Thursday, May 30, 2013
If you needed any more proof that we're not rational profit maximizers, here's a property dispute from India that caught the attention of the BBC
More than 300 litigants, 30,000 pages of charges and counter-charges, over a dozen lawyers, and 66 years in court. That's how arduous and long the battle between two families in India over a nine-acre (four hectare) plot of land has been. The court case began on 21 April 1947 - a few months before India became an independent country - when Biseshwar Singh of Ekauna village filed a case against fellow villager Har Govind Rai in a court in Ara town, in Bihar's Bhojpur district. [...]
And with the Ganges changing course and inundating the disputed land, most of it has turned into a riverbed. "Who will buy the land now with river flowing over it? The few acres of remaining land will hardly fetch 15,000 rupees ($275; £180)," says Satyanarayan Singh, great grandson of Har Govind Rai. Mr Singh says his family has so far spent 2m rupees ($36,334; £23,837) on litigation, but he appears in no mood to give up fighting.
(HT: Nick Blomley)
Robin Craig (Utah) has posted Becoming Landsick: Rethinking Sustainability in an Age of Continuous, Visible, and Irreversible Change (Book Chapter) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
This chapter for the Environmental Law Institute's forthcoming book, Rethinking Sustainable Development to Meet the Climate Change Challenge,
argues that, in this climate change era, we all need to re-wire
ourselves into metaphorical landsickness — that is, into a state where
we view constant change as the norm, not as an aberration to be ignored,
avoided, or resisted. As a more positive formulation, we need to
acquire our climate change sea legs as fast as we possibly can — and
that means jettisoning our more mainstream and popular notions of
We have entered the era of climate change adaptation, which is most fundamentally about coping with continual, and often unpredictable, change. Adaptation is absolutely necessary because we have passed, definitively, the point of avoiding climate change impacts. It is against this new reality of constant change and threatened disruption that we have to measure the continuing value of “sustainability” — as a concept, as a goal, and as a principle to guide governance and law. Notably, the United States has clung to sustainability even as it has exhibited what might be termed “climate change seasickness” — the denials and refusals to act that have characterized much of the American response to climate change until recently. But sustainability does not help us to adapt to climate change. Instead, sustainability, at least as pursued in the United States, promotes the myth of stationarity and the utopian myth that we can still "have it all."
Climate change thus requires that we replace goals of sustainability with something else, at least for any policy goal more concrete and specific than leaving a functional planet to the next generations. Acquisition of our climate change sea legs, this chapter concludes, would be aided considerably if we adopted three transforming principles for cultural norms, governance goals, and laws and legal institutions:(1) pursue resilience, not the maintenance of particular socio-ecological states; (2) recognize and emphasize that no private right is absolute and that private interests must yield to community survival; and (3) stop avoiding the subject of human population growth.
Wednesday, May 29, 2013
Sometimes things in this country run so smoothly that it's hard for students to see the importance of clear and efficient property rules. Not every nation is so lucky. The New York Times recently detailed the title assurance system in Greece (or rather the lack thereof). This is a great, short piece that I'm putting into the section of my class on real estate transactions:
As Greece tries to claw its way out of an economic crisis of historic proportions, one that has left 60 percent of young people without jobs, many experts cite the lack of a proper land registry as one of the biggest impediments to progress. It scares off foreign investors; makes it hard for the state to privatize its assets, as it has promised to do in exchange for bailout money; and makes it virtually impossible to collect property taxes.
This state of affairs is particularly galling because Greece has thrown hundreds of millions of dollars at the problem over the past two decades, but has little to show for it. At one point, in the early 1990s, Greece took more than $100 million from the European Union to build a registry. But after seeing what was accomplished, the European Union demanded its money back.
Since then, Greece has tried, and tried again. But still, less than 7 percent of the country has been properly mapped, officials say. Experts say that even the Balkan states, recovering from years of Communism and civil war, are far ahead of Greece when it comes to land registries attached to zoning maps — an approach developed by the Romans and in wide use in much of the developed world since the 1800s.
The article doesn't mention, and I would be curious to know what role private insurance plays in land transactions in Greece.
(HT: David Schleicher)
Zoe Prebble (British Columbia) has posted Anti-Sprawl Initiatives: How Complete is the Convergence of Environmental, Desegregationist, and Fair Housing Interests? (Buffalo Public Interest Law Journal) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Sprawl and segregation are inextricably linked. Sprawl has been occurring on a grand scale in the United States for sixty years; but in the past ten or so years; politicians, the media, and the public have begun to take it seriously as a problem that needs solving. The Environmental Movement has been a vocal advocate of anti-sprawl measures, and has contributed significantly to the growing momentum of the Anti-Sprawl Movement. There is clearly an environmental interest in combating sprawl. This article considers the degree to which that interest aligns with desegregationist and fair housing interests.
Tuesday, May 28, 2013
Matt Yglesias continues to bang the drum about the damage of over restrictive land use policies in our nation's most desirable cities:
You know what sounds like could provide a huge lift to the American labor market? Suppose a bunch of rich foreigners decided they wanted to buy expensive items manufactured right here in the United States of America. Imagine they especially wanted to buy houses, lifting boats specifically in the construction sector that's been hammered by years of a weak housing market. Great news, right? Sadly not in today's United States where we manage to make lemons out of every cup of lemonade, and a surge in foreigners wanting to buy up New York City real estate is of course portrayed as bad news:
“There’s a great deal of interest in New York, which is seen as relatively cheap compared to other global cities,” said Yolande Barnes, director of research for Savills, an international real-estate firm.
The growth in high-end projects in Manhattan comes as housing for the working and middle class is in increasingly short supply in the city. These buildings are proving so profitable that they are warping the local real-estate market, making it more difficult to put up more-affordable housing.
By the same token, foreign interest in snapping up pieds a terres in New York City ought to be great news. It should create a lot of jobs for architects and construction workers. It should create upstream jobs for the people who cut the timber and make the metal that goes into buildings. It should create jobs in factories as people build the stoves and refrigerators to stock the new houses. And it should create downstream jobs as the construction workers and oven manufacturers take their paychecks to buy a new car or a night on the town. There should be a construction boom in New York and a construction boom in Silicon Valley and it should be providing lots of employment for working class men. But instead we're having housing shortages in New York and in Silicon Valley. Not because we don't have the technology to build lots more houses, but because we don't have the zoning codes.
Rick Aschmann maps dialects as a hobby and has assembled this interactive map where you can click to hear audio and video samples of various North American accents. He still needs help completing the map, so if you're inclined, you can visit the map and see if your local region is included.
Alejandro Camacho (Irvine) has posted Community Benefits Agreements: A Symptom, Not the Antidote, of Bilateral Land Use Regulation (Brooklyn) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
Benefits Agreements (CBAs) — private agreements between land developers
and community members exchanging benefits for support or tolerance of a
project — have recently emerged as part of a larger movement in
American land use regulation away from a unilateral,
government-dominated model toward a more negotiated paradigm.
Unfortunately, though they arose in part to address issues found in the
predominantly bilateral negotiated model, CBAs have been accompanied by
significant problems of their own. Most notably, concerns such as
whether to engage in a CBA process, the appropriate framework for
negotiation, and the relationship of CBAs to the public
regulatory-approval process are typically left to the discretion of the
developer. As a result, such agreements typically develop in parallel to
the public process but largely independent of it — a redundancy that
leads to additional costs for both developers and community members.
More importantly, the negotiation process results in less-than-optimal
agreements that disproportionately reflect the interests of the
developer. These weaknesses, however, ultimately point to the continued
inadequacy of the underlying public process in advancing legitimate
land use decisions.
This symposium essay briefly outlines the modern public land use decision-making process’s transition from a unilateral model to a bilateral-negotiation model; discusses the rise of CBAs as a response to shortcomings of the bilateral process; analyzes CBAs’ benefits and drawbacks; and suggests how elements of the CBA process can be integrated into a more effective negotiating model. In particular, rather than encouraging the creation of CBAs, local governments should seek to integrate the most successful elements of the CBA process into the existing bilateral negotiation framework, creating a more multilateral, community-oriented decision-making process.