Theses Master's

Tracing Speculation: Real Estate Geographies in Pre- and Post-Crisis Philadelphia

Brawley, Dare

This project investigates forms of investment in residential property that began to emerge in the lead up to the 2008 financial crisis, which have since morphed and firmly taken hold. Focused on Philadelphia, PA, the analysis traces the new geographies of real estate purchases made specifically by investors who do not intend to live in the homes they are buying. The project uses a mixed methods approach to uncover how houses purchased as investment vehicles between 2000-2018 have been concentrated spatially, then com- pares these patterns with the geography of houses that have been purchased as homes.

The research shows that investors have consistently focused their efforts on Philadelphia neighborhoods with a higher proportion of residents of color and lower incomes. Over the nineteen-year span of this study it is clear that investor activity not only plays a large role in the housing bubble in Philadelphia, but is also continuing to grow as a percentage of overall purchases, and is expanding into new areas of the city. Principally, the project reveals that the geographies of purchases by investors and owner-occupants are largely distinct –inves- tor ownership is fueling a separate housing geography and is not merely a part of the overall housing market. To take up these complexities I draw together literature on the political economic implications of financialization in housing with research on neighborhood-level impacts of house 'flipping' as well as the new single-family rental (SFR) asset class. Through this research, the project considers the implications of these patterns in a context where, facing years of disinvestment, Philadelphia community development organizations and city government have largely been eager for the influx of capital brought through speculative investment in housing even as they simultaneously deal with related waves of displacement and evictions.

Geographic Areas


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More About This Work

Academic Units
Urban Planning
Thesis Advisors
Hutson, Malo A.
M.S., Columbia University
Published Here
August 11, 2020