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Constructing a New Asset Class: Property-led Financial Accumulation after the Crisis

Abstract

© 2017 Clark University. This article is concerned with new modes of property-led financial accumulation emerging in the wake of the 2008 financial crisis. Focusing on the United States, the article traces the creation of an asset class derived from securitizing the rental income of foreclosed homes turned rental properties. The study strategically combines conceptual agendas often pursued separately. Theories of market formation rooted in science and technology studies inform the method of analysis so as to attend to the work of realizing markets, the role of calculative devices in market formation, and the contingent and conditional aspects of markets. This analysis reveals the single-family rental (SFR) asset class as a practical accomplishment. However, a broader framework rooted in political economy is necessary to attend to the broader significance of the SFR asset class in terms of power, politics, and the dynamics of capital accumulation. The article particularly focuses upon the historical and geographic contingencies making it possible to conceive of a large-scale SFR market, the work of state and capital market actors in reframing repossessed single-family homes as rental properties and the role calculative practices played in this process, and the strategies of issuers and credit rating agencies to frame a novel asset class for institutional investors. The SFR asset class affirms the fundamental role for housing in the ideology of capital, and speaks to new entanglements of financial actors and home life as financial accumulation is adjusted to the postcrisis context. Beyond shedding light on postcrisis housing financialization, the article demonstrates how economic geographers can carefully integrate theoretical perspectives to critically examine both the circumstances of market formation and the social, spatial, and political consequences of markets.

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