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Inaugural lecture BSI-citydev.brussels 2024 Chair

Financialized housing geographies: why is it so difficult to find a place to call home?

Increasing numbers of evictions and more and more people spending most of their income to pay monthly rents; working-class communities forced to move to the peripheries in order to find homes; the scarcity of social housing alternatives and… an astonishing real estate boom, including residential property. Does this scenario match a known experience? If yes, welcome to the world of the financialization of housing…

This picture, which describes the present contradictory housing crisis and real estate boom in hundreds of cities around the world, is not at all particular or conjunctural. It is indeed a global phenomenon, resulting from the hyper-capture of built space as a tradable asset that is capable of generating interest to an unprecedented mass of surplus capital circulating around the world in financial circuits. The built environment in general, and housing in particular, became a new frontier of speculation and rentiership on a new scale, dispossessing and excluding increasingly more people from their homes and blocking their access to rent-seeking landscapes.

The financialization of land and housing marks a new empire colonizing the urban landscape in which territories are increasingly captured and populations are dislocated and dispossessed. Under this model of urban development, the link between capital and built space has reached unprecedented scale and speed by mobilizing new legal, political and economic instruments.

Backed initially by the political force of home ownership ideology (Ronald, 2008) and property-owning democracy, deeply rooted in some societies and recently adopted in others, and by the ‘socialization of credit’— the inclusion of middle- and low-income consumers into financial circuits — the takeover of the housing sector by global finance opened a new frontier for capital accumulation, allowing the free circulation of financial capital over almost all urban land. In each country, the new ideas confronted existing national welfare systems and housing policy coalitions, so that financialization of housing can take different forms that differ from each other not only in their origin, but also in the kind of impact they have on economies, cities, and people’s lives.

The Inaugural lecture will address the historical movement of paradigm from housing as a social policy and part of the welfare state, to housing as a financial asset, looking into the mortgage and financial crisis and the post 2008 scenario. This housing crisis was a result of the financialization of housing in the mortgage/home ownership phase, which happened in some cities in Europe and North America, and became the basis for the creation of a new asset class based on rental housing.

New information technologies enabled investors to concentrate ownership of dispersed units, extract income flows and data and bundle them into capital markets, in operations managed by digital platforms and apps. Those changes enabled a new form of financialization of housing from above – via partnerships between corporate landlords and the State but also generated new and perverse links between labor precarity, informality and financial capital, generating housing financialization from below.

Raquel Rolnik

Raquel Rolnik is a professor, architect and urban planner with over 45 years of scholarship, activism and practical experience in planning, urban land and housing policies.

Based in São Paulo, she is full professor at the Faculty of Architecture and Urbanism of the University of São Paulo and is currently the University Campus Mayor. In her career, she has held various government positions including Director of the Planning Department of the city of São Paulo (1989-1992) and National Secretary for Urban Programs of the Brazilian Ministry of Cities (2003-2007). She worked as a consultant in urban land policy and housing in several cities and different countries, and was the UN-Habitat leading expert on housing and planning in post-conflict reconstruction in Kosovo and El Salvador. From 2008 to 2014, Raquel Rolnik was appointed by the UN Human Rights Council as UN Special Rapporteur on adequate housing for a six years mandate, ending June 2014.

Since 2019 she organized a Research Action Lab (LabCidade), based in FAUUSP, to develop critical scholarship on urban policies and housing. An “Observatory of Evictions” is one of the main projects of LabCidade. The project includes a permanent cartography of evictions which are taking place in metropolitan São Paulo as well as the building of a network of organizations around both making those processes visible, advocating for compliance with the right to adequate housing and imagining alternative planning and projects (https://www.labcidade.fau.usp.br/). She authored several articles and books, including Urban Warfare: Housing and Cities in the Age of Finance (Verso 2018), A Cidade e a Lei (Studio Nobel), and São Paulo: o planejamento da desigualdade (Fósforo 2022) among others. She has a blog, a weekly radio program, and a permanent presence in public debate on housing in Brazil, Latin America, the US, the UK and several European countries.

Date

18 Mar 24

Heure

de 14:30 à 17:00

Tarif

Lieu


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