Friday, March 17, 2006

Housing Bubble Blog

I just came across the Housing Bubble Blog, which has a lot of interesting info and may be of interest to readers who follow the subject.

Ben Barros

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March 17, 2006 in Real Estate Transactions | Permalink | Comments (1) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, March 16, 2006

Update on Iowa Sex Offender Residency Rules

The New York Times has a story that describes the consequences of Iowa's sex offender residency rules:

The men have flocked to . . . rural motels and trailer parks because no one else will, or can, have them. A new state law barring those convicted of sex crimes involving children from living within 2,000 feet of a school or day care center has brought unintended and disturbing consequences. It has rendered some offenders homeless and left others sleeping in cars or in the cabs of their trucks.

I've previously posted on the Iowa regulations here.

Ben Barros

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March 16, 2006 in Land Use | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, March 14, 2006

Fenster on Takings 2005

Mark Fenster (University of Florida) has posted The Takings Clause, Version 2005: The Legal Process of Constitutional Property Rights on SSRN.  Here's the abstract:

The three takings decisions that the Supreme Court issued at the end of its October 2004 Term marked a stunning reversal of the Court’s efforts the past three decades to use the Takings Clause to define a set of constitutional property rights. The regulatory takings doctrine, which once loomed as a significant threat to the modern regulatory state, now appears after Lingle v. Chevron to be a relatively tame, if complicated, check on exceptional instances of regulatory abuse. At the same time, the Public Use Clause, formerly an inconsequential limitation on the state’s eminent domain authority, now appears ripe for revision and tightening after a stirring four-justice dissent in Kelo v. City of New London and an enormous public protest decrying the majority decision.

Notwithstanding this reversal, the 2005 decisions offer a coherent approach to Takings Clause enforcement - albeit one that is likely to frustrate commentators, theorists, and property rights advocates. More clearly than ever before, the Court in its 2005 decisions abandoned the difficult, if not impossible, task of providing a clear normative justification for the Takings Clause. Instead, its decisions reveal a marked preference for preserving and furthering its vision of an institutional system of governance - a jurisprudence that is focused on the question of who should decide rather than on the substantive issue of what should be decided, and that is committed to the passive virtue of deference. In short, the Rehnquist Court explicitly chose to adopt a “legal process” approach to takings. Because it privileges structure and process over explicit considerations of substantive legal and normative issues, this approach is unsatisfactory to property and constitutional theorists; because it defers to government decisions, it is maddening to property rights advocates; and because it is technocratic and abstract, it is unsatisfactory to the public. Given the prominence of the legal process approach to constitutional review of state regulatory action in the post-New Deal era, however, judicial passivity remains attractive, if unromantic, to judicial actors. Ultimately, recognizing the Court’s shift away from defining constitutional property rights via the Takings Clause offers important descriptive and prescriptive insights into the future of takings law in the Roberts Court, especially if a majority of justices decide to tighten review of eminent domain actions or otherwise heighten judicial review under the Takings Clause.

Ben Barros

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March 14, 2006 in Recent Scholarship, Takings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, March 13, 2006

Vermont Symposium on Takings

The Vermont Journal of Environmental Law recently published a symposium issue on the Supreme Court's recent takings cases.  The articles are all available online.

Ben Barros

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March 13, 2006 in Recent Scholarship, Takings | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

NY Times on Glaeser

I'm about a week behind on this one, but wanted to highlight a couple of things from the NY Times Magazine's story on Harvard Econ Prof Edward L. Glaeser.  Glaeser is the author of a recent study that asserts that zoning has contributed to high housing prices in the Boston area.

So, after sorting through a mountain of data, Glaeser decided that the housing crisis was man-made. The region's zoning regulations — which were enacted by locales in the first half of the 20th century to separate residential land from commercial and industrial land and which generally promoted the orderly growth of suburbs — had become so various and complex in the second half of the 20th century that they were limiting growth. Land-use rules of the 1920's were meant to assure homeowners that their neighbors wouldn't raise hogs in their backyards, throw up a shack on a sliver of land nearby or build a factory next door, but the zoning rules of the 1970's and 1980's were different in nature and effect. Regulations in Glaeser's new hometown of Weston, for instance, made extremely large lot sizes mandatory in some neighborhoods and placed high environmental hurdles (some reasonable, others not, in Glaeser's view) in front of developers. Other towns passed ordinances governing sidewalks, street widths, the shape of lots, septic lines and so on — all with the result, in Glaeser's analysis, of curtailing the supply of housing. The same phenomenon, he says, has inflated prices in metro areas all along the East and West Coasts.

The whole article is worth reading, but this passage on Glaeser's newest project struck me as particularly interesting and as something property professors might have some thoughts on:

He and Gyourko say they know that the country's regulatory environment, and thus the supply of housing, began to change around 1975. But they don't know why it changed. So along with a third researcher, Raven Saks, they have begun to track building permits from hundreds of cities around the country over the past four decades to investigate the nature of the evolution. Glaeser speculates that there may be a viral phenomenon whereby once housing prices reach a certain level, residents become aware of high home values and agitate for restrictions; another possibility is that judges have become much more sympathetic to blocking development for environmental reasons. Still another thought: that homeowners, utilizing skills learned during the civil rights movement and political protests of the 1960's and 1970's, became much more adept at organizing against developers. (There appears to be a reasonable correlation between liberal enclaves, zoning regulations and high housing prices.) In any event, Glaeser says, he doesn't know the answer yet, and it may take years to find out.

I'll be interested in seeing what he comes up with.

Ben Barros

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March 13, 2006 in Land Use | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

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March 13, 2006 in About This Blog | Permalink | TrackBack (0)