With millions facing housing insecurity, the economic downturn has sparked concerns of a new housing crisis. Where the subprime mortgage crisis thrust the centrality of unsustainable housing financing practices in the global economy into view, the Covid-19 recession has brought increased attention to widespread housing insecurity among the roughly forty-three million renter households in the US. And these units, too, are increasingly financialized.

A 2017 article by geographer DESIREE FIELDS examines these trends with a focus on New York City:

“Rental housing today constitutes an important new node for financializing projects globally, most noticeably in the US single-family market, as well as Spain and Ireland. Private equity funds have taken advantage of sharp price drops, surging rental demand and constrained mortgage credit to buy distressed real estate assets, convert them into rental housing and roll out novel rent-backed financial instruments. Tenants’ homes may be subject to financialization even though residents themselves do not have mortgages.

Whereas private equity firms only discovered single-family rental post-2008, they had established themselves in New York City’s rental market in the years leading up to the crisis. New York has been characterized as a testing ground for neoliberal urban restructuring, experimentation made possible by its 1970s fiscal crisis. Three decades later, the city’s mid-2000s real estate boom, together with the incomplete dismantling of postwar-era state rent protections in the 1990s, created the conditions for another round of experimentation: private equity firms, in concert with local banks and landlords, set about transforming the city’s rent-regulated housing into a novel asset class for capital seeking investment opportunities, subjecting tenants to harassment, displacement and unsafe living conditions to extract financial yield. This experiment represents an important step towards incorporating rental housing into global circuits of capital.”

Link to the piece.

  • In another paper, Fields and co-authors Rajkumar Kohli and Alex Schafran trace the growth of single-family rental securitization in the US post-2008. Link.
  • Joe Beswick et al. document the rise of corporate landlords in post-crisis London’s rental market. Link. Manuel B. Aalbers and Andrej Holm compare privatized social housing in Amsterdam and Berlin. Link. Michael Byrne examines asset-management companies and financialized real estate in Ireland. Link.
  • For more on the financialization of real estate, see Herman Mark Schwartz’s work linking the US housing market and global capital flows. Link. See also: Saskia Sassen on mortgages, and David Harvey on capital and urbanization. Link, and link.


International aid and activism in Syria

PhD candidate in Political Science at Northwestern University RANA B. KHOURY studies conflict, displacement, and humanitarianism in the Middle East. In a 2017 article, Khoury examines international aid and the changing landscape of activism around the Syrian conflict.

From the article:

“Despite the dizzying truth of the violence, a more careful consideration of Syria’s warscape—that place of transformative social processes in and around a warzone—uncovers evidence of continued unarmed mobilization among civilians. Indeed, refugees in neighboring countries like Jordan are deeply engaged in humanitarian, developmental, and political endeavors. Still, the overwhelming militarism and humanitarianism that have characterized the Syrian crisis have had their impacts: activist organization is constricted and configured by security imperatives and, paradoxically, by the aid regime assisting civilians in the conflict. In turn, activism has evolved from grassroots mobilization to a formal and aid-based response to a humanitarian crisis. The informal and formal ‘everyday elements’ of intervention—social habits, bureaucratic procedures, approaches to data—impact these massive enterprises from the bottom up. In response to Syria, politics is displaced by ‘governance,’ rebels by ‘proscribed’ versus ‘vetted’ groups, constituents by ‘beneficiaries,’ survival by ‘stipends,’ and so on. Through discourse and ways of knowing the world, the system discerns technical problems to be resolved by technocrats, thereby ‘depoliticizing everything it touches.”

Link to the piece, link to Khoury’s website.

Each week we highlight great work from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Have you read any excellent research recently that you’d like to see shared here? Send it our way:

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  • Join us on Thursday October 15 at 3pm ET for a conversation between Aaron Benanav and Tim Barker, co-hosted with n+1: Automation, Waged Life, and Post-Scarcity. Link to the registration page. (And link to Benanav’s Phenomenal World piece from earlier in the year.)
  • And on Tuesday October 13 at 6pm ET, the next iteration of JFI’s Social Wealth Seminar series will feature Jonathan Calenzani on bond yields amid low global growth rates. Email to register, and see more about the series here.
  • “We don’t just want to think about ameliorative policies, we want to think about building things into the economy that fundamentally restructure political and economic interactions.” On the blog, Álvaro Guzmán Bastida interviews Mark Blyth on Covid-19, public anger, and three generations of global capitalism. Link.
  • “We argue that rising rents may induce redistribution of income between capital and labour without price changes.” New research by Mariana Mazzucato, Josh Ryan-Collins, and Giorgos Gouzoulis develops a “framework for understanding how rising modern economic rents are related to increasing inequality and declining investment and innovation, and secular stagnation.” Link.
  • A new Equitable Growth report by Alexander Hertel-Fernandez and Alix Gould-Werth looks at the relationship between unions and unemployment insurance: “greater access to unmployment insurance supports workplace collective action, which, in turn, supports greater access to unemployment benefits.” Link.
  • Ariel Ron on “Monetary Democracy” in American history. Link. See also: Noam Maggor and Anton Jäger on Populists and the Federal Reserve. Link.
  • Markus Goldstein interviews Rachael Pierotti on mixed methods research. Link. h/t Sidhya
  • A new paper by Barbara Biasi and Heather Sarsons looks at the 2011 erosion of collective bargaining for Wisconsin school teachers to “show that flexible pay increased the gender pay gap among teachers with the same credentials.” Link.
  • Brishen Rogers on labor law and technological change. Link.
  • “Over the course of the sixteenth century, Europeans writing about the ius gentium went from treating indigenous American rulers as the juridical equals of Europe’s princes to depicting them as little more than savage brutes, incapable of bearing dominium and ineligible for the protections of the law of peoples. This transformation resulted from fundamental changes in European society and provided a new foundation for imperial expansion into the Americas.” By Daragh Grant. Link.
  • “A tale of three depressions.” Paul De Grauwe and Yuemi Ji on the Covid-19 economic collapse. Link. (And link to Eichengreen and O’Rourke’s “Tale of two depressions.”)
  • “Complaints to Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) are correlated with deaths 17 days later.” W.P. Hanage, C. Testa, J. T. Chen, L. Davis, E. Pechter, M Santillana and N. Krieger report on the unique weaknesses of the US response to the Covid-19 crisis: failure to prevent community spread; poor labor protections; excess mortality. Link.
  • A new PIIE report by Chad Brown on US export controls and the semiconductor race. Link.
  • “Among mobile hunter-gatherers during the late Pleistocene, food was almost certainly widely shared as it was acquired. If a harvested crop or the meat of a domesticated animal were to have been distributed to other group members, a late Pleistocene would-be farmer would have had little incentive to engage in the required investments in clearing, cultivation, animal tending, and storage. However, the new property rights that farming required—secure individual claims to the products of one’s labor—were infeasible because most of the mobile and dispersed resources of a forager economy could not cost-effectively be delimited and defended. The resulting chicken-and-egg puzzle might be resolved if farming had been much more productive than foraging, but initially it was not. Recent estimates suggest that the productivity of the first farmers (calories per hour of labor including processing and storage) was probably less than that of the foragers they eventually replaced, perhaps by a considerable amount. The Holocene revolution was not sparked by a superior technology. It occurred because possession of the wealth of farmers—crops, dwellings, and animals—could be unambiguously demarcated and defended. This facilitated the spread of new property rights that were advantageous to the groups adopting them.” By Samuel Bowles and Jung-Kyoo Choi. Link.

Each week we highlight research from a graduate student, postdoc, or early-career professor. Send us recommendations:

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