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School of Geography

Zac Taylor Zac Taylor

Contact details

Room 10.08 Garstang
School of Geography
University of Leeds
University Road
Leeds LS2 9JT   UK




My research examines how finance, and the real estate and property insurance industries in particular, shape the climate change adaptation pathways of Florida cities and regions. 

With more than 20 million residents, Florida is one of the most populous and fast-growing regions of the United States. Today roughly 4 in 5 Floridians live in a community touching the state’s 1,350 miles of low-lying coastline, home to more than $3 trillion of property. While sea and sun attract millions to Florida to visit and live, the Sunshine State is also one of the most hurricane-prone strips of land in the world, causing an average of $2.3 billion of insured property losses each year. At the same time, rising seas warmed by climate change are heightening Florida’s exposure to natural catastrophe, with upwards of 7 feet of sea level rise expected locally by the end of the century. Staggering statistics only begin to paint a picture of how profound sea level rise may prove for Florida communities: 1 in 3 of all Florida homes, valued at $950 billion, and 32,000 miles of public road are estimated to be at or below an elevation of 10 feet. Hurricanes and other natural disasters, increasingly amplified by rising seas, place extraordinary strains on the physical, financial and institutional infrastructures that enable the everyday working of Florida cities. Yet today both academic and policymaker understandings of these processes are fragmented and incomplete, divided across different disciplines, constituents and communities. 

My doctoral project explores how real estate and property insurance industies mediate the ways in which Florida's emergent climate risks are understood and translated into urban policy, plans, interventions, and products, as seen in the examples of the proposed "resilience bond" for municipalities or the growing use of catastrophe risk modeling to design "climate ready" infrastructure for cities. Drawing on recent studies of the growing financialisation of cities and their infrastructure, along with research on climate adaptation governance, I thus explore how one form of what might be termed the "financialisation of urban climate risk" takes shape in Florida cities.  My study draws from 12 months of fieldwork in Florida cities and a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods, including 55 expert-practitioner interviews, participant observation at several public and private sector events, and historical analysis using archival data. More unconventional methods also play a role in the project, including enrollment in a Florida real estate licensing course and a forensic financial analysis of Florida property insurance and real estate investment trusts. 

In addition to my primary research project, from 2014-2015 I served as a research assistant on a multi-year research and organizing project titled Developing Impact-Driven Megaregional Research: Northern England after the Northern Way, led by Dr Alex Schafran and supported by the Regional Studies Association. 

Prior to joining the University of Leeds, I worked as a strategist and researcher in partnership with several community and local economic development organisations, including Architecture for Humanity, the Business Alliance for Local Living Economies (BALLE), the U.S. Green Building Council and the Bezos Family Foundation. 



Interests include:

  • the urban geographies of 'financialisation'
  • real estate and development 
  • urban and regional climate change adaptation planning
  • historical urban geography
  • emergent alternatives in community design and development
  • queer, critical race and post-colonial theory

Teaching information

2016-2017. Demonstrator (Teaching Assistant) & Guest Lecturer - Geographies of Economies. University of Leeds

2017. Demonstrator (Teaching Assistant) - Urban Living. University of Leeds

2016. Supporting Instructor - Global Cities: Miami. University of Leeds

2015. Demonstrator (Teaching Assistant) - People, Place and Politics. University of Leeds


Short Curriculum Vitae


2011 – MSc, Regional & Urban Planning Studies (Distinction). The London School of Economics & Political Science. Thesis topic: Social impact design and neighborhood gentrification in San Francisco, CA.

2010 – BA, Urban Studies (Highest Honors). University of California, Berkeley. Minor, Global Poverty & Practice, Blum Center for Developing Economies. Thesis topic: Integrated infrastructure planning in Nairobi, Kenya informal settlements. Accessible here.   

Select Awards & Funding

2016 - State Farm Financial Services Scholarship. Federal Alliance for Safe Homes 

2014 – Leeds International Research Scholarship. University of Leeds

2011-2013 – Design Fellowship. Architecture for Humanity

2010 – Graduate Support Scheme. London School of Economics

2010 – Departmental Citation. Department of City & Regional Planning, U.C. Berkeley

2009 – Chung Leadership Prize in City & Regional Planning. U.C. Berkeley

2009 – Judith Lee Stronach Travel Scholarship. U.C. Berkeley

2007 – Barnes Scholarship. Tampa Bay Times Fund



(2016, Invited). Taylor, Z. "Value at Risk Urbanism: Financialization and the Governance of Climate Risks in Florida Cities". Financialisation and Local Government Workshop. Centre for Urban and Regional Development Studies, Newcastle University. Newcastle (UK)

2016. Taylor, Z. “In a State of ‘Peak Exposure’ – Florida Catastrophe Reinsurance and the Urban Underpinnings of the Insurance-Linked Securities Business”. Interdisciplinary Perspectives on Global Finance Workshop. University of Bremen. Bremen (DE)

2016. Taylor, Z. “Florida’s State Insurance Institutions and the Financialization of Climate Risk”. American Association of Geographers Annual Meeting. San Francisco

2015. Schafran, A, Taylor, Z & Batley, A. “An Analysis of the Role of Civil Society in Devolution: Findings from Yorkshire”. The Political Economy of the Northern Powerhouse. Sheffield (UK)

2015. Martin, D, Schafran, A & Taylor, Z. “Déjà Vu and Disappointment: A Long History of Planning and Politics in the Problematic North”. The Political Economy of the Northern Powerhouse. Sheffield (UK)

2015. Taylor, Z. “Power, Privilege, and the Parklet: Social Impact Design, Active Citizenship and the Restructuring of San Francisco, CA”. Royal Geographical Society-IBG Annual Conference. Exeter (UK)

2014. Taylor, Z. “Localist Economic Development in Practice: Insights from North America.” Paper for Becoming Local: Transforming Spaces, Redefining Localities. AESOP Public Spaces and Urban Cultures Group Conference. Paris.