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Un/Making Assets: The Institutional Limits to Financialization
Annals of the American Association of Geographers  (IF4.683),  Pub Date : 2021-10-19, DOI: 10.1080/24694452.2021.1960474
Kelly Kay, Renee Tapp

This article contributes to contemporary debates within the financialization and assetization literatures by examining the sale of tax credits in U.S. property markets over the last twenty years. Whereas the vast majority of research on financial assets focuses on the income-generating aspects of property, this article considers a more holistic approach to assets. Through detailed empirical analysis of syndication in historic tax credit and conservation easement markets, we demonstrate how assets are not just sources of income or cash flow but also—critically—sources of expense reduction. Drawing from relevant U.S. tax law and related legal provisions, we trace three interlocking components in the assetization process: enabling and disabling legislation, the structures and typologies of property ownership, and the actors that make deals happen. By starting with asset creation, rather than assumed geographies of investment, we bridge the rural–urban divide to reveal new geographies of finance sourced directly from the state. Although the tax sheltering dimensions of assets are unique in this regard, the state retains the capacity to unmake assets that lack “economic substance.” As such, this article offers a new direction forward—a legal-institutionalist framework—that foregrounds the state as setting and enforcing the limits to financialization.