Saturday, August 7, 2010

Speaking of Land Use Studies...

Hazel Borys of the PlaceMakers firm recently updated her analysis of form-based codes and how they have been introduced and adopted across the United States (and several other North American cities).

The study looks at the location, size, and type of form-based and transect-based code for each jurisdiction.

You can view the results here.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

August 7, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

The Atlantic on How Texas is Dominating the Recession

I'm back in Houston from a visit to points far north.  I thought up some blog posts while traveling, but I'll mark my return to the Lone Star State with a link to this article from The Atlantic by Derek Thompson: How Texas is Dominating the Recession

SAN ANTONIO -- No state is thriving in the wake of the Great Recession. But compared to the rest of the country, Texas is experiencing something like an economic boom.

Thompson offers four reasons for Texas' relative success: (1) a late start; (2) stable real estate; (3) the right mix of industries and economic activities; and (4) "something about Texas," particularly its taxing and regulatory climate.  More on reason #2:

2. Stable Real Estate
Real estate executives and economists struggled to find one reason why the Texas economy largely avoided the real estate boom and bust, but a few theories emerged. First, San Antonio Mayor Julian Castro suggested that a reliance on property taxes in Texas (compared to California) might have dulled real estate appreciation. Second, the banks that survived the Savings and Loan crisis in the 1980s have mostly held onto conservative and un-exotic lending practices. Third, land and utilities are generally cheaper throughout Texas, which holds down the cost of the living. Fourth, besides Dallas, Texas' major cities have diversified away from the kind of real estate and financial services addiction that plagued CaliFlAriVada (that's CA, FL, AZ, NV), where the recession has been the most severe.

Matt Festa

August 7, 2010 in Economic Development, Financial Crisis, Houston, Real Estate Transactions, State Government, Texas | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, August 6, 2010

Two New Land Use Studies...

Both studies consider and compare the economic effect of the more conventional Post World War II development patterns with the neo-traditional efforts of the last several decades.

In particular, former CNU Executive Director Peter Katz analyzes how mixed-use in urban settings stimulates tax revenue:

“It takes a lot of WalMarts to equal the contribution of that one mixed-use building,” Katz noted.

The 3/4-acre, 16- to 18-story, mixed-use development is actually worth more property tax revenue than the county's 21-acre Wal-Mart Supercenter and 32-acre Southgate Mall combined.

"Even a mid rise (up to about seven stories) mixed use building brings in $560,000, and the low rise (up to three stories with residential over retail) brings in over $70,000 per acre — more than three times the return of Southgate Mall," Mary Newsom of Citywire.net reports.

Meanwhile, in "Going Back to Rockville", researchers Helen Chernikoff and Al Yoon conclude:
The real estate bust exposed outmoded assumptions propping up the suburban model. Downtown homes retained the most value, while the value of the onceillustrious far-flung suburbs tanked. Now, urban-style living is gaining momentum.

The story about the Katz analysis is quite interesting but the "Rockville" study is especially worth your time if you are looking for research into these areas.  I've found that my land use students often appreciate the business side of this very interdisciplinary area of the law so these types of studies (and others like Chris Leinberger's) are generally quite useful.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

August 6, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Fennell & Roin on Residential Stakes

Lee Anne Fennell (Chicago) and Julie Roin (Chicago) have posted Controlling Residential Stakes, University of Chicago Law Review, Vol. 77, p. 143 (2010).  The abstract:

Local communities often suffer when residents have too small a stake in their homes — a point underscored by recent rashes of foreclosures and abandonments, and implicated by longstanding questions about the effects on communities of renters and owner-occupants, respectively. However, homeowners with too great a financial stake in their homes can also cause difficulties for local governance by acting as risk-averse NIMBYs. Local governments should have a strong interest in helping members of their communities move away from problematic forms of stakeholding and toward more desirable intermediate positions. This essay examines how and why governmental entities at the state and local levels might regulate or shape the financial stakes that residents have in their homes. We give particular attention to the role local governments may play in facilitating homeowner and tenant access to index-based financial instruments that adjust residential risk-bearing. More radically, we suggest that local governments, assisted by state law, could formulate shared equity arrangements in which local residents hold stakes in the housing markets of surrounding localities as well as in their own jurisdictions.

As you might expect, this looks like a very interesting and important paper.

Matt Festa

August 6, 2010 in Finance, Housing, Landlord-Tenant, Local Government, Mortgage Crisis, Mortgages, NIMBY, Property Theory, Real Estate Transactions, Scholarship, State Government | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, August 4, 2010

Iowa Clinical Law on Accessibility and Universal Design in Affordable Housing

The University of Iowa Clinical Law Program has The Washignton Court Housing Survey: A Study of Accessibility and Universal Design in Affordable Housing--Executive Summary, published in the Journal of Affordable Housing & Community Development Law Winter, Vol. 19, No. 2, pp. 191-204, 2010.  The survey and research was completed by student interns supervised by Leonard A. Sandler.  The abstract:

The Washington Court Housing Survey: A Study of Accessibility and Universal Design in Affordable Housing is one of many community-based and systems reform initiatives the University of Iowa Clinical Law Program has designed and implemented in the last decade. The continuing mission of this project is to increase mainstream housing opportunities for persons with disabilities and promote universal design and sustainable, multigenerational housing of all types. The article is a report about tenant awareness, use, and benefits of accessibility and universal design features in Washington Court, an affordable housing complex in Dubuque, Iowa. The overarching goal was to determine if universal design makes sense in the twenty-first century and enhances quality of life, safety, comfort, and convenience. We hope to add to the growing body of evidence demonstrating that universal design is valued by individuals, communities, and the public and private sectors. We had several specific objectives. The first objective was to learn about residents’ experiences, including what motivated residents to move to Washington Court, whether the universal design features have added to residents’ quality of life, and what the residents would change about the building or apartments. The second objective was to test our survey instrument’s effectiveness in gathering information on accessibility and universal housing design more generally. We also developed a survey and checklist that others could use to plan, design, build and evaluate sustainable housing. The third objective was to encourage builders, developers, and funding agencies to use the survey results and recommendations and voluntarily incorporate universal design into residential, business, and commercial facilities. The fourth objective was to persuade state and local lawmakers and agencies to require minimum universal design features in publicly funded or privately built housing of all types or to provide incentives for builders, developers, and consumers to do so.

This looks like a great example not only of the kind of field research that can really add to the body of useful knowledge for both theorists and practitioners, but also of a fascinating clinical teaching project.

Matt Festa

August 4, 2010 in Affordable Housing, Architecture, Development, Housing, Landlord-Tenant, Scholarship, Sustainability, Teaching | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Marsico on the Home Mortgatge Disclosure Act at Thirty-Five

Richard D. Marsico (New York Law School) has posted Looking Back and Looking Ahead as the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act Turns Thirty-Five: The Role of Public Disclosure of Lending Data in a Time of Financial Crisis, published in the Review of Banking and Financial Law, Vol. 29, No. 205, 2009-2010.   The abstract:

This article examines the history of the Home Mortgage Disclosure Act (HMDA) and makes proposals for improving it to help prevent another economic crisis. Passed in 1975, HMDA requires most lenders to disclose information about their home mortgage loans, including the number of home mortgage applications it received; the purpose of each application; the type of loan; the decision on the application; the race, gender, and income of the loan applicant/borrower; the location of the loan and the median income and racial composition of the neighborhood; and the interest rate on the loan. HMDA was originally conceived of as a tool to detect and prevent redlining. It was later expanded to cover lending discrimination and reverse redlining. However, Congress and the Federal Reserve have not required lenders to disclose enough information to permit HMDA to do its job. The pending financial reform legislation would expand HMDA's mission to detect and prevent predatory lending, but once again, the legislation does not require lenders to disclose sufficient information to accomplish its goal. The article proposes several types of information that should be added to the legislation, including, most importantly, the applicant's housing debt/income ratio and overall debt/income ratio.

Matt Festa

August 4, 2010 in Finance, Financial Crisis, History, Housing, Mortgage Crisis, Mortgages, Race, Real Estate Transactions, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Two Great Top Ten Lists...

The Infrastructurist site has several great articles on land development issues.

Two of the most interesting (with images to boot) recent ones were:

The 10 Worst Design Fails of the Past 25 Years

and

The World's 10 Greatest Large Urban Parks

I've found that lists like these can really stimulate good discussions when teaching land planning as many of the students who end up taking the course seem to be very visual learners.  Enjoy.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

August 3, 2010 in Aesthetic Regulation, Architecture | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

The Continued Stigma of Rental Projects...

With fewer and fewer Americans able to obtain a mortgage, more are turning toward rentals.  Unfortunately, as this article shows, the stigma of rental units is so bad that it can undermine even what little development opportunity still exists in the current economic downturn.

The author asks two important questions (and follows with an astute observation):

[I]f city after city continues to shoot down economically viable rental housing projects, where exactly we are going to accommodate the expected growth in this country in the coming decades? Furthermore, why are cash-strapped cities passing up economic development opportunities? I’m all for local decision-making, but the result of these decisions, multiplied across our metro areas, simply pushes more growth to the urban fringe — an ecologically and economically wasteful choice.

Rather than treat rental units as some sort of plague (an oh-so-very retro-Euclid way of thinking), cities should consider how they can better regulate rental development in the new real estate paradigm that the Great Recession has brought.  The option of "just saying no" to rentals neglects both the reality of the future need for non-mortgaged housing and the fallacy that rentals cannot be well done from a design and planning perspective.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

August 3, 2010 in Affordable Housing, Community Design, Community Economic Development | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, August 2, 2010

Speaking of Sustainability in Rural Settings...

Following up on my earlier ICMA post, I ran across this interesting effort by the Coastal Conservation League out of South Carolina to craft a development code for rural Dorchester County that codifies sustainable principles in a non-urban setting.

This has the potential to be a very important effort toward establishing a legal framework for sustainable "ruralism".

Considering that most of the jurisdictions in the U.S. are decidedly more rural than urban, the applicability of this type of regulation into other areas could be extensive.

--Chad Emerson, Faulkner U.

August 2, 2010 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Eagle on the Really New Property

I'm still out of town, but a quick dose of internet access reveals what looks like a very interesting new property theory piece by Steven J. Eagle (George Mason): The Really New Property: A Skeptical Appraisal, forthcoming in the Indiana Law Review.  The abstract:

This article reviews recent scholarship invoking the prophetic tradition in American jurisprudence and calling for the transformation of property law. It contrasts imposed top-down social change with Burkean and Oakeshottian gradual change derived from conversation within our legal and cultural tradition. The work of Robert Ellickson is presented as illustrating the development of property law in the Burkean tradition. Transformative property scholarship, on the other hand, largely reflects Osborne and Gaebler’s view that government should steer and private actors row, reinforced by Thaler and Sunstein’s call for soft paternalism. The article asserts, however, that Kant and Berlin’s admonition that all of humankind is “crooked timber” precludes officials from a privileged position, a postulate well supported by public choice theory.

The article views the change in conceptual thinking from Hohfeldian property to Heller’s anticommons and assertions of disintegration and entropy of property. These set the stage, for instance, for advocacy of “rightsizing,’ through the shrinking private parcels through smart growth and densification, and the supersizing of government-controlled land through condemnation for urban redevelop.

Other topics discussed are regionalism, new governance, and the creation of affordable housing, through, among other things, the rearrangement of traditional landlord-tenant relationships. The article expresses skepticism that flaws inherent in the top-down transformation of property would permit outcomes that are coherent and effective, and could withstand capture by affected interest groups.
Matt Festa

August 2, 2010 in Affordable Housing, Density, Development, Landlord-Tenant, Local Government, Property Theory, Scholarship, Smart Growth, State Government | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)