The Geographies of Real Estate Investment Trusts

Type: Virtual Paper
Sponsor Groups: Economic Geography Specialty Group, Urban Geography Specialty Group, China Specialty Group
Organizers: Taylor Hafley
Chairs: Taylor Hafley

Call for Submissions

CFP AAG 2021: The Geographies of Real Estate Investment Trusts
Virtual Paper Session

Rescheduled from AAG 2020.
Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Denver, Colorado, April 6-10, 2020


CFP AAG 2021: The Geographies of Real Estate Investment Trusts
Association of American Geographers Annual Meeting, Seattle, WA, April 7-11, 2021
Virtual Paper

Real Estate Investment Trusts (REITs) have grown rapidly in urban and financial geographies during the 21st century. Today, an estimated one in four Americans are partial owners of the more than 500,000 REIT properties nationwide ( Originally constrained to United States shopping centers, REITs now operate around the globe, and include real estate such as single-family homes, timber and farmland, data centers, and electric transmission lines within the US.

The 2021 AAG meeting marks REITs’ 51st anniversary, and while there has been a recent uptick in interest from geographers (for example: Waldron, 2018; August and Walks, 2018; Aalbers, 2019; Hofman and Aalbers, 2019; Sanfelici and Halbert, 2019; Wijburg, 2019; García-Lamarca; August, 2020 ), REITs remain an understudied aspect of critical geographic inquiry. As a corporate structure that functions to turn fixed real estate into financial liquidity (Gotham, 2006), REITs link an array of property types and institutional investment funds. The rise of REITs raise questions about the blurred lines between property types; the concentration of land ownership and increasing power over social, political, and economic processes by partial and absentee landlords; and imbalances between market capitalization and gross real estate assets.

We seek papers mapping out and uncovering the range of geographies in which REITs are manifest, and the various social, political, and economic strategies REITs undertake to exert influence over metropolitan space, at multiple scales. The session welcomes papers examining all types of REITs with aims of developing a broader understanding within geography of this increasingly popular financial asset and property owner, addressing questions such as:
• What broader political economic factors have contributed to the rapid flow of institutional investment into REITs since the Great Financial Crisis?
• What role do REITs play in producing global inequality, housing insecurity, and financial instability? In what ways do these processes unfold unevenly in both metropolitan and financial markets? How can we ‘spatialize’ these instabilities? (see, for example, Dymski, 2017).
• How susceptible are REITs to boom and bust cycles? How do downturns in stock prices and shareholder value effect service delivery and property management?
• What methodological strategies and approaches are useful and available to uncovering company information such as properties owned, sources of funding, or corporate decision-making processes?
• The limited research that does exist within geography focuses primarily on housing and timber and farmland. Which additional REIT sectors warrant urgent attention from geographers?
• In what ways do the answers to any of the above differ for listed and non-listed REITs, and vary across REIT sectors?

Additional topics of interest as they relate to REITs may include, but is far from limited to:
• platform urbanism and new technologies of rent extraction (Fields, 2019)
• racialized and gendered inclusion and exclusion
• local governance, austerity urbanism, and ‘fiscal geographies’ (Tapp and Kay, 2019)
• rentier capitalism (Byrne, 2017; Christophers, 2019; Radical Housing Journal, Vol 1.2)
• studies of financialization ‘from below’ (Ouma, 2014) and “getting between M-C-M’” (Ouma, 2018)
• the global housing crisis (Beswick et al. 2016)
• Historical geographies of REITs

If interested, please send an abstract (less than 250 words) to Taylor Hafley ( by Tuesday, October 27. Notification of decision will be made by Friday, October 30.

Aalbers, M. B. 2019. Revisiting ‘The Changing State of Gentrification’: Introduction to the Forum: From Third to Fifth-Wave Gentrification. Tijdschrift voor Economishe en Sociale Geographie 11(1): 1-11
August, M. and A. Walks. 2018. Gentrification, suburban decline, and the financialization of multi-family rental housing: The case of Toronto. Geoforum 89: 124-136
August, M. 2020. The financialization of Canadian multi-family rental housing: From trailer to tower. Journal of Urban Affairs. DOI: 10.1080/07352166.2019.1705846
Byrne, M. 2019. Generation rent and the financialization of housing: a comparative exploration of the growth of the private rental sector in Ireland, the UK and Spain. Housing Studies. Doi:10.1080/02673037.2019.1632813
Christophers, B. 2019. The rentierization of the United Kingdom economy. Environment and Planning A
Dymski. G.A. 2017. Finance and Financial Systems: Evolving Geographies of Crisis and Instability, pp 539-556, in Clark, G., M.P. Feldman, M.S. Gertler, and D. Wójcik, eds, The New Oxford Handbook of Economic Geography
Fields, D. 2019. Automated landlord: digital technologies and post-crisis financial accumulation. Environment and Planning A 0(0): 1-22.
García-Lamarca. 2020. Real estate crisis resolution regimes and residential REITs: emerging socio-spatial impacts in Barcelona. Housing Studies, DOI: 10.1080/02673037.2020.1769034
Gotham, K.F. 2006. The Secondary Circuit of Capital Reconsidered: Globalization and the U.S. Real Estate Sector. American Journal of Sociology 112(1): 231-275.
Hofman, A. and M.B. Aalbers. 2019. A finance- and real estate-driven regime in the United
Kingdom. Geoforum 100: 89-100
Ouma, S. 2014. Situating global finance in the Land Rush Debate: A critical review. Geoforum
Ouma, S. 2018. Rethinking the financialization of ‘nature’. Environment and Planning A, 50(3):500-511
Radical Housing Journal. 2019. Interrogating Rent: Structures, Struggles and Subjectivities.
Sanfelici, D. and L. Halbert. 2019. Financial market actors as urban policy-makers: the case of real estate investment trusts in Brazil
Tapp, R. and K. Kay. 2019. Fiscal geographies: ‘Placing’ taxation in urban geography. Urban Geography 40(4): 573-581
Wijburg, G. 2019. Reasserting state power by remaking markets? The introduction of real estate investment trusts in France and its implications for state-finance relation in the Greater Paris region. Geoforum 100:209-219.


Type Details Minutes Start Time
Presenter Renee Tapp*, University of Illinois At Chicago, Who owns affordable housing in the United States? 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Maira Magnani*, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Real estate investment funds “channeling” pension funds’ property investment: the financialization of pension funds’ portfolio management and its impacts on the Brazilian cities 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Daniel Sanfelici*, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Maira Magnani, Universidade Federal Fluminense, Financial investors in Brazil's commercial property markets: a comparative analysis of REITs, pension funds, and listed property companies 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Benjamin Teresa*, Virginia Commonwealth University, The Reemergence of Land Contracts in Chicago as Racialized Class-Monopoly Markets 15 12:00 AM
Presenter Natacha Aveline-Dubach*, CNRS/University Paris 1 Panthéon Sorbonne, Financializing nursing homes? The failure of REIT investment in the context of rising home-based welfare 15 12:00 AM

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