Mobile Urbanism: Cities and Policymaking in the Global Age


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On a site-specific level, existing research highlights the role of local policy advisors in the dissemination of urban models Wood, , while more recent research has responded to calls to move beyond a focus on public sector actors only Stone, , arguing that consultants and other private sector actors are increasingly part of the global flow of information Bok and Coe, At the same time a macro-level analysis has focused on the role played by international bodies Stone, , including UN-Habitat and the World Bank.

This research demonstrates such organisations also contribute to the dissemination of urban models and policies, for instance through their promotion of slum upgrading programs Imparato and Ruster, It is therefore important to consider what moves policy, idea, norms and how through which medium, be that a specific tool for decision making or a specific organisation more broadly. Such an approach has also emerged implicitly in recent urban studies research focusing on the financialisation of urban development, through its focus on the reliance on investment capital for financing urban infrastructure, housing provision and the maintenance of public space, to name only a few examples.

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These are important issues in the context of the NUA, as implementing its various targets, especially in relation to housing provision and inclusivity, could be jeopardised by speculation-driven investments in cities from the Global North and the Global South alike Goldman, ; Li et al, ; Goodfellow, Therefore, it is necessary to understand how the increasing involvement of private real estate developers and their financial backers shapes both the physical and institutional environment of the cities where they operate.

Whilst a single theory cannot explain how the logic of capital accumulation Harvey, manifests in each urban location through a single overarching narrative Ong and Roy, , it is necessary to recognise that there exists a shared understanding by those working in real estate about how to maximise profits.

In recognising the traveling of norms and ideas therefore, it is essential we remain attendant to how financial logic and learnings travel globally too. When reorienting analysis towards the real estate sector, it is necessary to adopt a relational understanding of actions Henneberry and Parris, that facilitates recognition of the way cities are produced and produce global geographies Massey, The international flows of urban models and global financial investors strategies are in continual dialogue with local actors and contextual understandings, norms and institutions, all of which significantly influence how models, including financial ones, are interpreted in a given setting, and often result in only part of the policy or idea travelling Peck, ; McCann and Ward, Therefore, this necessitates paying attention to real estate developers global actions but also, and maybe more importantly, to their territorialised strategies and their local web of interactions.

Developers build their strategies according to their knowledge of the property sector local property markets and international property cycles , but also their knowledge of the local socio-institutional context within which their projects are embedded Healey, As a result, the stakeholders they need to engage with include a wide range of actors involved in property developments such as construction companies, architects, engineers, investors, planning consultants and many more, as well as local and national public authorities and local community groups.

Consequently, developers emerge as key mediators in the global movement of not just finance capital itself, but in how financial logic and financialised understandings of space are understood and translated in new places. Indeed, if developers are the new 'city builders' Fainstein, , understanding how they operate and how their activities relate to the implementation of the NUA appears crucial.

Their role as translators, relocators, or anchors of global finance and the profit accumulation logics they carry with them poses issues for urban development trajectories, and threatens the objectives of inclusion and the creation of 'cities for all'. This is especially pertinent at a time where developers are being pitched against the public and social housing budgets are decreasing, paving way for developers to move in to new areas, markets and countries where demand is growing and profit is expected.

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In swapping from traditional locations like high-end London or Manhattan Fernandez et al. The movement of ideas within the private sector is facilitated by the club like mentality of the industry Attuyer et al. International organisations like the FIABCI International Real Estate Federation act as forums for sharing ideas and have been involved in global urban affairs since —when the organisation became accredited with the UN Scruggs, Since then it, and other similar organisations, have been advocating specific changes to international frameworks for the urban environment and for property rights to be recognised in international agreements.

While the NUA does not go as far as to recognise a universal right to private property, it does acknowledge the importance of private investments for funding urban development. This should be a starting point for engaging with how real estate developers shape the built environment—both far and near to their home cities—and questioning how their relational, transcalar strategies for both urban governance Halbert and Attuyer, and capital accumulation can be included in policy analysis for a more just city.

The NUA is suggestive of way to tackle the potential issues of increased reliance on institutional real estate investments to finance urban developments, highlighting the need for regulations and taxation schemes that prevent speculation and land value capture which would only benefit speculators:. We will promote best practices to capture and share the increase in land and property value generated as a result of urban development processes, infrastructure projects, and public investments.

Measures could be put in place, as appropriate, to prevent its solely private capture as well as land and real estate speculations, such as gains—related fiscal policies. We will reinforce the link among fiscal systems, urban planning, as well as urban management tools, including land market regulations.

United Nations, : p Yet such an engagement, whilst highlighting the necessity of moving past private sector only developments, is limited by its understanding of the relational strategies of developers. And more precisely how these strategies straddle places and operate on a global scale, whilst the developers themselves invoke specific localising approaches.

There is a need to acknowledge more accurately the consequences, in terms of right to the city, of a globalised and traveling financialised understanding of space captured and moved through the actions of developers. The logic of capital accumulation travels through an understanding that real estate assets should be valued for their exchange value. In positioning property as a liquid asset Fernandez et al.

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The unprecedented shift towards exchange value orientated real estate necessitates paying attention the issues the NUA highlights: private land value capture and speculation. On a local level, this has been done with research consistently demonstrating how speculative action in global cities has changed how cities develop ibid. What we must be increasingly cautious of, in a world where mobile capital can virtually be invested anywhere, is further exploitation of untapped markets, be those real estate markets of the Global South or lower income segments of established housing markets like London.

The global housing affordability crisis has pushed real estate actors i. For instance, developers have shifted to look at potential profit gains in the affordable housing market since demand in this sub-sector may indeed surpass demand for products at the higher-end as Danielle Grossbacher, world president of the FIABCI, notes: 'The demand is so big for affordable housing'. In conclusion and whilst this might seem cynical, at a time where local governments fail to invest in housing infrastructure, and profit making on high-end development is increasingly challenging for developers aiming to make large profit margins in many well supplied markets, some property investors seem more inclined to serve the ever growing demand for affordable housing.

Critically engaging with those strategies is necessary for national, regional and municipal governments to design legal and institutional frameworks that support the goals of the NUA and provide development through the private sector while preventing speculative investments. Engaged urban scholarship has been focusing on the consequences of financialisation, shedding light on issues related to the right to the city, we argue that this literature would also benefit from engaging with the other side of the spectrum—focusing on what motivates and allows real estate actors to deploy their strategies to ensure their own right to the city, more specifically, their assumed right to benefit from property.

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Habitat Int — Marcuse P, Madden D In defense of housing: the politics of crisis. Follow this author. New articles by this author. New citations to this author. New articles related to this author's research. Email address for updates.

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Mobile Urbanism: Cities and Policymaking in the Global Age Mobile Urbanism: Cities and Policymaking in the Global Age
Mobile Urbanism: Cities and Policymaking in the Global Age Mobile Urbanism: Cities and Policymaking in the Global Age
Mobile Urbanism: Cities and Policymaking in the Global Age Mobile Urbanism: Cities and Policymaking in the Global Age
Mobile Urbanism: Cities and Policymaking in the Global Age Mobile Urbanism: Cities and Policymaking in the Global Age
Mobile Urbanism: Cities and Policymaking in the Global Age Mobile Urbanism: Cities and Policymaking in the Global Age

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