Liquid Tenancy

"Post-crisis" economies of displacement, community organizing, and new forms of resistance

Joshua Akers, Eric Seymour, Diné Butler, and Wade Rathke

Published in Issue 1.1 // The Long Read

Keywords: Housing; land contracts; eviction; community organizing


What has emerged in the United States in the wake of the financial crisis is a system of liquid tenancy. The deployment of contractual arrangements by speculative owners, backed by the threat of violence from the state through eviction, that extracts profits from low-income and racialized communities while further destabilizing areas of long-term disinvestment. This paper examines the emergence of economies of displacement and dispossession over the past decade and two activist movements that emerged in response. We are particularly interested in the liminal space of liquidity and housing stability, the ways in which the financialization of housing has destabilized tenancy in the wake of the crisis, and the conceptions of space and rights to place in resistance movements. To understand this, we focus on the geography of contemporary speculative property ownership, the increasingly common use of exploitative instruments such as land contract and lease to own agreements, and the resulting increase in evictions. We then turn to two organizations responding to this instability at different scales with contrasting models and politics that converge around the right to remain in place. This paper is a collective effort between academics working directly with the ACORN Home Savers Campaign and Detroit Eviction Defense.

Joshua Akers and Eric Seymour are members of the Urban Praxis Workshop. Diné Bulter and Wade Rathke are organizers with the ACORN Home Savers Campaign.

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