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The contemporary debates on urban densification, the residential attractiveness of city centres and the fight against urban sprawl, the objectives being a matter of broad political consensus, usually remain little related to any questioning of the social content of the processes at work in the territories concerned. There is however food for thought here since numerous studies have raised the topicality of the gentrification process of certain popular central residential districts as well as the relegation of precarious populations towards other districts, in city centres or peripheries.

In this perspective, this article proposes an analysis of the contributions of the inter- and intra-urban migrations to social change in the main Walloon cities - Liege, Charleroi, Namur and Mons. It arises from the analysis that, while the periurbanisation remains structuring, the gentrification and relegation processes are being deployed in concert in the centre of these cities, the latter being distinctly more sweeping than the former. Field surveys conducted in several central districts located by the analysis reveal, moreover, the existence of strong tensions affecting the residential insertion of populations lacking great financial means. Lastly, the results of our analyses allow a critical appreciation of the public action mechanisms that are being applied in the central districts of the Walloon cities.