Action Research for Housing Justice


Corporate Landlord Popular Education is a portfolio of work led by Desiree Fields, in collaboration with community and labor activists in the United States and United Kingdom. Based on Fields’ ongoing research on the treatment of rental housing as a financial asset, the focus of this work is to: build public knowledge about the process of housing financialization and support efforts to build movements that contest this process. This work addresses the changing role of housing in capitalist urbanization and the implications for claims to urban space by anyone who does not have direct control over their housing. It is therefore inherently concerned with housing financialization as a key terrain in contemporary urban struggles. By demystifying and concretizing the operations of financial capitalism in urban housing markets, this work challenges the storied complexity of finance and its tendency to obfuscate public understanding.

Walking the Financialized City
Walking the Financialized City” is an article that asks how urban struggles for housing justice can take on the terrain of finance. The piece arose out of a popular education series developed by the activist group Greater Manchester Housing Action in response to a growing crisis of housing precarity in Manchester, United Kingdom. We argue for walking tours as a mobile method of public education that provides the basis for a wider discussion about who is able to assert claims to urban space in the context of financialization, and the role of grassroots activism in making and substantiating these claims. The article positions the walking tour as a way to open up the abstract patterns and dynamics of financialization and to develop critical, collective financial literacy.

Tracing the Evolution of Corporate Landlords

This project builds on Fields’ earlier research, which documented how the disposession of homeowners became the basis for a new financial asset class. After the 2008 mortgage crisis, Wall Street firms bought up homes at bargain prices, formed new rental companies, and began to securitize the rental income and go public as real estate investment trusts. The single-family rental asset class has boomed in the pandemic as remote work policies and uncertainties about the commercial real estate market have drawn both people and capital from urban centers to suburban single-family homes. This project examines how corporate landlords are now pursuing growth through acquiring newly built homes, partnering with builders on Build for Rent schemes, and even buying land to develop new rental homes themselves. The project is currently producing educational materials on corporate landlords for housing justice activists across California.

Berkeley Lab for Speculative Urbanisms
University of California, Berkeley