Renting over troubled waters: An urban political ecology of rental housing

Kathleen J. Mee*, Lesley Instone, Miriam Williams, Jane Palmer, Nicola Vaughan

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

23 Citations (Scopus)


In this paper we explore the urban political ecologies (UPEs) of rental housing through the lens of water to draw attention to the different conditions of access to 'resources for adaptation' in the material relations of public and private rental housing provision in a world of changing climate. Climate change introduces a profound dimension of uncertainty in the socio-material relations of urban life. However, the capacity of urban residents to make changes to their housing is uneven, and this uncertainty is amplified by the limited access of many tenants to 'resources for adaptation' such as gardens, water efficiency, and alternative energy and is exacerbated by regulatory practices, including leases, insurance, and capital investment, that help shape the socio-natural relations of tenure. UPE emphasises the hybrid nature of cities and the flows of people and materials that constitute the built environment. We draw on the insights of UPE alongside an appreciation of the dynamics of normal standards of comfort, cleanliness, and convenience in the home to reveal the complexities of attempts to engage more sustainably with water in rental property. This paper draws on a case study of rental property managers and tenants in Newcastle, NSW, Australia, to explore social and cultural processes that are both shaped by and shape rental housing provision. We reveal a suite of practices, materials, and discourses that assemble to make 'resources for adaptation' and simultaneously render water useful, troubled, or troublesome.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)365-376
Number of pages12
JournalGeographical Research
Issue number4
Publication statusPublished - Nov 2014
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate change
  • Rental housing
  • Sustainability
  • Urban political ecology
  • Water


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