The city or the country: second homeownership in urban and rural contexts
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This dissertation uses second homeowners as a lens through which to understand contemporary changes, challenges, and opportunities for post-industrial urban and rural communities. Over the past twenty years, second homeownership has steadily increased across the United States. Although this concentrates in rural, amenity rich destinations, select global cities are also experiencing a new surge of this form of homeownership. Despite this shift, little is known about the everyday routines and practices of second homeowners, as a group or class, within and across urban and rural locales. To unpack these processes, this dissertation utilizes in-depth interviews and ethnographic observations in Rangeley, Maine and Boston, Massachusetts. The case of Rangeley advances the understanding of how the meanings people attribute to places have the power to shape local life. This chapter reveals how, and the conditions under which, both second homeowners and permanent residents—who have distinct orientations to the town—situate second homeowners as a venerable visitor, a narrative which celebrates second homeowners as a deserving, and lauded member of local life. This case broadens our vision of the variable ways in which rural place distinction can emerge and the conditions under which it varies, by turning attention to the ways in which two groups of locally embedded actors—with presumably distinct interests—build consensus over a place’s distinct local qualities. The second case traces two types of second homeowners in Boston: speculators and specters. The former, who purchased second homes between 1980 and 1999 in gentrifying neighborhoods, engaged in city-building projects through direct civic and political participation. The latter, who purchased second homes after 2000 in upscale neighborhoods, more inconspicuously shape the contours of urban life through donations to and participation in elite, high-cultural institutions. These findings shed light on the form and function of increasingly affluent central cities. Together, these cases underscore the heterogeneity of affluent in-migrants within and across urban and rural communities and the variable ways in which they shape the form and function of post-industrial locales. I furthermore utilize second homeowners to broaden our understanding of the shifting cultural meanings of the city and the country.