“Canada in One City”: Austerity Urbanism and the Financialization of Ottawa's Private Rental Sector

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Authors
Yearwood, Douglas
Keyword
financialization , austerity urbanism , private rental sector , Ottawa , Vanier , Herongate , gentrification , neoliberalism , Ontario , Canada , housing , affordability
Abstract
This project centres on the financialization of private rental housing in Canada, and Ottawa, Ontario in particular. With some exceptions (August and Walks, 2018; August, 2020; Crosby, 2020, Nethercote, 2020; August, 2021) there has been relatively little scholarly focus on the financialization of rental housing in Canada—and even less on Ottawa—but understanding this process of housing financialization in the PRS is important because it helps scholars understand how macroeconomic restructuring relates to important issues in private rental housing like weakened rent protections, evictions, and urban planning. Researching the financialization of the PRS also furthers academic debates on neoliberal inter-scalar governance (Brenner, 2019) and the role of resistance and revanchism in shaping urban geographies (Harvey, 2012; Purcell, 2013; Lawton, 2018; Albet and Benach, ed., 2018). Accordingly, my dissertation asks four key questions: First, what role has the neoliberal and inter-scalar Canadian state played in shaping financialization in private rental housing? Second, how have resistance and revanchism at different scales impacted the financialization of rental housing in urban areas? Third, how have forms of resistance and revanchism under neoliberalism yielded variegated geographies? And, finally, how can resistance and revanchism be understood in relation to shaping the financialization of private rental housing? My research reveals that the Canadian state—across federal, provincial, and municipal scales—has played a critical, structural role in implementing neoliberalization and financialization in the PRS. With organized labour and housing movements in a historically deficient phase, capitalist interests and revanchist movements have been able to reorder governance scales to favour the private rental market and enable processes like gentrification. In order to argue this two-pronged thesis, I deploy historical-geographical materialist (HGM) theory (Harvey, 1989; Smith, 1996; Swyngedouw, 2000), which reveals the class-based nature of financialization in the PRS and particular ways in which rent extraction and urban revitalization are shaped by historical and geographical specificities. I advance this argument through two case studies, which reveals how two gentrifying and historically lower-income communities in Ottawa—Vanier and Herongate—are undergoing unique forms of revitalization according to their particular historical development across the inter-scalar austerity urbanist planning regime.
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