September 23, 2011
Friday's Architecture Moment
A pretty fabulous series of postcards that depict homesteaders showing off their claim shacks in the early 19th century:
The Homestead Act enabled Americans to claim 160 acres of undeveloped public land for free if they could live there for five years and “improve” it. Improving it required building something. Most chose to construct tar paper shacks because they were cheap and easy to build. Others turned to sod because it was plentiful and free.
The King's Two Bodies
A lovely blog post on Adverse Possession, Shakespeare, and the nature of the English Monarch. Here's the first paragraph:
Today I wrap up teaching one of my favorite subjects in Property (ok I like them all) — Adverse Possession. One of the topics we cover is adverse possession claims against the state. Traditionally, Adverse Possession claims against the state did not stand. This tradition in the common law stretches to the concept of the King’s duality, the King as Corporation as F.W. Maitland would refer to it, or simply The King’s Two Bodies as eloquently stated by Ernst Kantorowicz.
Diamond on Shared Equity Housing
Michael Diamond (Georgetown) has posted Shared Equity Housing: Cultural Understanding and the Meaning of Ownership on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
In this paper I examine whether shared equity limitations that are sometimes applied to subsidized affordable housing creates for the owners of such housing a second class ownership status. I conclude that they do not. In support of this conclusion, I look at the meaning of property from both cultural and historical perspectives. I argue that property and ownership are culturally constructed concepts that are understood differently in different cultures and in the same culture over time. I examine the series of limitations that have been placed on property in industrial societies and argue that the limitation on equity is just another in a long list of limitations that society has imposed on ownership in favor of a supervening social good, in this case, the preservation of affordable housing for future generations of low-income homeowners.
September 22, 2011
Trailer Parks as Models for Affordable Housing
A well-designed trailer park might seem an oxymoron, but the much-maligned building typology has a lot of potential for an appealing alternative to more conventional low income housing. No surprise to see this happening in the particularly enlightened City of Santa Monica . . . which purchased the Mountain View Mobile Home Park to preserve it for affordable housing a decade ago. Los Angeles-based Marmol Radziner Prefab won the contract to transform the park’s aging trailers and mobile homes into stylish and sustainable homes.
The homes range in size from 384 to 1,200 square feet and cost between $25,000 to $72,000 to build.
Schutz on Rural Landowners and the Emerging Market for Nature-Based Vacations
Anthony Schutz (Nebraska) has posted Toward a More Multi-Functional Rural Landscape: Community Approaches to Rural Land Stewardship (Fordham Envtl Law Journal) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
This Article explores how farms and ranches can adapt to meet consumer demand for outdoor activities like hunting, wildlife viewing, hiking, or simply enjoying the solace of spending time in rural places. These places hold breathtaking landscapes, but they are often privately owned, relatively inaccessible to the general public, and have not been managed to produce the ecosystem services that support these activities, despite strong evidence of consumer demand. Historically, farms and ranches have been managed for a single dominant use, undertaken wholly upon an individual’s landholdings. Entering the emerging market for nature-based experiences requires that farms and ranches adapt from fragmented single-use businesses to multi-functional enterprises that cooperatively operate at larger spatial scales.
This Article explains how lawyers can help farmers and ranchers can make such a move. It uses existing private law and Ostrom's principles of collective action to illustrate how these communities should be designed. It also offers some preliminary thoughts on possible areas for legal reform that would facilitate the development of these enterprises.
September 21, 2011
Crop Circle Art
Crop circles have persistently defied scientific explanation, inspiring any number of outlandish theories about ancient shamanism and extraterrestrial visitations. Now, an Oregon physicist has added his own theory to the mix: that these dazzlingly complex patterns stamped in the countryside are the work of imaginative geeks with gadgets. In an article in the August issue of Physics World, Richard Taylor, director of the Material Science Institute at the University of Oregon, argues that the designs, which have become increasingly common in fields of wheat, barley, maize, and grass since the 1970s, could be produced by artists using global positioning systems (to translate the coordinates of complex designs from computers, to vast fields) , lasers (to aid in drawing straight lines), and microwaves (to knock down the stalks).
Case of the Week
Background: Lakefront-property owners brought action against Ohio Department of Natural Resources (ODNR), seeking declaration that owners of property abutting Lake Erie held title to the land between the ordinary high-water mark and the actual legal boundary of their properties as defined by their deeds, and that the public trust did not include nonsubmerged lands, or in the alternative seeking to compel the state to compensate them for its alleged taking of their property.
Holding: The territory of Lake Erie held in trust by the state of Ohio for the people of the state extends to the natural shoreline, which is the line at which the water usually stands when free from disturbing causes.
Chan, Gedal, Been & Haughwout on What Happens to Distressed Mortgage Borrowers and Their Homes?
Sewin Chan (NYU - Public Service), Michael Gedal (NYU - Public Service), Vicki Been (NYU) and Andrew Haughwout (Federal Reserve Bank) have posted Pathways after Default: What Happens to Distressed Mortgage Borrowers and Their Homes? on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
We use a detailed dataset of seriously delinquent mortgages to examine the dynamic process of mortgage default – from initial delinquency and default to final resolution of the loan and disposition of the property. We estimate a two-stage competing risk hazard model to assess the factors associated with whether a borrower behind on mortgage payments receives a legal notice of foreclosure, and with what ultimately happens to the borrower and property. In particular, we focus on a borrower’s ability to avoid a foreclosure auction by getting a modification, by refinancing the loan, or by selling the property. We find that the outcomes of the foreclosure process are significantly related to: the terms of the loan; the borrower’s credit history; current loan-to-value and the presence of a junior lien; the borrower’s post-default payment behavior; the borrower’s participation in foreclosure counseling; neighborhood characteristics such as foreclosure rates, recent house price depreciation and median income; and the borrower’s race and ethnicity.
September 20, 2011
Can Landlords Discriminate Against the Unemployed?
Not in California. The California Fair Employment and Housing Act bars discrimination based on a rental applicant's source of income, as long as the applicant can show the financial ability to pay the rent. The justification for this rule is "the need to protect access to housing for rental applicants whose income comes from sources other than employment," such as social security and pension benefits.
Scanlan on the Great Lakes Compact
Melissa Scanlan has posted Realizing the Promise of the Great Lakes Compact: A Policy Analysis for State Implementation (Vermont Journal of Environmental Law) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
This article provides an overview of the Great Lakes as both a shared commons and a public trust. It outlines the challenges facing management of any commons and highlights the importance of the Public Trust Doctrine as a way to manage shared waters. This provides a backdrop for understanding and assessing the agreements and laws the Great Lakes States and Canadian Provinces have created to manage the Great Lakes Basin. The article starts with the Boundary Waters Treaty of 1909 and ends with the Great Lakes-St. Lawrence River Basin Water Resources Compact and Agreement of 2005 (Compact), identifying progress and gaps. The author offers four areas where states can take action to improve the Great Lakes Compact, and assesses the water supply issues in Waukesha, Wisconsin, where the first request to divert water out of the Great Lakes under the Compact is projected.
September 19, 2011
The Best Places to Be a Woman
We examined five measures [Justice, Health, Education, Economics & Politics] that affect women’s lives. Of 165 countries, these 10 earned top marks in factors from health care to political power. We graded each country on 5 factors, using a scale of 1 to 100.
Mortgage Assignments and Mortgage Taxes
The New York Times on why people thinking about refinancing their home loans should look into mortgage assignments. "Instead of granting and recording a new loan when a borrower refinances, the assignment process transfers a mortgage to a new lender, which then revises it." The borrower then doesn't have to pay mortgage recording taxes on this amount.
The Ambiguous Triumph of the City
Robert Bruegmann notes that "[a]t the very moment when urban population has been reported to surpass the rural, this distinction has lost most of its significance . . . ."
Two hundred years ago, before automobiles, telephones, the internet and express package services, cities were much more compact and rural life was indeed very different from urban life. Most inhabitants of rural areas were tied to agriculture or industries devoted to the extraction of natural resources. Their lives were fundamentally different from those of urban dwellers.
Today the situation has changed radically. Most people living in areas classified as rural don’t farm or have any direct connection with agriculture. They hold jobs similar to those in urban areas. And although they might not have opera houses, upscale boutiques or specialized hospitals nearby, the activities that take place in these venues are available to them in ways that they never were before.
(HT: The Daily Dish)