Grappling with real property supremacy in US urban climate finance

Julia Wagner*, Mark Kear , Sarah Knuth, Sahar Zavareh Hoffman, Zac Taylor

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleScientificpeer-review

Abstract

In US cities, drives to secure property value against climate risks have become a preoccupation for mainstream climate finance. This real property bias sidelines non-owners and inhabitants of historically marginalized housing types, limiting their capacity to prepare for and recover from climate change events. In this intervention, we survey major pathways of existing climate finance, before turning to emerging trends for residential “climate-proofing,” retrofitting efforts that bring climate finance “home” to the building level. Building on the concept of “real property supremacy,” we demonstrate how resourcing climate response is limited by the privileging of real property in the structure and distribution of low-carbon financial tools and incentives. We argue that this privileging reproduces hierarchies of protection for some, while exacerbating existing social inequalities, exclusions, and predations for others—ultimately, yielding greater control over climate futures to those with asymmetrical power over real property. This structurally unequal treatment risks locking-in extant social hierarchies embedded in US real property relationships instead of seizing opportunities to transform them via the historic urban investments required for climate change.
Original languageEnglish
JournalCity: analysis of urban trends, culture, theory, policy, action
DOIs
Publication statusAccepted/In press - 2024

Keywords

  • real property supremacy
  • climate finance
  • property
  • devaluation
  • climate risk
  • real estate

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