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Selling City Futures: The Financialization of Urban Redevelopment Policy


  • Rachel Weber


This article examines the specific mechanisms that have allowed global financial markets to penetrate deeply into the activities of U.S. cities. A flood of yield-seeking capital poured into municipal debt instruments in the late 1990s, but not all cities or instruments were equally successful in attracting it. Capital gravitated toward those local governments that could readily convert the income streams of public assets into new financial instruments and that could minimize the risk of nonpayment due to the actions of nonfinancial claimants. This article follows the case of Chicago from 1996 through 2007 as the city government subsidized development projects with borrowed money using a once-obscure instrument called Tax Increment Financing (TIF). TIF allows municipalities to bundle and sell off the rights to future property tax revenues from designated parts of the city. The City of Chicago improved the appearance of these speculative instruments by segmenting and sequencing TIF debt instruments in ways that made them look less idiosyncratic and by exerting strong political control over the processes of development and property tax assessment. In doing so, Chicago not only attracted billions of dollars in global capital but also contributed to a dangerous oversupply of commercial real estate. Copyright (c) 2010 Clark University.

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  • Rachel Weber, 2010. "Selling City Futures: The Financialization of Urban Redevelopment Policy," Economic Geography, Clark University, vol. 86(3), pages 251-274, July.
  • Handle: RePEc:bla:ecgeog:v:86:y:2010:i:3:p:251-274

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    References listed on IDEAS

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    10. R A Cropf & G D Wendel, 1998. "The Determinants of Municipal Debt Policy: A Pooled Time-Series Analysis," Environment and Planning C, , vol. 16(2), pages 211-224, April.
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    1. repec:bla:ijurrs:v:41:y:2017:i:4:p:555-571 is not listed on IDEAS
    2. repec:oup:cjrecs:v:10:y:2017:i:3:p:455-469. is not listed on IDEAS
    3. Michelle Buckley & Adam Hanieh, 2014. "Diversification by Urbanization: Tracing the Property-Finance Nexus in Dubai and the Gulf," International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, Wiley Blackwell, vol. 38(1), pages 155-175, January.
    4. Erica Pani & Nancy Holman, 2014. "A Fetish and Fiction of Finance: Unraveling the Subprime Crisis," Economic Geography, Clark University, vol. 90(2), pages 213-235, April.
    5. Yuanshuo Xu & Mildred E Warner, 2016. "Does devolution crowd out development? A spatial analysis of US local government fiscal effort," Environment and Planning A, , vol. 48(5), pages 871-890, May.
    6. Alan Walks, 2014. "From Financialization to Sociospatial Polarization of the City? Evidence from Canada," Economic Geography, Clark University, vol. 90(1), pages 33-66, January.

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