. The Canal Zone.

Sofie Vermeulen, Eric Corijn

Research output: Chapter in Book/Report/Conference proceedingChapterVulgarizing


The Canal in Brussels has multiple spatial roles. On topographic maps, the canal divides the city, re-enforcing the poorer and richer parts of Brussels. At the same time, the Canal forms the backbone of 26 neighborhoods, binding them together. Here, the youngest population of the region lives. Since the 19th century, this part of the city has always been a place of arrival, which partly clarifies its outspoken migrant character.

Today the area is confronted with several challenges and tensions which have only recently occurred on the political agenda. Many public and private development projects mushroomed over the last ten years. The population growth of Brussels is mainly situated in the Brussels Canal Zone. Weak integration on the labour market, and strong social bonds amongst some communities, fueled an informal survival economy. Some neighbourhoods therefore tended to become isolated. At the same time, the area hosts the most affordable housing for young people wanting to settle down.

The challenges for the Brussels Canal Zone are manifold. Gentrification processes are hitting the area, risking socio-spatial exclusion, while social mobility of those living there must be the main principle of urban renewal in order to subscribe to the principles of a just city.

Since 2009 the awakening to the dynamics and the planning needs of the Canal Zone has accelerated. Initially, they were defined mainly for the central section, but soon they were extended to the northern and southern parts. In a word, today the Canal Zone occupies a prominent place in the Brussels public debate.
Original languageEnglish
Title of host publicationThe Brussels Reader
EditorsEric Corijn, J. Van de Ven
Place of PublicationBrussels
Number of pages35
ISBN (Print)978-90-5718-176-4
Publication statusPublished - 26 Sep 2013

Publication series

NameThe Brussels Reader. Urban Notebooks.


  • canal zone Brussels


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