Monday, March 10, 2014
Given the policy focus on breaking up concentrations of poverty, this is certainly depressing:
It’s well known that living in high-poverty neighborhoods has a significant effect on the mental health of children. Now a new study in the Journal of the American Medical Association offers a nuanced look at what happens after children leave these environments. It highlights a paradox: According to the study authors, led by Harvard professor Ronald Kessler, boys who move into more affluent neighborhoods report higher rates of depression and conduct disorder than their female peers.
The reason for the disparity between boys and girls isn’t exactly pinned down. Kessler points to various factors—community perception, interpersonal skills—as major points of influence: “We had an anthropologist working with us, and the anthropologist went and talked to and watched the kids in the old neighborhoods and the new neighborhoods, and their perception was that when the boys came into the new neighborhood they were coded as these juvenile delinquents,” says Kessler. “Whereas with the girls, it was exactly the opposite. They were embraced by the community—‘you poor little disadvantaged thing, let me help you.’”
Jill Fraley (Washington and Lee University) has posted Finding Possession: Labor, Waste, and the Evolution of Property (Capital Law Review). Here's the abstract:
Although possession has long been intimately linked to labor, recent historical work on land claims during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries suggests that the clash of divergent legal cultures of possession drove the two apart. This clash yielded an American concept of possession much more deeply connected to industrialization than the traditional understanding of labor. By providing evidence of how our concept of labor was industrialized, this article questions the outcomes in modem possession cases, particularly as they impact development and environmental preservation in rural areas.
Friday, March 7, 2014
A senior expert at the firm representing a Northern California couple who discovered buried gold coins worth $10 million says he has not received any credible claims to the huge find and does not expect to.
Numerous theories have cropped up since the discovery of the Saddle Ridge Hoard was announced last week. One of them, that the coins were tied to a 1901 U.S. Mint theft in San Francisco, appeared to be debunked Tuesday by the U.S. Mint itself.
“We do not have any information linking the Saddle Ridge Hoard coins to any thefts at any United States Mint facility,” U.S. Mint spokesman Adam Stump said in a statement, adding that lawyers have looked into the matter.
The Northern California couple, only identified as John and Mary by Kagin's, had walked the path on their gold country property for years before they spotted the edge of a rusty can peeking out of the moss in February 2013. When the lid cracked off, they found dirt-encrusted coins, some in better condition than those on display in museums.
The Saddle Ridge Hoard, named for the space on their property, may be the most valuable cache ever found in North America, with an estimated value of more than $10 million. If you melted the coins, the gold alone would be worth $2 million, said David Hall, co-founder of Professional Coin Grading Services in Newport Beach, who recently authenticated them.
Nancy McLaughlin (Utah) has posted Perpetual Conservation Easements in the 21st Century: What Have We Learned and Where Should We Go from Here? (Utah Law Review) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
The public is investing billions of dollars in conservation easements, which now protect an estimated 40 million acres throughout the United States. But all is not well. Uncertainties in the law and abusive practices threaten to undermine public confidence in and the effectiveness of conservation easements as a land protection tool. This short article is part of a series of articles published in the law review discussing conservation easements, with a focus on what we have learned thus far and where we should go from here. This article sets the stage by describing the dramatic growth in the use of conservation easements, the various laws that impact easement creation and administration, a timeline of important legal and policy developments, and the recent surprising lack of certainty and consensus regarding what it means to protect land “in perpetuity” or “forever” with a conservation easement. The article concludes by discussing how the perpetuity issue might be productively resolved.
Thursday, March 6, 2014
A new Freakonomics podcast investigates the surprisingly disposable nature of Japanese homes:
It turns out that half of all homes in Japan are demolished within 38 years — compared to 100 years in the U.S. There is virtually no market for pre-owned homes in Japan, and 60 percent of all homes were built after 1980. In Yoshida’s estimation, while land continues to hold value, physical homes become worthless within 30 years. Other studies have shown this to happen in as little as 15 years.
Does this make sense? Not according to Alastair Townsend, a British-American architect living in Japan, who is perplexed — and awestruck — by the housing scenario there: "The houses that are built today exceed the quality of just about any other country in the world, at least for timber buildings. So there’s really no reason that they should drop in value and be demolished."
Alan White (CUNY) & Carolina Reid (Berkeley - City Planning) have posted Saving Homes? Bankruptcies and Loan Modifications in the Foreclosure Crisis (Florida Law Review) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Do homeowner bankruptcy filings work to delay or prevent home foreclosures, and how do they compare to voluntary loan modifications specifically targeted to mortgage relief? The 2007–2012 financial crisis provides a unique opportunity to assess whether bankruptcy can help homeowners avoid the negative consequences of over-indebtedness and mortgage default. This empirical study analyzes a large, loan-level mortgage dataset to determine which variables are associated with delinquency and bankruptcy filing, and in turn, whether filing bankruptcy or receiving a loan modification measurably influences subsequent loan outcomes (e.g., foreclosure sale, prepayment, or default cure). Overall, we find that bankruptcy filings delay foreclosures but are not generally effective in curing payment defaults, especially when compared to modifications negotiated outside of bankruptcy, which are highly effective. We also find, consistent with prior research, that variations in state bankruptcy and foreclosure law greatly influence debtor outcomes from one state to another. Bankruptcy filing is more effective in states with nonjudicial foreclosure and limited homeowner protections.
Tuesday, March 4, 2014
Houston is the only city of any size in America without zoning regulations. But land use regulation continues to creep into the innerworkings of the Bayou City. Elizabeth Rhodes highlights the newest expanaion of historic districts:
Houston City Council's voted to designate the Starkweather subdivision of Independence Heights as a historic district. This marks only the second time this designation has been awarded to a neighborhood outside the 610 Loop. The subdivision, which includes only 25 lots on E. 31st 1/2 St. between Yale and Cortlandt, features classic 1930s-era homes and is located about two blocks north of the 610 Loop.
Designating a neighborhood as a historic district isn't just for show. Property owners in these districts are limited in how they may alter the fronts of their homes and historic district houses are far more difficult to demolish as they are subject to the city's preservation rules. [...] There are now 21 historic districts in Houston, including Starkweather.
(HT: Matt Festa)
Marc Roark (Savannah) has posted Homelessness at the Cathedral on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
This Article argues that legal restraints against homeless persons are resolved by applying certain nuisance-like approaches. By drawing on nuisance restraints that adopt property-based and social-identity information, courts and decision-makers choose approaches that create conflict between homeless identities and adopted social identities. These approaches tend to relegate the social choice of whether to tolerate homeless persons to one of established social order (property) or broadly conceived notions of liberty (constitutional rights or due process rights). This Article argues for a broader conception of social identity, which may force parties to internalize certain costs of action, tolerate certain uses, or abate the full range of property rights that the law would otherwise allow in different social settings. Considering the question of “undesirable” uses of space -- both on private and public land -- helps articulate a narrative of property that moves beyond the rhetoric of economics-bound entitlements and affords a broader, more honest characterization. Conceived in this way, property entitlements represent information about how society defines, refines, enforces, and rejects its collective identity through the legal recognition of property entitlements.
Monday, March 3, 2014
"12 Years a Slave," at once McQueen's most ambitious and most conventional movie, is even more suggestive in its use of architecture. Fassbender is back as a brutish Southerner, but the film rarely leaves Chiwetel Ejiofor's Solomon Northup as he is lured from freedom in New York state and sold into slavery in Washington, D.C.
Beginning with an early shot that pans up from Northup's face and through dozens of layers of bricks before ending with a shot of the Washington skyline — he is in for it, that scene says — the movie takes up architectural symbols in a sustained and strategic way.
This is most obviously true in the way the porches of the slave owners' houses tower over Northup like looming Parthenons of white privilege. It is most persuasively true of the pair of structures that Northup helps to build and that become a visual way to track his slow path back to freedom.
First comes a slave shack that he works to frame and that stands in the background, roofless, as he hangs from a tree after barely surviving a lynching attempt. Next is what turns out to be a gazebo on the grounds of a second plantation. The gazebo is roofless as well for scene after scene, until Northup meets and tells his story to a sympathetic abolitionist carpenter played by Brad Pitt.
2. [136 downloads] Does the Endangered Species Act Preempt State Water Law?
Robin Kundis Craig (Utah)
5. [77 downloads] Zombie Mortgages, Real Estate, and the Fallout for the Survivors
David P. Weber (Creighton)
6. [72 downloads] Demandas De Propiedad Entre Cuba Y Los Estados Unidos. Una Revisión De La Literatura. (Property Claims Between Cuba and The United States. A Literature Review.)
Jesus V. Bu (Independent)
8. [69 downloads] Foreclosure and the Failures of Formality, or Subprime Mortgage Conundrums and How to Fix Them
Joseph William Singer (Harvard)
9. [68 downloads] Property's Structural Pluralism: On Autonomy, the Rule of Law, and the Role of Blackstonian Ownership
Hanoch Dagan (Tel Aviv)
10. [66 downloads] New York State Commercial Landlord - Tenant Law and Procedure: A Primer - Part I
Gerald Lebovits (Columbia) & Michael B. Terk (Independent)
Friday, February 28, 2014
A question worth asking:
It’s almost unfair how the Great Lakes area’s bountiful snowfall this winter will only compound the region’s enjoyment of an unequaled 21 percent of the world’s supply of fresh surface water, while places like California, the Southwest, the Southeast and even the Great Plains continue to struggle with near- and long-term water supply challenges.
In an era of increasingly stressed water systems and still-growing populations around the world, the aqueous blessings of the Upper Midwest, especially those fulsome bodies of water surrounding the peninsula amoena of Michigan, will only be envied — and coveted — even more.
[...] Some believe that Michigan hasn’t been doing a sufficient job of economically leveraging its own singular position at the epicenter of the world’s largest fresh-water supply.
Writing for Al-Jazeera America, Nick Danforth sorts through some cartographic history:
There is nothing inevitable or intrinsically correct — not in geographic, cartographic or even philosophical terms — about the north being represented as up, because up on a map is a human construction, not a natural one. Some of the very earliest Egyptian maps show the south as up, presumably equating the Nile’s northward flow with the force of gravity. And there was a long stretch in the medieval era when most European maps were drawn with the east on the top. If there was any doubt about this move’s religious significance, they eliminated it with their maps’ pious illustrations, whether of Adam and Eve or Christ enthroned. In the same period, Arab map makers often drew maps with the south facing up, possibly because this was how the Chinese did it.
[...] The north’s position was ultimately secured by the beginning of the 16th century, thanks to Ptolemy, with another European discovery that, like the New World, others had known about for quite some time. Ptolemy was a Hellenic cartographer from Egypt whose work in the second century A.D. laid out a systematic approach to mapping the world, complete with intersecting lines of longitude and latitude on a half-eaten-doughnut-shaped projection that reflected the curvature of the earth. The cartographers who made the first big, beautiful maps of the entire world, Old and New — men like Gerardus Mercator, Henricus Martellus Germanus and Martin Waldseemuller — were obsessed with Ptolemy. They turned out copies of Ptolemy’s Geography on the newly invented printing press, put his portrait in the corners of their maps and used his writings to fill in places they had never been, even as their own discoveries were revealing the limitations of his work.
(HT: Andrew Sullivan)
Lynda Butler (William & Mary) has posted The Resilience of Property (Arizona Law Review) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Resilience is essential to the ability of property to face transforming social and environmental change. For centuries, property has responded to such change through a dialectical process that identifies emerging disciplinary perspectives and debates conflicting values and norms. This dialectic promotes the resilience of property, allowing it to adapt to changing conditions and needs. Today the mainstream economic theory dominating common law property is progressively being intertwined with constitutionally protected property, undermining its long-term resilience. The coupling of the economic vision of ordinary property with constitutional property embeds the assumptions, choices, and values of the economic theory into both realms of property without regard for property’s other relational planes.
A real-life theory of property — one based on a theory-practice link — sees the property landscape as a function of interactions among possible property arrangements and other perspective-based systems, including natural systems. Understanding property as a function of those relational planes is important to preserving its resilience. Research on the dynamics of change in social-ecological systems provides important insight into how institutions, like property, that manage resources can promote resilience. The mainstream economic theory lacks the openness and interdisciplinary inclusion needed to handle complex disturbances, ignoring conflicting perspectives and alternative visions that have played a significant role in the evolution of property. Often presented as involving either/or choices, the mainstream theory takes a singular perspective that overlooks important dialectical interactions. As subsystems of larger natural systems, complex societies need a resilient property system open to different perspectives and new knowledge if they are to handle the serious challenges of the future.
Thursday, February 27, 2014
Bram Akkermans (Maastricht) has posted The Comparative Method in Property Law on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Property law systems diverge and there are many reasons for this. This does not only apply to common law and civil law systems (or Nordic or mixed legal systems), but basically for all systems of property law. Property lawyers can approach these differences with different methods. One of these methods is the comparative method, of which the functional method of comparative law is the most well known and used. That method is, depending on the ‘agenda’ of the comparative lawyer, used to find similarities or to find differences. Generally the method is used to (i) improve the own national legal system, (ii) to provide an overview of systems, (iii) to understand vertical dynamics, such as the influence of EU law on national property law, or (iv) to provide the basis to develop something completely new, such as a Common European Sales Law.
Comparative lawyers compare equivalents in the systems they are investigating. They find these equivalents generally by looking for functionally similar concepts or institutions. For example to compare the right of ownership in civil law to the fee simple in common law as these are both primary rights. The danger of using this method is that, depending on the viewpoint of the comparative lawyer, it is very easy to find similarities and differences. It is therefore important for the comparative lawyer to make his or her intentions explicit. Although the comparative method is losing ground to other approaches, which enable a more normative approach to law, it remains of relevance, especially in light of the vertical dynamics that exist in multi-level systems such as the European Union.
Wednesday, February 26, 2014
Writing for Slate, Eric Posner has a look at the dispute between China and Japan over who ownes the the Senkaku/Diaoyu Islands. The short article has a great passage about the relationship between property and power:
The international law that governs territorial disputes favors Japan. When no one occupies or controls a piece of territory, it is deemed terra nullius (“land belonging to no one”). That was the status of the islands before 1895. The ancient Chinese texts do not establish Chinese control. A typical example is a diplomatic record from 1534 that says, “The ship has passed Diaoyu Island.” The ship was carrying a Chinese official, but passing by an island and calling it Diaoyu does not establish sovereignty. A country does that by showing it has seized a territory through an official act and then exerted control over it or that its government has controlled it as long as anyone can remember. Since China did not control the islands before 1895, Japan had the right to seize them. It then lawfully maintained sovereignty over them by ruling them. [...]
And yet that’s hardly the last word on the matter. The rules of international law to which both sides appeal embody the power relationships that existed at the time of their emergence centuries ago. At that time, the great powers raced around the world claiming territories that were either unoccupied or occupied by native tribes. With a lot of territory to snap up, it made sense for them to implicitly agree not to contest one another’s conquests so that they could all concentrate on seizing the areas that were up for grabs. This raised some significant questions. Could one seize an entire continent by placing a flag on a tiny piece of it? Could one conquer an island by sailing by it and putting it on a navigation chart? To the contrary, the rough norms that evolved required more significant control—perhaps a post office or a military garrison. This ensured that a country could own territory only if it was powerful enough to control it.
In 1895, Japan was on the cusp of great-power status, while China was beset by internal turmoil and foreign pressures. Japan could control the islands; China could not. Now China has the upper hand and is unhappy with the 19th-century division of spoils. Why should it go along with territorial allocations that result from rules that favored strong nations a century ago?
Lea Brilmayer (Yale) and William Moon (Yale) have posted Regulating Land Grabs: Third Party States, Social Activism and International Law (Book Chapter) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
This chapter explores how international law may regulate large-scale leases and acquisitions of land (“land grab”) that have accelerated in pace and scope in recent years. We start by identifying why the land grab phenomenon concerns food security. In particular, we observe that the lessor countries (those where the land is located) are almost invariably states plagued by corruption, lack of democracy, dependence on food aid, and weak property rights. Where agents (state leaders) have conflicts of interests with their principals (citizens) it cannot be assumed that these transactions will work to the local population’s advantage. After examining why international investment law is not equipped to police these transactions, we turn to sources within trade law. Because trade law concerns the cross border flow of products, it has the potential to de-incentivize food from leaving land grabbed states and deter similar transactions in the future. The central question, then, is whether World Trade Organization (WTO) law accommodates strategies that are designed specifically to discourage particular categories of free trade. Drawing on recent WTO jurisprudence, we propose labeling laws and import restrictions as potential regulations that may be adopted by third party states.
Tuesday, February 25, 2014
Paul Hiebert looks at our strange attachment to inanimate things:
Around mid-February, someone on Reddit posted a meme that declared the following: “Sometimes, when I grab a cup from my cabinet, I will grab one that’s in the back and never gets used because I think the cup feels depressed that it isn’t fulfilling it’s life of holding liquids.”
The sentiment proved popular. “I used to work at a toy store and if anyone ever bought a stuffed animal I would leave its head sticking out of the bag.. so it could breathe,” commented one Redditor. “I actually cried when we switched microwaves when i was a kid. I felt like we should have given it a proper burial or something,” wrote another. “I feel bad for inanimate objects all the time,” confessed yet another. Hundreds of other comments carried on in a similar vein.
Why is this? Why do some of us sometimes sense a pang of guilt for throwing away a pair of worn-out shoes or neglecting to use a new set of headphones? We know these things are without joy or loneliness, yet every now and then our emotions inform us otherwise. Perhaps this is the result of all those Disney films featuring a motherly teapot or brave little toaster.
[...] While some of these relationships seem a bit suspect, they do demonstrate what can happen when people personify things to the extreme. If anything, these examples show how far the human imagination can go (or how desperate some people are for attention). And though it’s not clear how many people view inanimate objects as having rich private lives or how often, all of the above suggests the phenomenon is neither new nor unusual. We are emotional creatures, and our emotions involuntarily attach themselves to all sorts of things, from places we’ve visited to a pair of earrings grandma left behind after she died to a cup located near the back of the cabinet.
The documentary posted above is Strange Love: Married to the Eiffel Tower, which profiles a woman who feels a deep emotional connection with public structures. “Despite our vast differences, we are very much in love, and our love in itself is no different from any other love that exists between two beings,” she says about the Golden Gate Bridge.
Michael Wolf (Florida) has posted Conservation Easements and the 'Term Creep' Problem (Utah Envtl Law Review) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
This Essay (published in 2013 Utah Law Review and Volume 33 of the Utah Environmental Law Review) first discusses the “term creep” problem that has long plagued the Anglo-American common law of real property, that is, the tendency of common law courts (and in turn commentators and legislators) to use the same label to describe two or more conceptually discrete, though related, concepts. The confusion between easements of the “traditional” and “conservation” varieties is just one in a long line of situations in which the decision to allow often significantly dissimilar concepts to share the same name has led to unfortunate consequences.The second part of the Essay explains the substantive nature of the hybrids known most familiarly as conservation easements. Statutory and uniform law drafters were straightforward in their efforts to cherrypick the best attributes of traditional servitudes, while discarding troublesome disabilities, in order to achieve their admirable legislative goals.The third part asks why proponents of conservation restrictions should care about term creep, and the final section explores three benefits that outweigh the burdens of removing “easement” or “servitude” from the name of conservation restrictions and adopting the terminology used in the federal tax arena.