|During industrialisation, Belgian cities grew fast. But better incomes and search for more quality of live made that during sixties and seventies, people moved to the countryside and suburbs, leaving the city-centres for the unemployed, immigrants and squatters. Since the nineties, most historical centres improved their cultural, commercial and leisure offer as well as their attractiveness for offices or technological oriented enterprises. High quality bourgeois-housing in the centre was renovated but is reserved for commercial functions or only affordable by a high income upper-class. On the other hand, the neighbourhoods around the centre are still characterised by poor housing quality, poor public infrastructure and offer only few commercial and leisure opportunities for the new skilled working class that did not yet returned to the city.
As consequence, while these cities successfully contribute to the national wealth, they are also confronted with high unemployment rates, poverty and social problems. In Belgium, the main objectives of urban development policies is to make the city liveable for a skilled working class and their families. In the past, housing problems were solved by functionalist solutions: new housing blocs and retail plants. These solutions have proven not to be appropriate to create the attractive and diverse urban area people are looking for. In this paper we study how two Belgian cities: Gent in Flanders and Liège in Wallonia, create new development strategies in their disadvantaged neighbourhoods. We will focus on the local urban governance setting and the way they manage specific projects. Special attention will go to the way autonomy of the urban governance partners influences innovative implementation of national urban policies. We will look at the way they mobilise local and national resources and how they handle neighbourhood participation.