Saturday, May 15, 2010
On Tuesday I leave for Prague, where I'll be teaching my Comparative Property Rights course to American students at the Charles University Faculty of Law. I'll continue posting from Prague where, in addition to teaching, I'll be doing some researching and writing. I'm very excited because Prague is the ideal setting to teach and research comparative property rights issues, since Czech property rights have undergone several radical transformations in quick succession.
As I discovered when I created my Comparative Property Rights course, it turns out there is no casebook or or single text available for the course. Therefore, I've had to create one. This summer, the five topics we'll examine are (1) colonial compared to indigenous property rights; (2) property rights under civil law compared to common law; (3) property rights under communist systems compared to capitalist systems; (4) comparative constitutional protections of property rights; and (5) my personal favorite, restitution. I've compiled a series of readings -- cases, excerpts from law review articles and books, etc. -- for each topic. In addition, I've written a series of what I call 'focus questions' to guide the students through the reading and to center class discussions.
If anyone is considering teaching a comparative property rights course and would like the syllabus for any of those topics, send me an email (mark(dot)edwards at wmitchell(dot)edu). There's no point in reinventing the wheel when the prior art is available although, of course, you may find that my wheel is square and has the spokes sticking out sideways, to beat a metaphor beyond recognition.
My next post will be from Prague!
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Monday, May 10, 2010
David Streitfeld had a fascinating and sobering piece in the New York Times this week, chronicling a day in the life of Joseph Laubinger, in essence a foreclosure 'fixer' who represents lenders in their last interactions with former homeowners still in actual possession of their homes before the sheriff arrives. Laubinger's business has a simple goal but a complex task: getting foreclosed owners out as seamlessly as possible. He gets a fee for getting the possessors out, and then gets to earn a commission by selling the house. He comes face to face with the pain caused by the foreclosure crisis, and lest we forget, there is real, gut-wrenching human pain.
It's a somber job, and Laubinger is anything but cavalier; he is described in the article as "a soft touch," and regularly gives people in trouble extensions so they can find somewhere else to go rather than being rendered homeless. On the day Streitfeld followed him, Laubinger encountered the Lukaszs, a young Polish couple in default on two loans secured by a modest home that they've been unable to sell for what they owe. What did them in, like many others, was that Mrs. Lukasz became chronically and painfully ill; Mr. Lukasz's salary from working night shift at an envelope factory could cover the loan payments, or the pharmacy bills, but not both. Enter Mr. Laubinger. Mr. Lukasz agreed to accept $1500 to move out without a sheriff's eviction, but later changed his mind, deciding to stay until the last possible moment. Another family of six encountered that day end up sheltered by their church.
Laubinger, to his credit, seems to treat these people with compassion. The Lukasz's situation left him in tears. In some strange and convoluted way, Mr. Laubinger's role and demeanor remind me of the great Bruno Ganz's angel of death in Wim Wender's breathtaking Wings of Desire, unable to prevent death but able to usher the victims out with some comfort. On the other hand, foreclosure isn't death, and angels don't have a profit motive.
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Benito Arruñada (Universitat Pompeu Fabra) and Amnon Lehavi (Interdisciplinary Center Herzliyah - Radzyner School of Law) have posted Prime Property Institutions for a Subprime Era: Exploring Innovative Models of Residential Development and Finance on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
This paper breaks new ground toward contractual and institutional innovation in models of homeownership, equity building, and mortgage enforcement. Inspired by recent developments in the affordable housing sector and in other types of public financing schemes, this paper suggests extending institutional and financial strategies such as time- and place-based division of property rights, conditional subsidies, and credit mediation to alleviate the systemic risks of mortgage foreclosure. Alongside a for-profit shared equity scheme that would be led by local governments, we also outline a private market shared equity model, one of bootstrapping home buying with purchase options.
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