Associate Professor, Urban Planning and Policy
Urban Planning and Policy
Building & Room:
239 CUPPA Hall, MC 348
412 S. Peoria St., Suite 239
Phil Ashton joined the Urban Planning and Policy Program at UIC in August 2005. Initially trained as a political scientist and an urban planner, he worked as a technical assistance provider for existing and startup consumer cooperatives in Canada and the United States. For six years, he was a research associate at the Center for Urban Policy Research at Rutgers University, investigating neighborhood change in Newark, NJ and large scale urban redevelopment in Camden, NJ. He has consulted on issues related to housing policy, mortgage discrimination, lending disparities, and access to credit.
Currently, Phil’s scholarly research focuses on three inter-related areas. His primary scholarly focus is the restructuring of retail finance and its relationship to U.S. central cities, where he combines the methods of economic geography and industrial organization with theoretical frameworks emphasizing power relations between debtors and creditors. He has used this to produce a series of analyses of the subprime mortgage market that critique conventional interpretations of how minority borrowers and neighborhoods will fare in the “new financial marketplace.” He has published work on these topics in leading journals, including Environment & Planning A, Urban Studies, the International Journal of Urban and Regional Research, and the Urban Affairs Review .
A second line of research examines urban governance through the lens of financial markets and financialization. Here, his approach examines the use of financial instruments and strategies as modes of problem-solving, along with the new kinds of uncertainties and exposures those introduce to policy-making. With his colleagues Rachel Weber (UIC) and Marc Doussard (UIUC), Phil has done work on the role of investment banks and infrastructure funds in producing the growing market for urban infrastructure assets, including long-term leases for Chicago’s Skyway and parking meters. He has recently turned this work towards analysis of new financial models associated with local climate action, investigating the tensions and contradictions set in motion as cash-strapped localities position energy retrofits of public buildings as opportunities for private financial investment. This latter project is the focus of a Visiting Professor appointment at l'Université Gustave Eiffel in Paris, where he works with colleagues at the Laboratoire Techniques Territoires et Sociétés (LATTS).
Finally, Phil works on the political economy of law as it relates to credit and property. He has engaged in analyses of ad hoc financial regulation, including emergency banking interventions and legal settlements with large lenders over lending abuses and currency manipulation. More recently, he has examined the legal foundations of civil litigation against large subprime lenders by borrowers and municipalities, addressing the limits of civil rights frameworks to acknowledge racialized injury linked to exploitative lending practices and concentrated foreclosures. The latter topic was his focus while a Visiting Scholar at the American Bar Foundation in 2013-2014.
You can find Phil on Mastodon.
Ashton, Philip. 2023. Collateral damage: Racial logics of property in the adjudication of the US foreclosure crisis. Geoforum 140 (March). PDF version available here.
Ashton, Philip, and Brett Christophers. 2018. Remaking mortgage markets by remaking mortgages: US housing finance after the crisis
Economic Geography 94(3): 238-258. PDF version available here.
Ashton, Philip. 2018. Time-spaces of adjudication in the U.S. subprime mortgage crisis. In Law and Time, S. Beynan-Jones and E. Grabham (eds), pp. 75-92. London: Routledge.
Ashton, Philip, Doussard, Marc, and Rachel Weber. 2016. Reconstituting the state: City powers and exposures in Chicago’s infrastructure leases. Special Issue on “Financialization and the Production of Urban Space”. Urban Studies 53(7): 1384-1400. PDF version available here.
Ashton, Philip, and Brett Christophers. 2015. On arbitration, arbitrage and arbitrariness in financial markets and their governance: Unpacking LIBOR and the LIBOR scandal. Economy & Society 44(2): 188-217. PDF version available here.
Ashton, Philip. 2014. The evolving juridical space of harm/value: Remedial powers in the subprime mortgage crisis. Journal of Economic Issues 48(4): 959-979. PDF version available here.
Ashton, Philip. 2012. ‘Troubled assets’: The financial emergency and racialized risk. International Journal of Urban & Regional Research 36 (4): 773-790. PDF version available here.
Ashton, Philip, Doussard, Marc, and Rachel Weber. 2012. The financial engineering of infrastructure privatization: What are public assets worth to private investors? Journal of the American Planning Association 78(3): 300-312. PDF version available here.
Ashton, Philip. 2011. The financial exception and the reconfiguration of credit risk in US mortgage markets. Environment and Planning A 43(8): 1796-1812. PDF version available here.
Ashton, Philip. 2009. An appetite for yield: The anatomy of the subprime mortgage crisis. Environment and Planning A 41(6): 1420-1441. PDF version available here.
Bachelor of Arts (Honours) - University of Winnipeg (1990); Masters in Urban Planning - McGill University (1993); Ph.D. - Rutgers University (2005).