Saturday, January 26, 2013

Crowdfunding for Real Estate Development

Businessweek reports this week that NYC real estate developer Prodigy Network is experimenting with crowdfunding as means of financing real estate development.  Rather than investing in a pool of funds that finance many developments, individual investors will purchase shares of a particular development, and be entitled to a share of rents and appreciation.  Prodigy used the model successfully in Colombia to develop the nation's tallest skyscraper, but it hasn't been tried in the United States until now.  Prodigy intends to use crowdfunding to raise $26M (of about $90M it needs) to buy and improve 84 William Street in Manhattan.

Crowdfunding is all the rage in the start-up world.  The mortgage and foreclosure crisis put a serious dent in the availablity of real estate financing in the United States.  It will be interesting to see whether the crisis has left a hole in the market that crowdfunding can fill, and whether it will be a durable solution.  Any thoughts?

Mark A. Edwards


January 26, 2013 in Real Estate Finance | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Friday, January 25, 2013

Florida Condo Tests Dog Poop DNA

And you thought your homeowners association was crazy:

Need proof that the rich really aren’t that different from you and me? How’s this — they don’t pick up their dog’s poop when they think no one is looking, either. No, not even when they’re only walking their dog on the turf at their luxury condo. That’s why a condo community in Florida is making residents enter their dog’s DNA into a new genetic database that will be used to match a poop to a pooch and identify which owners aren’t cleaning up after their pets. Which is really nice to hear, because you know once resources start being devoted to things like this, we’ve clearly solved the big problems like world hunger, and can now put science to work on the really important issues of our age.

Steve Clowney

January 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Conference News: Association for Law, Property and Society

Here's the announcement:

The ALPS 4th Annual Meeting,, will be held at University of Minnesota Law School, April 26-27, 2013. Our annual meetings attract over 100 participants, approximately one third of whom come from outside of North America and a number of whom do interdisciplinary work. 

Registration and paper/panel submission is available through the conference website or directly at The deadline for submitting papers and panels is March 1, 2013, but registration for the conference will continue to be available after that date. Please do not submit papers and panels after March 1, 2013 as part of your registration without having emailed Hari Osofsky, for permission to submit late. We will do our best to accommodate late submission requests, but can only guarantee that proposals submitted by the March 1, 2013 deadline will be able to be considered for the conference. 

This year’s registration includes an option to register to attend without presenting and an option to submit complete panels in addition to individual papers. As in previous years, we will have both draft paper panels and early works-in-progress panels dedicated to brainstorming scholarship at its beginning stages. We also plan to support early-career scholars in their development and in connecting to mentors through the conference events. A discounted early registration rate of $145 is available until March 1, 2013; after that date, the registration rate is $175.

Steve Clowney

January 25, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Thursday, January 24, 2013

News Conference: Legal & Policy Pathways for Energy Innovation

The announcement:

The University of Minnesota’s Consortium on Law and Values in Health, Environment & the Life Sciences welcomes submissions of papers or complete panels for its April 24–25, 2013, conference on Legal & Policy Pathways for Energy Innovation. 

This conference at the University of Minnesota will bring together leading scholars, practitioners, policymakers, and business people to discuss how to make critical progress on energy law and policy. The panels will focus on four primary topics: (1) clean energy infrastructure; (2) environmental and energy governance; (3) climate, energy, and environmental justice; (4) sustainable regions and communities. 

The conference goal is to address current energy law and policy challenges, particularly at the intersection of environmental law and policy. First, we do not have the legal, institutional, or physical infrastructure to transition to cleaner energy sources. Second, we do not have effective governance strategies for complex, multi-level problems that predominate at the intersection of environmental and energy law. Third, the relevant law results in low-income communities of color disproportionately bearing the environmental burdens of our energy and other industries without reaping the benefits of clean, low-cost energy or open space. Fourth, many U.S. metropolitan areas lack effective regional approaches to land-use, power, and transportation and suffer from dysfunctional dynamics between core cities and their suburbs and exurbs. 

Please submit proposals (1 page or less) to by March 1, 2013.  Proposals should include: —the names and email addresses of the submitter/s —the title of the proposed paper or panel —a brief description of the paper or panel and which of the four streams the proposal connects to: (1) clean energy infrastructure; (2) environmental and energy governance; (3) climate, energy, and environmental justice; (4) sustainable regions and communities. It is fine if it connects to more than one.  Please contact Prof. Hari Osofsky at for more information.

Steve Clowney

January 24, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Wednesday, January 23, 2013

New York City Unveils Winner of Tiny Apartment Contest



The city on Tuesday unveiled the winner of a competition to design and build an apartment tower on city-owned land composed entirely of micro-units, 55 homes the size of hotel rooms that Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg hopes will be the first in a wave of tiny apartments aimed at addressing the city’s shortage of studio and one-bedroom apartments.

Small as it might be, the winning design was chosen for the way that it maximized light, airiness and storage space through the use of 9-foot-high ceilings, large windows, lofts and Juliet balconies.

Steve Clowney

January 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Perpetual Conservation Easements Conference

On February 15,the University of Utah College of Law is hosting a conference entitled, Perpetual Conservation Easements: What Have We Learned and Where Should We Go From Here?. Those unable to travel to Salt Lake City can watch the live webcast of the event on  Here's the announcement: 

The public is investing billions of dollars in conservation easements, which now protect more than 18 million acres throughout the United States. But uncertainties in the law and abusive practices threaten to undermine public confidence in and the effectiveness of conservation easements as land protection tools. This conference will explore these issues, with the goal of minimizing abuse and helping to ensure that conservation easements actually provide the promised conservation benefits to the public over the long term. Leaders in their respective fields will address (i) the federal tax incentives offered with respect to easements donated as charitable gifts to certain qualified holders, (ii) the state conservation easement enabling statutes, (iii) federal and state oversight of charities, and (iv) the role of state attorney general offices in the charitable sector and in the protection of charitable assets on behalf of the public. For more information and a detailed agenda see Perpetual Conservation Easements.

Steve Clowney

January 23, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Asset Forfeiture Abuse

From Volokh: John Ross of Reason has a nice article outlining the problem of asset forfeiture abuse, as illustrated by the scandalous practices in the nation’s capital:

Jerrie Brathwaite was not in her car when Washington, D.C. police seized it in January 2012. She had lent her 2000 Nissan Maxima to a friend, and that friend was pulled over, searched, and found to be in possession of drugs. A year later, Braithwaite—who has never been charged with a crime—still doesn’t have her car back, and no one from the Metropolitan Police Department (MPD) will return her calls.

Brathwaite, 33, is knee-deep in the murky world of civil asset forfeiture, where confiscated cars, cash, and other property disappear into police coffers, and where legal recourse for owners is confusing, slow, and expensive. Under civil forfeiture, police can seize property from people who are never convicted—much less charged with—a crime. Unlike criminal forfeiture, where the government must prove property was used in the commission of crime, civil forfeiture law presumes an owner’s guilt....

Brathwaite’s situation—and the MPD’s behavior—are not uncommon. Civil forfeiture is a national problem. Law enforcement agencies seize millions of dollars worth of property each year with little or no due process for owners. In all but six states property owners are considered guilty until proven innocent. State law typically allows law enforcement to keep most or all of the proceeds from forfeiture—an enormous incentive to police for profit.

Ilya Somin has previously covered this topic here.

Steve Clowney


January 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Should an Unsatisfied Condo Owner Ever Stop Paying the Assessment Fee?

The Chicago Tribune's real estate expert offers his opinion in the case of a condo owner subjected to awful noise from a nearby elevator:

No! No! No! I cannot under any circumstances recommend that any homeowner in a community association, whether that be a condominium, a cooperative or in a homeowners association, withhold the assessment.

There are several reasons. First, you admit that this problem has been plaguing you for several years. If you suddenly decide to withhold your association assessments, I seriously doubt that a judge would be sympathetic. More importantly, as soon as you are delinquent, I suspect your association will start collection efforts, which can include filing a lawsuit against you. Once again, while you may have a legitimate concern, case law throughout this country makes it clear that a homeowner has an obligation to pay his assessment, regardless of any problems that the homeowner has.

Steve Clowney

January 22, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Monday, January 21, 2013

Map of the Day: Oh My God, It's Full of Stars

Screen Shot 2013-01-21 at 8.05.08 AM

Stéphane Guisard, who works the Paranal Observatory in Chile, has put together a mind-bending map of the center of the Milky Way galaxy.  It's huge (24,000 x 14,000 pixels).  And it's fully zoomable.

The vast number of stars in this picture (of a small corner of one galaxy) is enough to completely melt your brain.

Check out the map right here.

Steve Clowney

(HT: Slate)

January 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Property as Short Story


A short story about property, the bundle of sticks, pink flamingos, rule lawyering, & homeowners associations.

Steve Clowney

(HT: Rebecca Tushnet)

January 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)

Lawton on Tenant Purchases & Affordable Housing

LawtonJulie Lawton (DePaul) has posted Tenant Purchase as a Means of Creating and Preserving Affordable Homeownership (Georgetown Journal on Poverty Law Policy).  Here's the abstract:

For a number of years, the federal government and various local jurisdictions have struggled with the most effective means of producing more units of affordable housing. This article proposes an affordable housing production model that enables tenants to purchase their single-family homes and multifamily apartment buildings based on a tenant purchasing program prevalent in Washington, D.C.

Throughout the years, Washington, D.C., like many jurisdictions, has tried various measures to create and preserve affordable housing and make homeownership affordable to more residents. One of the most productive programs created to produce and preserve units of affordable housing in Washington, D.C. is the program known as the Tenant Opportunity to Purchase Act (TOPA). Generally, TOPA requires that a landlord owning residential property in Washington, D.C. must first offer the tenants residing in that property the opportunity to purchase it before selling that property to a third-party. The tenants then have the right to: (i) maintain the property as a rental owned by either the tenants or a private developer chosen by the tenants, (ii) purchase the property and convert it to a market rate or affordable condominium or cooperative, (iii) sell their rights to purchase the property to any entity the tenants choose for any value negotiated by the tenants, or (iv) ignore their TOPA rights altogether. TOPA helps prevent the loss of affordable housing units to the private market, promotes resident engagement and control in the development of the resident’s neighborhood, promotes private investment in preserving affordable housing, enables residents — specifically low- and moderate-income residents — to participate in the wealth creation from the property sale, and creates homeownership opportunities for low- and moderate-income residents who might otherwise be priced out of an expensive real estate market.

I represented tenant groups in Washington, D.C. in the purchase, renovation, and conversion of their multi-family apartment buildings for many years and experienced TOPA’s ability to facilitate the preservation of affordable homeownership in gentrifying neighborhoods, to empower low- and moderate-income residents in influencing the redevelopment of their neighborhoods, and to provide wealth creation for the tenants who were able to successfully purchase their properties in a manner that preserved affordability. Other jurisdictions should consider a law providing some form of tenant purchase rights to residents of multi-family properties to help create and preserve affordable housing. This article seeks to provide those jurisdictions with an in-depth review of TOPA, its benefits, and some suggested areas of improvement. This article also seeks to provide Washington, D.C. with a rare scholarly review of TOPA by someone who worked closely on TOPA policy, business, and legal issues for a number of years.

Steve Clowney

January 21, 2013 | Permalink | Comments (0) | TrackBack (0)