Dissertations, Theses, and Capstone Projects

Date of Degree


Document Type


Degree Name





Susan Saegert

Committee Members

Manuel Aalbers

David Harvey

Tarry Hum

Kathe Newman

Subject Categories

Geography | Urban Studies and Planning


Financial markets, actors and imperatives are increasingly central to today's global capitalism, even in areas of the economy traditionally distinct from finance, such as real estate. This financialization changes the role of mortgage capital in urban space from building place-bound wealth to facilitating the extraction of value from place. This dissertation addresses questions about how financialization operates in the rental market, specifically its relation to: earlier processes of urban disinvestment, ongoing social and political struggles around urban space, the meaning of home and social reproduction. These questions correspond to broader theoretical debates about the contingent relationship between today's urban context and landscapes inherited at the end of the 1970s, the constraints and possibilities for today's community-based organizations and the consequences of finance's permeation into everyday life.

Using qualitative, archival and geographic methods, the research design revolves around a long temporal frame beginning with the 1970s urban crisis of property abandonment and continuing through the present. Geographic data was used to analyze relationships between property abandonment and private equity real estate investment. Archival data and interviews with veteran (n=11); mid-career (n=5); and emerging (n=9) nonprofit professionals provided insight on community responses to disinvestment and financialization. Focus groups (N=5) with tenants (n=27) addressed social and psychological consequences of financialization.

Today's financialization of housing shapes uneven geographies of power: finance can make itself felt in property, but is often beyond the reach of community organizations and the city. Concentrated in low-income, minority neighborhoods, investors' financial risks undermined tenants' ontological security and social reproduction. Community organizations' development of discursive, data-driven and spatial tactics speaks to the political possibilities of contemporary community practice to contest financialization. The findings are relevant to efforts of community organizations to contest urban inequality, concerns about planning economically sustainable cities and policy approaches to affordable rental housing. This study contributes to research on geographies of financialization; in particular it responds to the need for critical attention to the socially and spatially uneven nature of processes associated with financialization of the domestic.