Friday, September 18, 2015

CFP: USF Law Symposium: Housing for Vulnerable Populations and the Middle Class: Revisiting Housing Rights and Policies in a Time of Expanding Crisis

From Tim Iglesias...

Download CALL FOR PAPERS - University of San Francisco Law Review Symposium 2015



Symposium on Housing for Vulnerable Populations and the Middle Class:

Revisiting Housing Rights and Policies in a Time of Expanding Crisis


To be held Friday, January 29, 2016 in San Francisco, California

Sponsored by the University of San Francisco Law Review

Deadline for submission of an abstract is Monday, October 19, 201


Symposium Purpose and Scope

This year the United States Supreme Court reaffirmed the breadth of the Fair Housing Act, and HUD is taking a new approach to affirmatively further fair housing. The California Supreme Court recently upheld inclusionary zoning. States and cities are newly considering rent control and other progressive housing policies.  Micro-housing developments are challenging longstanding housing standards. The time is ripe to revisit the state of legal rights to housing and progressive housing policies: What is in place? How is it working? And what more can be done? Does the widely-recognized expansion of the housing crisis to the middle class change the debate about housing rights and policies? If so, how? Should we refine and add to existing housing rights?  Are there creative new laws and policies worth considering?

The University of San Francisco Law Review will hold a symposium on January 29, 2016, to engage this current moment.  We will gather legal and housing scholars, practicing attorneys, policymakers and other stakeholders from around the nation to examine the problem, critically evaluate current laws and propose new solutions.

Over the past decade, California’s chronic housing crisis has spread to burden the middle class as well as traditionally vulnerable populations--low income people, seniors, homeless people and persons with disabilities. While these problems show up intensely in the San Francisco Bay Area in part because of the widening wealth and income gaps created by the burgeoning tech sector, this is a national issue.  The daily news is full of stories about skyrocketing home prices, steeply increasing rents, evictions, gentrification and displacement. People who have full-time “good jobs” are scrambling to figure out where they can live.

The significance of this new housing crisis extends beyond the importance of housing itself as an essential human need.  Stable, safe and affordable housing located in good neighborhoods has been linked to citizens’ economic and social mobility. Yet the gap between those who can afford such housing and those who cannot is increasing. Substantial residential segregation by race, ethnicity, and income persists. The society we are heading towards resembles a developing county, not one where democracy and opportunity are the foundations. It is more separate and more unequal.  There is more separation between disinvested communities and communities of opportunity.

The federal government substantially cut finding for affordable housing in the early 1980’s, but some subsidies still exist. While there is no “right to housing” in the United States, there are a collection of individual housing rights recognized in most states, including habitability, non-discrimination, and security of tenure. In addition, California and other states have long regulated local governments’ land use authority to promote housing for all income levels and economic integration, but these laws have not been as effective as hoped. Some local jurisdictions have pursued their own solutions, but they too are limited in regional housing markets.

There are no simple answers. Housing has never been only a matter of supply and demand because it interacts with race, education, employment, transportation, environmental issues, public health and the provision of social services.  Economic theories alone seem incapable of understanding or solving the multifaceted problem. Solutions will include a variety of types of regulation as well as funding.

Symposium Format

This one day symposium will include a keynote speaker, panel presentations, a luncheon, and a reception following the symposium.  In this announcement, we are inviting proposals for research papers to be presented on panels.

We currently anticipate three sequential panel sessions:  The first will concern the nature and scope of the housing problem (both for traditionally vulnerable populations and the middle class); the second will examine existing laws and their application; and the third will explore proposals to reach beyond the current laws and policies.

Potential Research Paper Themes

We invite proposals on topics of your own framing consistent with the symposium’s theme.  Below are several possible specific themes and issues grouped by proposed panel presentation session.  These panel sessions can be used as a guide for your paper.  If your abstract is selected, we will invite you to join one of our panels and consider publishing your paper in the Symposium issue of the USF Law Review.


We need to understand the history and extent of the housing crisis—how did we get to where we are now? What are the links between affordable housing and fair housing; and what are the potential conflicts? What are the key linkages between affordable housing, transportation, jobs, education, social mobility, etc. What are the social, political, and economic consequences of our housing crisis, e.g. displacement and disenfranchisement?


How are the existing laws and policies working? How can they be improved?

Depending upon the jurisdiction, individuals have numerous housing rights derived from federal, state, or local laws, e.g. habitability, anti-discrimination, rent control, just cause eviction, and the housing rights of people living in government-subsidized housing.

In addition, progressive housing policies at each level of government shape housing markets including by subsidizing affordable housing development and by regulating local governments’ discretion in exercising land use authority. The latter group includes laws requiring “fair share” housing as part of a city’s general plan, density bonus laws, laws promoting certain kinds of housing development (e.g. secondary housing units or transit-oriented development), inclusionary zoning, and fair housing law, including the duty to affirmatively further fair housing.


We want to encourage the exploration of new, creative and practical ideas that will effectively address the nature and scope of our housing crisis and serve positive policy goals. The following questions are merely suggestive. Should we create new individual housing rights? Are there federal, state, regional, or local policies that can shape housing markets to better achieve desired results? What should be the role of affected communities in setting housing policy and determining outcomes, e.g. preventing displacement? Should laws mandate, favor, or specifically enable certain kinds of housing developments, e.g. community land trusts, limited equity cooperatives, mixed income housing or micro-housing? Should the federal mortgage interest deduction continue as our sole true housing entitlement?

Submission Process & Deadlines

Individuals interested in presenting a research and/or policy panel session paper should submit an abstract of no more than 1000 words describing the paper’s proposed topic, theme, and research methodologies by no later than Monday, October 19, 2015.  This summary should be sent as an attachment to Tanya Rivera (the Symposium editor) at and Professor Tim Iglesias (Symposium faculty advisor) at

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