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Resource Justice is RSF’s research initiative, where we foster research into the sustainable, efficient and equitable use of natural resources in the US and abroad. Our goal is that the rich bounty provided by the natural world be shared equitably among all members of the human community, ensuring that social progress is both inclusive and resilient. Aiming to serve as a valuable resource for community stakeholders who share this objective, much of our work focuses on translational research. With our network of talented researchers, we also conduct novel research into pressing social issues including urban land use & housing issues, land & property taxation, value capture of natural resource rents, and climate change & the environment.

Our Mission: Advancing equitable resource use through responsive research.

Our Vision: We pursue a world where natural resources are put to productive and sustainable use for the health and wellbeing of all.

Our Values:
  • Fairness
  • Stewardship
  • Justice
  • Equity
  • Inclusion
  • Transparency
  • Event Recording:
    Driving the Shift: Tax Activism and the Move to Land Value Tax

    As struggles for affordable housing and good land use intensify, more and more communities across the U.S. are considering the shift from a traditional property tax to a Land Value Tax.  You can now view the recording of this informative panel discussion featuring the folks working towards tax reform in the name of economic equity in California, Detroit, Richmond, and New York City.

    Recent Articles

    Privilege in the Wasted Land: How Wealthy Investors Hide Behind LLCs and Speculate on Vacant and Underutilized Land in New York City

    Over the past few months, we have published a series of articles which explore the presence of vacant and underutilized land in New York City and the role of Limited Liability Companies (LLCs) in the city’s housing market. Today, we publish our ground-breaking report, Privilege in the Wasted Land, which examines the factors associated with these phenomena and clearly establishes that LLC investors are over-represented among owners of both vacant and underutilized land in NYC.

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    Squandered Opportunity: The Social Cost of Underutilized Land

    In our previous article describing speculation on vacant urban land, we pointed out that the attention paid to vacant housing often overlooks another type of pernicious vacancy: housing units that aren’t even built in the first place. Sometimes this looks like plots of land lying vacant for decades, even in the face of exorbitant rents, earning juicy speculative profits for the owner as their land rises in value. But speculative profiteering doesn’t only occur on wholly vacant land. It also occurs on underutilized land. In this article, we examine the social harms that arise from underutilized land, consider ways of measuring it, and propose policies to discourage it.

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    Everybody Works But The Vacant Lot: How Speculators Profit From Our Thriving Cities

    As academics, advocates, and pundits scramble to explain the rising burden of housing costs in American cities, much has been written about the specter of vacant housing. A symptom of wealthy speculators, vacant units indicate that many investors are happy to park their wealth in real estate and profit from growth in land values without the hassle of actually having to build or rent-out empty units.

    This narrative is often paired with calls for a tax on vacant units, which is expected to push these units into being made available for use by tenants. While there are merits to this argument, it misses the forest for the trees, as it entirely fails to identify and fix two other ways in which scarce space within our cities is wasted: through vacant and/or underutilized urban land. Just like vacant dwellings, vacant and utilized lots are held out of use by speculators when they could instead be housing many more people. 

    In this article, we will summarize the existing research on the causes and consequences of urban land, which primarily centers on the existence of blighted land in struggling cities.

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    Citadels of Privilege: How LLCs Funnel Land Rents Into the Pockets of Wealthy Investors

    As housing costs continue their inexorable climb upwards in cities across the US, concern is mounting about the role played by corporate investors. Referred to as the ‘financialization’ of housing, real estate is being hoovered-up by massive investment funds with names like BlackRock and Blackstone.

    While attention is often paid to the institutional investors, one overlooked component of this shifting economic quicksand is the growing presence of limited liability companies (LLCs) in the real estate market. This legal structure is favored by investors looking to profit by grabbing land, avoiding the tax collector, and dodging the ire of the public eye.

    In this article we’ll describe how the LLC legal structure became a favorite weapon for real estate speculators, explain how they widen inequality, present our own research into their presence in New York City (NYC), and suggest some policy tools to uproot this pernicious weed ensnaring our cities.

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    Our Key Issues

    Key Issues

    Click on any of the images below to view additional resources and articles about these key areas of our research and public policy work.

    Resource Rents and Value Capture

    Land Use and Housing

    Land and Property Taxation

    Environment and Climate Change

    Mapping Tools

    Research Reports

    Privilege in the Wasted Land: An Analysis of LLC Ownership and Vacant Land in New York City

    Bias in Property Assessments: Sources & Solutions

    RSF Staff Contact

    Stephen Hoskins

    Research Director