You are now in the main content area

TRANSNATIONAL HOUSE: Capital and the production of transnational urban spaces in Toronto and beyond

PB Template

This project explores the interconnectedness of urban policies and market forces that influence housing supply aimed at attracting the transnational immigrant and real-estate investor. It also explores the patterns and processes of individual migrants as they pursue home ownership on their trajectory to integrate into their new host country.

Using a case study of the Iranian community in Toronto, the project seeks to understand how the pursuit of “home” represents a sociological process at the individual level (i.e., through the individual’s quest for social status and integration), as well as a force for urban change (i.e., through the evolution of a city’s physical form and the amenities designed to attract the transnational immigrant investor).

  1. How does the quest for a house – as an investment or as a structure that becomes a place of belonging called “home” – structure a migrant’s integration trajectory?
  2. What does investment in transnational real estate tell us about migration and urban development processes?
  3. What is the impact of this quest on cities, and how do cities adapt their housing policies in response?

For many migrants, home ownership marks a step forward. It is a form of social and economic integration, both within their own community and their host society.  Research shows that the prevalence of home ownership and risk exposure can be higher for immigrants than members of the host communities. From the decision to allocate personal capital to real estate, to material and aesthetic choices, the migrant’s creation of “home” can inform our understanding of the sociology of social status as well as the long-term welfare prospects of newcomers. As transnational actors – for whom “home” is both the one left behind in their country of origin and newly established in the host country – their behaviours have a distinctive influence on the transformation of urban spaces, from architectural models to lifestyle trends.

At the same time, major urban centres around the world are competing for immigrant capital through housing supply. The first decade of the 21st century witnessed the further internationalizing of the real estate sector, as urban and migration policies at the local and national level were designed to attract inflows of foreign and migrant capital. The proliferation of high-rise, luxury residential towers in the downtown core of major cities has occurred, in part, to attract the transnational immigrant.

Despite the large-scale patterns of change underway, research on this topic remains limited. Much of the existing literature focuses on the role of Chinese or, albeit more rarely, Indian communities in shaping the cultural and material environments of cities in northern countries such as Canada.

The Iranian case has the added difference in that capital outflows and human mobilities from Iran are substantially affected by the decades of sanctions imposed on the country and its isolation from the world. Thus, this project will contribute to the fields of both Iranian diaspora studies and urban studies.

This project will involve an ethnographic account of real estate investment and home ownership practices using qualitative interviews with both migrants and real estate agents. The project will also use quantitative data on housing, home ownership and real estate investment according to residents’ status, country of origin, housing types, housing prices and geographical locations. Correlations between these factors will be represented through analytical maps. The project will also pay particular attention to the types of interior and exterior architecture favoured by migrants for their investments by conducting a photographic survey which explores new aesthetic values.

First delivery of articles and presentations will take place in 2022.

CERC Migration

real estate investment, housing, home making, Iranian diaspora, diasporic capital, transnationalism, Toronto