Tuesday, June 12, 2012

Davidson on Property and Identity

The Harvard Civil Rights and Civil Liberties Law Review has published Property and Identity: Vulnerability and Insecurity in the Housing Crisis, 47 Harv. C.R.-C.L. L. Rev. 119 (2012) by Nestor Davidson (Fordham).  This piece builds on the author's previous theoretical work in the area of property and personal identity by taking a hard look at the, perhaps evanescent, soul-searching occasioned by the nation's mortgage crisis.  Here's an excerpt from the introductory section:

A growing body of evidence in a number of fields has challenged the ethos of acquisition thatprevailed before the crash, and these insights can form the basis for a different understanding of property and identity. It is not clear, however, that this opportunity is taking hold. As the economy stabilizes, early signs of a rebalance involving a shift toward an emphasis on personal relationships and experiences rather than possessions seem to be fading.

The housing crisis, in short, holds lessons about the ineluctable distortions that the intimate landscape of property can generate. This Article focuses on three facets of that landscape. Part I examines the role that status anxiety played in the housing boom. Part II turns to emotional aspects of how the pendulum has swung against homeownership after the downturn. Part III reflects on what these dynamics suggest for rethinking homeownership as a touchstone, and for re-examining the centrality of consumption more broadly. The Article concludes in Part IV by arguing that the legal system and housing policy must be more cognizant of these emotional variables, even if the institutional mechanisms available to do so are relatively limited.

Jim K.

June 12, 2012 in Housing, Property Theory, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, June 4, 2012

Pocket neighborhoods, cottage housing, and the dominant suburban form

Recently I came across the following cluster of five houses in an otherwise standard subdivision of front- Teton County - April 2011 243
facing houses with their usual (yawn) front setbacks, side setbacks, and usual suburban land use controls that created the dominant suburban urban form. 

The image of these five houses in Teton County, Idaho, however, will immediately induce a land use lawyer's headache.  Inevitably, everyone knows, that if there is the will to make something like this work as a "one off" experiment, someone will call it a "planned unit development," or something like that, and there will quickly be a retreat from the strictures of the dominant code and a run for the relief provisions, whatever they may be locally.  Maybe its a conditional use, maybe it's a special use district, a planned unit development.  [Insert your local jurisdiction's relief provision here.]

But I began to wonder... what if you wanted to build a whole community, or thinking big--a whole city--built upon the premise of this five-house approach?  As readers of this blog know, I have recently been somewhat infatuated with the idea of how attention to our smallest living units--neighborhoods--can be an impetus to solving our larger land use and environmental challenges.  And so, I find this particular model of five units intriguing.  Think about the density of these single-family houses (quite high), and think about the livability of an environment like this (also quite high, I believe).  This approach will not appeal to everybody--nothing does--but if it can appeal to people in big-sky country of eastern Idaho, I think it could appeal to lots of other people, too.  The combination of density and appealability seems to me a potentially winning combination in efforts to try to build more dense, environmentally sustainable communities.

Now, the question is, how could we make experiments in suburban neighborhood design like this easier from a land use law perspective?  One person who has thought about the issue significantly is Ross Chapin, whose book Pocket ClustersNeighborhoods, addresses urban design of small neighborhood units in suburban reaches.  Chapin's dominant proposal clusters 8 to 12 houses, rather than five, around a central "common," as shown in the graphic here.  In addition, the Municipal Research and Services Center of Washington has compiled codes from places that have adopted this style of housing, which the Center calls cottage housing.  For those interested in pursuing this, a review of the codes the Center has compiled is well worth it.  These model and enacted codes provide approaches to neighborhood design that I believe could prove valuable to re-thinking what it means to live in a suburb, and maybe even in quasi-urban, environments.

Stephen R. Miller 

June 4, 2012 in Aesthetic Regulation, Affordable Housing, Architecture, Community Design, Density, Form-Based Codes, Housing, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Lind on Housing Code Compliance in the Mortgage Crisis

Kermit Lind, a long-time clinician at Cleveland Marshall School of Law, has posted Collateral Matters: Housing Code Compliance in the Mortgage Crisis. Cleveland has been ground zero for foreclosure crisis response, especially as it concerns the impact of subprime lending practices on vacant and abandoned properties. Here's the abstract:

This article first describes the paradigm shift in mortgage loan servicing over the past two decades. Securitization of mortgages as commodities and exotic financing products changed the position and role of mortgage loan collateral. As new and unregulated mortgage servicing and debt collection practices were increasingly insulated from mortgage ownership, collateral as a securing factor became remote and overlooked by mortgagees. Meanwhile, the collateral matters greatly to those proximately affected by the neglect of its condition. Mortgagees, but not servicers, are listed in public records as the party holding the legal interest in the property while the mortgage industry deems the servicers to have complete control over the real property abandoned by owners. This change renders conventional housing code compliance procedures obsolete in the face of massive loan failures. The article then suggests that new strategic thinking is needed to redesign and retool code compliance processes. It offers some examples of changes that are needed. There is still imminent disaster for many homeowners, neighborhoods and communities from serious blight. Upgrading local code enforcement and being strategic in its application is essential in order to limit the damage resulting from the mortgage crisis.

Jim K.

May 29, 2012 in Housing, Mortgage Crisis, Nuisance | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Sunday, May 20, 2012

Dod & Duhart on Evaluating Katrina

Eloisa C. Rodriguez-Dod and Olympia Duhart (Nova Southeastern) have posted Evaluating Katrina: A Snapshot of Renters’ Rights Following Disasters, Nova Law Review Vol. 31, p. 467.  The abstract:

Hurricane Katrina destroyed the homes of many people living in parts of the Gulf Region. The storm displaced as many as 800,000 victims and it is still difficult for them to return home. Consequently, many homeowners have turned to renting because of the slow recovery process. Renters face added difficulties; they are often the last in line for government benefits and other assistance. There is much hostility towards the rights of renters, creating even more difficulties for them.

This article focuses on the difficulties facing evacuee renters in New Orleans following the disaster. These renters face such obstacles as scarcity of land, increases in costs for repairs, higher insurance, infrastructure uncertainty, rental property inflation, uncertainty over flood protection, zoning restrictions, and criminalization. This article discusses legislation and attempted legislation impacting renters post Katrina. The article explores the increase in rent after disasters and a suggested control. It further discusses the manner in which criminal backgrounds determine rental options following disasters. Specifically, the article focuses on legislation limiting access to rentals and suggests, with the right legislation in place, New Orleans will be able to successfully rebuild its lower and middle income housing.

Matt Festa

May 20, 2012 in Coastal Regulation, Federal Government, History, Housing, Landlord-Tenant, Politics, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

Furman Center's State of New York City Housing & Neighborhoods

Last week the NYU Furman Center published its latest research on the State of New York City's Housing and Neighborhoods.

The Furman Center is pleased to present the 2011 edition of the State of New York City’s Housing and Neighborhoods. In this annual report, the Furman Center compiles statistics on housing, demographics and quality of life in the City, its five boroughs and 59 community districts.

This year we examine the distribution of the burden of New York City’s property tax, analyze the changing racial and ethnic makeup of city neighborhoods, evaluate the state of mortgage lending in New York City and highlight the Furman Center’s latest research on public and subsidized rental housing.

Here is a link to the full report:  http://furmancenter.org/files/sotc/SOC_2011.pdf

The Furman Center does the leading empirical analysis of land use policy today.  This report shows that "owners of New York City’s large rental apartment buildings are subject to a higher effective property tax rate than owners of one-to three-family homes, and bear a disproportionate share of the city’s overall property tax burden."  Very interesting stuff.  Thanks to Meghan Lewit for the link. Here is the web link to the project, and the full report is here.

Matt Festa

May 16, 2012 in Affordable Housing, History, Housing, Mortgages, New York, Property, Real Estate Transactions, Scholarship, Urbanism | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, May 15, 2012

Boudreaux on The Housing Bias

Boudreaux Housing BiasPaul Boudreaux (Stetson)--the original Founding Editor of the Land Use Prof Blog-- has published a book that addresses one of the most critical issues in American land use in the 21st century: The Housing Bias--Rethinking Land Use Laws for a Diverse New America (Palgrave MacMillan, 2011).  Here's the SSRN abstract:

As more than 300 million Americans squeeze into our country, and as single-person households now outnumber families of parents and children, it's time to rethink our land use laws that favor the single-family house. Our zoning laws were created in an age that assumed that nearly everyone outside of central cities preferred to live a house separated from neighbors; this assumption is no longer valid and no longer sustainable for a crowded nation. The Housing Bias explores the legal discrimination against apartment buildings and other forms of low-cost residences and how these laws make housing more expensive for modest-income Americans – a key factor in the development of subprime loans and other risky practices that eventually sparked our current economic crisis. Why do our laws prohibit the construction of low-cost housing? It is largely because existing homeowners prefer to exclude them – an astonishing example of law’s granting a legal privilege to wealthier citizens, a privilege that our nation can no longer afford.

This provocative book explores real-world 21st-century controversies of the housing bias. It visits the recent effort of Virginia suburbs to enforce “overcrowding” laws against mostly Latino families who migrated to the area to build new subdivisions, and then moves to New York, where eminent domain is used through a dubious interpretation of law to seize condominiums of middle-class families to build a new pro basketball arena. The book reports on the story of how laws requiring large house lots prevented the construction of a mobile-home community in a growing rural county in southern Michigan, and then examines the failed effort to legalize the widespread phenomenon of small “granny flats” in the backyards of the middle-class homes in the packed city of Los Angeles.

The Housing Bias concludes by exploring how we could update our laws to accommodate the housing needs of a diverse new America, in which half of all households now consist of only one or two persons. The prescriptions range from the complex, such as using state laws to override the power of local homeowners to zone out low-cost housing in certain zones, to the simple, such as facilitating the construction of apartments above suburban malls. It is useful for libraries and for college courses on society or law or for any intelligent reader. Written in an entertaining and jargon-free style, The Housing Bias is essential reading for understanding the flaws and the future of the American community.

One of the great things about land use is that it is fundamentally about places and their stories, and in this book Paul uses these examples to make a larger point about a critical issue of law and policy.  The Housing Bias is definitely worth reading and thinking about.

Matt Festa

May 15, 2012 in Affordable Housing, Books, California, Housing, Mortgage Crisis, Mortgages, New York, Planning, Property, Scholarship, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, April 23, 2012

NYT Story on Siting of Affordable Housing in Texas

The New York Times, through its partnership with the nonprofit news organization Texas Tribune, published today a story on the powerful state law tools that support NIMBYism in the siting of affordable housing. Texas Tribune along with the San Antonio Express-News studied public records to learn the extent of the problem:

The examination of data from the Texas Department of Housing and Community Affairs, which administers the biggest federal housing subsidy program in the state, found that of $9.7 billion in tax credits awarded from 1990 to 2011, more than three-quarters subsidized the construction of apartments in neighborhoods mostly made up of poor blacks and Hispanics. Few units built with support from the Low-Income Housing Tax Credit program, which gives federal incentives to private developers to build or rehabilitate low-cost apartments, were in areas that are predominantly white.

The examination found that:

¶Of the 193,000 tax-credit units subsidized statewide, 78 percent are in census tracts where more than half of all residents are minorities. By comparison, only 59 percent of all rented apartments are in the same areas, according to census data.

¶Roughly 31 percent of the units across the state are in neighborhoods with high concentrations of minority residents — 90 percent or more — which is about twice the rate for all rental housing.

¶Eighty percent of the low-income apartments, but only 64 percent of all rented units, are in poor census tracts where residents earned less than the state median household income, $49,646.

Jim K.

April 23, 2012 in Affordable Housing, Housing, HUD, NIMBY | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, April 6, 2012

Wiseman on Castles, Tenements, and the Private Governance Divide

Hannah J. Wiseman (Florida State), another of our fabulous former guest-bloggers, has posted Castles, Tenements, and the Private Governance Divide.  The abstract:

The revered status of American home ownership has deep and seemingly impenetrable roots. In our modern mythology/reality, the castles that shelter and nurture our pursuit of the good life are under siege. A narrative common to both popular media accounts and a burgeoning property literature warns that private homeowners’ associations hold dominion over millions of Americans, dictating what they may do with their property and foreclosing when they cannot pay association fees or fines In response to this threat, legislatures, courts, and academics are fighting to stave off these intrusions by constraining servitudes. In focusing on the harms to property owners, these critics have unjustifiably omitted a large and growing segment of the population: renters. Nearly every American rents living space at one stage of life, and rentals are expanding as the real estate market continues on its uncertain trajectory. Tenants have no less lofty life goals than do homeowners, yet they, too, are governed by private rules for property use that severely constrain their freedom and allow termination of their property interest through eviction or sale. The rules in rental communities, moreover, serve fundamentally the same purpose as those set by homeowners association controlling neighbors’ uses to increase property value. The key difference between the two types of communities, beyond simple physical layout, lies in tradition: a woman’s home is her castle, but her apartment is her rickety tenement. Even this distinction is vanishing, however, as private communities with now-familiar, “intrusive” rules continue their decades-old proliferation, objections notwithstanding. If, then, private governance of property is fundamentally problematic, it is no less problematic for renters. But if, as seems more likely, we are generally willing to accept certain private rules in communities as a reasonable response to the interests of both owners and tenants, critics of private governance must explain why traditional notions of property should prevail over a modern approach to property consumers’ demands.

Very timely.  With the future of American housing patterns in flux, it's really important to discuss the intersection of private-public as well as renting-owning.  Hannah has written on related ideas before, and I look forward to reading this piece too.

Matt Festa

April 6, 2012 in Common Interest Communities, Housing, Landlord-Tenant, Property, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Kelly on Calavita and Mallach on Global Inclusionary Housing

Our own James J. Kelly (Notre Dame) has posted a review essay on Calavita & Mallach eds., Inclusionary Housing in International Perspective: Affordable Housing, Social Inclusion, and Land Value Recapture.  Jim's review essay, Inclusionary Housing on a Global Basis, appears in his own Journal of Affordable Housing and Community Development Law, Vol. 20, p. 261, Spring/Summer 2011. The abstract:

This is a book review of Inclusionary Housing in International Perspective: Affordable Housing, Social Inclusion, and Land Value Recapture (2010, Nico Calavita and Alan Mallach, eds.). The book offers a comparative look at land-use based approaches to the creation of affordable housing in a broad range of developed countries. A little less than a sixth of the book is dedicated to the U.S., with special attention given to the development on inclusionary programs in California and New Jersey. The editors then devote a chapter each to Canada, England, Ireland, France, Spain and Italy. The penultimate chapter looks at inclusionary practices in a variety of other countries including India, Israel, Colombia and South Africa. The review welcomes this addition to the study of affordable housing programs across the developed world.

A link to the Lincoln Land Institute publication is at Jim's earlier blog post on the book. 

Matt Festa

April 6, 2012 in Affordable Housing, Books, Comparative Land Use, Housing, Inclusionary Zoning, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, March 31, 2012

Furman Center Reports on NYC Housing and Parking

The MacArthur Award-winning NYU Furman Center recently has produced two reports that are well worth noting.  First, an important policy paper on parking and housing:

We are pleased to share with you the latest policy brief from the Furman Center and its Institute for Affordable Housing Policy: Searching for the Right Spot: Minimum Parking Requirements and Housing Affordability in New York City. The report examines the minimum residential parking requirements in communities throughout the city, and explores the effects the requirements may have on housing affordability and the city's sustainability goals.


Our findings suggest that the requirements generally cause developers to provide more off-street parking than they think buyers and tenants really demand, potentially driving up the cost of housing and promoting inefficient car ownership. The  report provides examples of tools other cities have used to refine their parking regulations to better balance concerns about housing affordability, sustainability, and traffic congestion with the needs of car owners.


Please find the full report here, and the press release here. We hope you find the report informative, and we look forward to receiving your feedback.

The Center has also released its Fourth Quarter NYC Housing Report:

We are pleased to share with you our latest New York City Quarterly Housing Update (Q4 2011). We find that home sales volume continued to decline, with the number of transactions citywide down 15 percent from the previous quarter and 11 percent from the fourth quarter of 2010.  


The report finds, however, that foreclosure starts were down in most of the city, with 33 percent fewer foreclosure notices issued in the fourth quarter of 2011 compared to the same quarter in 2010. Manhattan was the only borough where the number of foreclosure starts increased, although the number of foreclosure notices issued in Manhattan remained well below the numbers issued in any of the other boroughs. You can read the full report here, or the press release here.


The Furman Center's Quarterly Housing Update is unique among New York City housing reports because it incorporates sales data, residential development indicators, and foreclosures. It also presents a repeat sales index for each borough to capture price appreciation while controlling for housing quality. The publication is available on a quarterly basis at:


Very valuable research and analysis, as usual. 

Matt Festa

March 31, 2012 in Affordable Housing, Housing, Local Government, New York, Parking, Property, Real Estate Transactions, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Mandelker on the Design Problem in Planned Communities

Here's another new SSRN paper from Daniel R. Mandelker (Washington U): The Design Problem in Planned Communities.  The abstract:

Planned communities are a dominant form of development, both in suburban areas and as infill in urban settings. Planned communities can be clusters of homes with common open space or master-planned communities covering thousands of acres, but in any form they provide opportunities for excellent design. This is the first chapter in a book that reviews the concepts and ideas that go into the design of planned communities, and explores how local governments can encourage and provide for their good design through land-use regulation.

The book is Designing Planned Communities, which Chad posted about last year.  It's a concise, highly-readable introduction to the issues with lots of really helpful maps, diagrams, and images. 

Matt Festa

March 7, 2012 in Books, Community Design, Development, Housing, Local Government, Planning, Scholarship, Subdivision Regulations | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 6, 2012

Alexander on Hip-Hop and Housing

It was great to see Matt, Ngai, Ken, Steve Clowney (PropertyProf blog) and a bunch of other friends at ALPS this past weekend.  I was very glad to have the chance to meet Lisa Alexander (Wisconsin), whose scholarship Matt (here) and I (here) have blogged about before.  Lisa has posted a new work, Hip-Hop and Housing: Revisiting Culture, Urban Space, Power, and Law, 63 Hastings L. J. 803 (2012).  Here's the abstract: 

U.S. housing law is finally receiving its due attention. Scholars and practitioners are focused primarily on the subprime mortgage and foreclosure crises. Yet the current recession has also resurrected the debate about the efficacy of place-based lawmaking. Place-based laws direct economic resources to low-income neighborhoods to help existing residents remain in place and to improve those areas. Law-and-economists and staunch integrationists attack place-based lawmaking on economic and social grounds. This Article examines the efficacy of place-based lawmaking through the underutilized prism of culture. Using a sociolegal approach, it develops a theory of cultural collective efficacy as a justification for place-based lawmaking. Cultural collective efficacy describes positive social networks that inner-city residents develop through participation in musical, artistic, and other neighborhood-based cultural endeavors. This Article analyzes two examples of cultural collective efficacy: the early development of hip-hop in the Bronx and community murals developed by Mexican immigrants in Chicago's Pilsen neighborhood. These examples show that cultural collective efficacy can help inner-city residents mitigate the negative effects of living in a poor and segregated community and obtain more concrete benefits from urban revitalization in their communities. Cultural collective efficacy also provides a framework to examine important microdynamics in the inner-city that scholars and policymakers have ignored. Lastly, this Article devises new combinations of place-based laws that might protect cultural collective efficacy, such as: (1) historic districts with affordable housing protections secured through transferable development rights, (2) foreclosure prevention strategies, (3) techniques to mitigate eminent domain abuse, and (4) reinterpretations of the Fair Housing Act's "affirmatively furthering" fair housing mandate. These examples of place-based lawmaking may more effectively promote equitable development and advance distributive justice in U.S. housing law and policy.

Jim K.

March 6, 2012 in Housing, Race, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, February 25, 2012

Mandelker on Housing Quotas for People with Disabilities

Daniel R. Mandelker (Washington U) has a new article called Housing Quotas for People with Disabilities: Legislating Exclusion, Urban Lawyer, Vol. 43, No. 4, p. 915, 2011.  The abstract:

The transfer of people with disabilities from state institutions to residential housing is one of the great migrations in recent history, but finding adequate housing is difficult. Laws that enact housing quotas make this task even harder. Quotas can require a minimum distance between group homes, limit the number of group homes that can be allowed in a community, or limit the number of apartments in multifamily projects. This article considers the legality of these quotas under the federal Fair Housing Act, and their constitutionality as an equal protection violation.

Part I describes the universe of housing models available for people with disabilities. Part II examines the problem of clustering that occurs when this housing locates in groups. Part III describes state statutes that require a minimum distance between group homes for people with disabilities, and federal housing subsidy legislation that contains quotas and preferences. It criticizes the dispersion strategy for housing that quotas implicitly require. Part IV considers the constitutionality of housing quotas under the equal protection clause of the federal constitution.

Part V considers the legality of quotas under the federal Fair Housing Act, which makes it a violation to “otherwise make unavailable or deny, a dwelling to any buyer or renter because of a handicap." Part VI discusses more acceptable models for distributing housing opportunities.

An important issue with a valuable discussion from one of the leaders in our field.

Matt Festa

February 25, 2012 in Affordable Housing, Constitutional Law, Housing, Property, Scholarship, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Layard on Law and Localism in Multiple Occupancy Housing

Antonia Layard (Cardiff), one of our guest bloggers, has posted Law and Localism: The Case of Multiple Occupancy Housing, forthcoming in Legal Studies (2012).  The abstract:

This paper investigates how planning regulation constructs the local, encapsulating a locality and prioritizing local decision-making over regional and national scales. It draws on a case study of the regulation of multiple occupation to make three inter-related points. First, the analysis emphasizes the plurality of ‘locals’ and the interrelationships between them. Second, the paper explains how the justification of the local is required to make a locality legally visible. This operationalization and construction of the local (legally, spatially and socially) must take place before the political logic of localism, the prioritization of local decision-making over other scales of governance, can take legal effect. Third the paper explains how, once the ‘local’ is legally constructed and can make decisions, this prioritization of apparently neutral local expertise and knowledge can act to enclose the spatial and social with sometimes powerful exclusionary and regressive effects.

Matt Festa

February 23, 2012 in Comparative Land Use, Housing, Local Government, Planning, Scholarship | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, February 20, 2012

New HUD Rules on Access to Housing Regardless of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity

From a recent HUD press release:


New regulations, published as final in the Federal Register next week, will go into effect in 30 days

WASHINGTON – U.S. Housing and Urban Development (HUD) Secretary Shaun Donovan announced today new regulations intended to ensure that HUD's core housing programs are open to all eligible persons, regardless of sexual orientation or gender identity. Donovan previewed the announcement at the 24th National Conference on Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual and Transgender (LGBT) Equality – Creating Change. View the final rule here.

“The Obama Administration has viewed the fight for equality on behalf of the LGBT community as a priority and I’m proud that HUD has been a leader in that fight,” said Secretary Shaun Donovan. “With this historic rule, the Administration is saying you cannot use taxpayer dollars to prevent Americans from choosing where they want live on the basis sexual orientation or gender identity – ensuring that HUD’s housing programs are open, not to some, not to most, but to all.”

The new regulations, published as final in the Federal Register next week, will go into effect 30 days after the rule is published.

Matt Festa

February 20, 2012 in Federal Government, Housing, HUD | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

MacArthur Awards announced for Furman Center and other Land Use Projects

Hot off the wire, the 2012 John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Awards for Creative and Effective Institutions have just been announced.  Among the big winners were our friends at the NYU Furman Center:

We are delighted to announce that the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation just named NYU's Furman Center for Real Estate and Urban Policy a recipient of the MacArthur Award for Creative and Effective Institutions. This distinguished award recognizes the Furman Center's excellence in providing objective, policy-relevant research to address the challenges facing neighborhoods in New York City and across the nation.


The award also is an investment into the Furman Center's future. It comes with a grant of $1 million, which we will use to build data and research partnerships that will allow us to broaden the geographic scope of our research; strengthen and expand our policy analysis; and improve our communications and data management infrastructure. This provides us with a remarkable opportunity to expand our research beyond New York City to help policymakers in Washington and across the nation make more effective housing and community development investments and policies.

By my rough count, about 6 of the 15 awards went to groups for land use, housing, or environmental projects.  Here are some of the others:

Albertine Rift Conservation SocietyKampala, Uganda ($350,000) champions collaborative conservation initiatives in one of the world’s most important ecosystems;

Business and Professional People for the Public Interest – Chicago, Illinois ($750,000) works to strengthen impoverished communities, preserve and increase affordable housing, improve Chicago schools and promote open, honest government in Illinois;

Center for Responsible Lending – Durham, North Carolina ($2 million) protects homeownership and family assets by working to eliminate abusive financial practices and consumer products;

Community Investment Corporation – Chicago, Illinois ($2 million) provided assistance to developers of rental housing in low- and moderate-income neighborhoods in Chicago

Conservation Strategy Fund – Sebastopol, California ($750,000) trains conservation professionals in economics and policy analysis to strengthen and protect the environment;

Congratulations to the winners; and thanks to Hattaway Communications for the heads-up.

Matt Festa

February 15, 2012 in Affordable Housing, Environmentalism, Housing, New York | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, February 7, 2012

The Bizarro Mount Laurel Doctrine

How do you like the working title for my next law review article? In a recent decision, the New Jersey Supreme Court (of Mount Laurel fame) held that the first amendment does not necessarily require a particular municipality to provide access to adult businesses, as long as adult businesses can find adequate locations elsewhere in the metropolitan region --- even if the only accessible locations are across state lines. I call this the "bizarro" Mount Laurel doctrine because where Mount Laurel requires every municipality in New Jersey to accommodate its fair share of the regional need for a particular use (there, affordable housing rather than adult businesses,) under this reasoning municipalities do not need to accommodate their fair share provided that someone else in the region does. Several courts have used this bizarro logic to justify other forms of exclusionary zoning. Consider the Sixth Circuit's 1955 decision in Valley View v. Proffett, 221 F.2d 412 (6th Cir. 1955), regarding a zoning ordinance designed to maintain the exclusively residential character of a suburban village:

Traditional concepts of zoning envision a municipality as a self-contained community with its own residential, business and industrial areas.  It is obvious that Valley View, Ohio, on the periphery of a large metropolitan center, is not such a self-contained community, but only an adventitious fragment of the economic and social whole. . . .The council of such a village should not be required to shut its eyes to the pattern of community life beyond the borders of the village itself . . . [but has the authority] to pass an ordinance preserving its residential character, so long as the business and industrial needs of its inhabitants are supplied by other accessible areas in the community at large.

The bizarro Mount Laurel doctrine seems suspiciously like a recipe for ghettoization. Those communities that have permitted land uses deemed undesirable by other communities, perhaps out of a willingness to absorb their fair share, will be branded as red-light districts or ghettos and become dumping grounds for undesirable uses, while those that have guarded their exclusiveness most zealously will get to continue doing so for no better reason than that they always have. City leaders will of course get the message that it's better to exclude everything than even try to be a good neighbor and accommodate your fair share. At least adult uses can lean on the first amendment for some protection. Where are advocates of affordable housing to turn? Obviously not to New Jersey governor Chris Christie, who has denounced the Mount Laurel decision as an "abomination" and is working hard to dismantle its legacy.

Ken Stahl

(Here's the court's opinion:Download A6610BoroughofSayrevillev35Club)

February 7, 2012 in Affordable Housing, First Amendment, Housing, Local Government, Zoning | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 23, 2012

Farmers Take Back Land Slated For Housing

On Morning Edition today, NPR ran a story about farmers who sold land for development repurchasing it for agriculural use.  Here's the summary:

Over the past half-century more than 20 million acres of U.S. farmland were transformed into housing developments. With new home construction all but stopped, farmers in many areas are buying or leasing land once slated for development and planting crops on it.

Jim K.

January 23, 2012 in Agriculture, Conservation Easements, Density, Development, Housing, Mortgage Crisis | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 17, 2012

Martin Luther King, Civil Rights, and Housing

Hope everyone had a good Martin Luther King Day yesterday.  An important part of Dr. King's legacy is his involement in advocating against de facto residential segregation and for fair and affordable housing as part of a broader conception of civil rights.  On this issue, King did more than make speeches-- he actually moved his family's home.  From the Chicago Encyclopedia:

King relied on his lieutenant James Bevel to energize the first phases of the campaign, but in January 1966 he captured national headlines when he moved his family into a dingy apartment in the West Side ghetto. It was not until June that King and his advisors, under pressure to produce results, settled on a focus for the Chicago movement. King himself participated in two dramatic marches into all-white neighborhoods during a two-month open-housing campaign during the summer of 1966. These fair-housing protests brought real estate, political, business, and religious leaders to the conference table for “summit” negotiations.

And the Chicago Tribune:

The marches led to an accord that year between the protesters and the Chicago Real Estate Board. The board agreed to end its opposition to open-housing laws in exchange for an end to the demonstrations. Before he left town, King said it was "a first step in a 1,000-mile journey."

A journey that still continues.

UPDATE: Steve Clowney at Property Prof links to an opinion piece on Dr. King's legacy and fair housing in New Jersey today.

Matt Festa

January 17, 2012 in Affordable Housing, Chicago, History, Housing, Politics, Property Rights, Race | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Saturday, December 31, 2011

ULI Report on What's Next in Urban Land Use

As we head into the New Year, The Urban Land Institute has also been looking ahead at the future of land use.  ULI recently issued its report What's Next? Real Estate in the New Economy.  From the press release:

A new economy is unfolding over the course of this decade, driven by an extraordinary convergence of demographic, financial, technological and environmental trends. Taken together, these trends will dramatically change urban planning, design and development through 2020, according to a new report from the Urban Land Institute (ULI).

What’s Next? Real Estate in the New Economy outlines how every aspect of living, working and connecting will change in major ways, driven in large part by the values, preferences and work ethic of Generation Y, the largest generation in American history. . . .

Among the report’s findings:

  • Technology will reshape work places. Office tenants will decrease space per employee, and new office environments will need to promote interaction and dialogue. Offices will be transforming into meeting places more than work places, with an emphasis on conference rooms, break areas and open configurations. Developers will craft attractive environments to attract young, talented workers.
  • Major companies will value space that enables innovation. They will continue to pay more for space in a global gateway served by a major international airport, or in 24-hour urban centers. Hard-to-reach suburban work places will be less in demand.
  • The influx of Generation Y, now in their teens through early thirties, will change housing demand. They are comfortable with smaller homes and will happily trade living space for an easier commute and better lifestyle. They will drive up the number of single households and prompt a surge in demand for rentals, causing rents to escalate.
  • For most people, finances will still be constrained, leading to more shared housing and multi-generational households. Immigration will support that trend, as many immigrants come from places where it is common for extended families to share housing. This may be the one group that continues to drive demand for large, suburban homes.
  • The senior population will grow fastest, but financial constraints could limit demand for adult housing developments. Many will age in place or move in with relatives to conserve money. Developers may want to recast retirement communities into amenity-laden “age friendly” residences. Homes near hospitals and medical offices will be popular, especially if integrated into mixed-use neighborhoods with shops, restaurants and services.
  • Energy and infrastructure take on greater importance. Businesses cannot afford to have their network connections down, and more will consider self-generated power or onsite generator capacity. Developers, owners and investors are realizing that the slightly higher costs of energy- and water-saving technologies can pay for themselves quickly, creating more marketable and valuable assets. Ignoring sustainability issues speeds property obsolescence.

You can download the full report here

Matt Festa

December 31, 2011 in Architecture, Clean Energy, Density, Development, Downtown, Environmentalism, Finance, Green Building, Housing, Planning, Property, Real Estate Transactions, Redevelopment, Scholarship, Smart Growth, Suburbs, Sustainability, Transportation, Urbanism, Water | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)