Fractionalized Real Estate on the Blockchain

Over ten years after a global financial recession that was triggered in large part due to the financialization of real estate, activists, artists, politicians, and scholars continue to grapple with questions surrounding property and finance. The recent emergence of sharing economy applications like AirBnB and fractionalized real estate via distributed ledger technologies, commonly known as blockchains, confound dominant understandings of property and global real estate flows, and raise questions surrounding the liberatory potential of “disruptive” digital tools.

Proponents of blockchains laud the technology’s capacity to re-common or redistribute property by increasing the diversity of and access to housing options. To date, however, there exists limited research supporting such claims. This comparative case study examines the social dynamics and spatial impacts of blockchain real estate solutions. It will look at uses of the technology that purports to increase inclusion of diverse populations; specifically, those seeking to enter global real estate markets through sharing schemes or fractionalized ownership (e.g., using a blockchain to split and distribute one “piece” of property across a variety of potential owners). This study contributes to recent scholarship and creative interventions on social good and post-capitalist use cases for blockchains.

Read “Encrypting Enclosure,” a BACP-commissioned research paper by Maral Sotoudehnia, here.

Maral Sotoudehnia is a Ph.D. Candidate in the University of Victoria’s Department of Geography. Her research investigates the cultural politics and commodification of digital and urban spaces shaped by global policies, peer-to-peer systems, and smart technologies. Equally influencing her scholarship are contemporary approaches to critical data studies, feminist political economy, and new materialist scholars that foreground questions surrounding access, citizenship, embodiment, financial exclusion, social justice, and subject/ivities in relation to multi-scalar decision-making processes. Her doctoral research project, supported by the Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council, traces an ethnography of contemporary life under distributed but rambunctious instances of capitalism generated by blockchains and cryptocurrency markets.