Wednesday, November 30, 2011
Perhaps you are familiar with the hay shortage in Texas and the numerous hardships imposed on the people and animals there who depend upon regular rainfall. I don't want to say that the drought has a bright side, but it has revealed historical and archeological secrets formerly submerged in lakes and other bodies of water. This article describes a few, but of course I'm mostly interested in the cemeteries.
Thanks to Alice Noble-Allgire for passing along this post from a real estate blog on the property themes in the movie Burlesque. Property saves the day!
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Kermit Lind of Cleveland State had an informative comment on his city's approach to dealing with the problem of speculators buying up foreclosed properties and ignoring maintenance issues:
The City of Cleveland and its Municipal Housing Court has been fighting the plague of post-foreclosure speculation in unmaintained housing for more than a decade. See the article in the next edition of Shelterforce, published by the National Institute of Housing. New legal tools have been slow in coming, but this month City Council enacted two innovative ordinances. One would make all owners in the chain of title following issuance of a housing code violation jointly and severally liable for the municipal costs of nuisance abatement where the violations were ignored. The second makes it unlawful for any business entity to buy or sell houses in the City if it has not complied with an existing state statute requiring foreign entities to register with the secretary of state. These measures are aimed directly at the problem portrayed in Pittsburgh. Also, the litigation by a nonprofit developer in December, 2008 against Deutsche Bank for ignoring maintenance of houses it purchases at sheriff sales is still pending in the Federal District Court here in Cleveland.
Edward McMahon of the Urban Land Institute mulls over the 85th anniversary of Euclid v. Ambler and comes to the conclusuion that although "some anti-government activists argue that we don’t need zoning and that land use planning is somehow akin to socialism. In fact, planning is the multi-faceted process that communities use to prepare for change." Along the way he dismisses "myths" that "Houston, Texas disproves that zoning is unncessary" and that "zoning is un-American."
Tuesday, November 29, 2011
I've really enjoyed the "Borderlines" series by Frank Jacobs in The New York Times. (He explains that he "writes about cartography, but only the interesting bits.") In a recent installment, he explains the history of the U.S./Canadian border west of Lake of the Woods. The border is popularly understood to run a straight line along the 49th parallel for 1,260 miles, but the real story is more interesting.
If you like that piece, you should also check out his work at Big Think, where his blog series is called "Strange Maps."
The people at the Chicago Tribune look into the tension between day laborers trying to drum up business and the rights of private property owners:
The problem is that solicitations for employment on a public sidewalk fall within one's right to free speech. When a law regulates speech, that law must be in place to protect a legitimate government interest, not to control the content of the speech. In other words, laws aren't supposed to make speech about certain topics illegal, but allow talk of other topics to be legal.
Monday, November 28, 2011
Yun-chien Chang, a property professor in Taiwan is trying to organize (or join) a property panel at the Law & Society meeting in Honolulu this summer. He's currently writing about easements of necessity and statutory easements. If you're interested, you can reach Professor Chang at: [email protected] or check out his SSRN page here.
The housing market remains in flux (to put it mildly), and many people who could afford to and have sufficient credit to purchase a house or condo are wondering if renting might be a better idea. Answering that question depends upon a number of variables, including the local real estate submarket and the economics of the properties under consideration. The New York Times has a tool that allows you to crunch the numbers and determine whether it is better to rent or buy a particular property. It tells me that the townhouse I'm currently renting would only be better to buy if I stay there 13 years, even if I assume a mortgage rate of 4%.
What can cities do when limited-liability entities start buying up distressed properties as investments and then ignore basic maintenance? Pittsburgh provides a cautionary tale:
[I]t has proved impossible to pin a fine on an obscure investment fund that has purchased 1506 Dagmar Ave. and then allowed the modest house to become overgrown and structurally suspect.
Here's the story of the efforts to restore a Shaker community outside of Lexington during the 1960s (The Shakers were a group of dissenting Quakers who lived in gender-segregated dormatory style housing and refrained from having sex):
Historic preservation as we know it today was still being invented in places like Lexington and Savannah, Ga., to battle post-war urban-renewal efforts . . . There was no template to follow. What they were intent on saving wasn't the home of a famous American, like George Washington's Mount Vernon or Thomas Jefferson's Monticello, both in Virginia, and it wasn't famous for a moment in history, like Independence Hall in Philadelphia. Instead, it was a real place, one that celebrated the everyday, simple lives of people who deliberately removed themselves from "the world" and found a measure of freedom and peace by doing so.
(Photo: A typical Shaker workroom by Flickr user contemplative imaging)
Melissa Jacoby (UNC), Daniel McCue, and Eric Belsky (Harvard - Government) have posted In or Out of Mortgage Trouble? A Study of Bankrupt Homeowners (American Bankruptcy Law Journal) on SSRN:
We examine the determinants of missed payments and foreclosure initiation among a national sample of homeowners who filed for personal bankruptcy in 2007, using a rich dataset from the 2007 Consumer Bankruptcy Project.Credit access had a significant effect on keeping mortgages current across all of our models: access to, and reliance on, credit cards reduced the chance of missed payments and default, increasing the likelihood that bankruptcy could produce a fresh start. Missed mortgage payments also were associated with a substantial drop in income and with the use of a mortgage broker. The probability of foreclosure initiation was lower in states with longer foreclosure timelines. We discuss the implications of our findings for consumer credit regulation, bankruptcy reform, and an integrated view of federal bankruptcy law and state foreclosure law.
Friday, November 25, 2011
Davida Finger (Loyola New Orleans) has posted Public Housing in New Orleans Post Katrina: The Struggle for Housing as a Human Right (Review of Black Political Economy) on SSRN. Here's the abstract:
This article reflects on the post-Katrina demolition of public housing communities in New Orleans and associated loss of affordable apartments with a focus on the Columbia Parc redevelopment. Some key issues regarding displacement, race, gender, and public housing policies are referenced throughout. A concluding discussion of advocacy efforts to frame housing as a human right highlights a central, unmet movement demand: one for one replacement of all demolished public housing.
Wednesday, November 23, 2011
An annual repost:
In honor of the holiday, it's fun to recap the argument that private property saved the pilgrims. Benjamin Powell, an economist at Suffolk, tells the story here:
Many people believe that after suffering through a severe winter, the Pilgrims’ food shortages were resolved the following spring when the Native Americans taught them to plant corn and a Thanksgiving celebration resulted. In fact, the pilgrims continued to face chronic food shortages for three years until the harvest of 1623. Bad weather or lack of farming knowledge did not cause the pilgrims’ shortages. Bad economic incentives did.
In 1620 Plymouth Plantation was founded with a system of communal property rights. Food and supplies were held in common and then distributed based on equality and need as determined by Plantation officials. People received the same rations whether or not they contributed to producing the food, and residents were forbidden from producing their own food. . . . Because of the poor incentives, little food was produced.
Faced with potential starvation in the spring of 1623, the colony decided to implement a new economic system. Every family was assigned a private parcel of land. They could then keep all they grew for themselves, but now they alone were responsible for feeding themselves. This change, [the Pilgrims recorded], had very good success, for it made all hands very industrious, so as much more corn was planted than otherwise would have been. Giving people economic incentives changed their behavior. Once the Plymouth Plantation abandoned their communal economic system and adopted one with greater individual property rights, they never again faced the starvation and food shortages of the first three years.
This is a yarn that makes the property-lizard part of my brain start tingling. However, it doesn't really explain how the Indians managed to survive here for thousands and thousands of years.
Again, happy turkey day.
Lee Anne Fennell (Chicago) has posted Ostrom's Law: Property Rights in the Commons (Int'l Journal of the Commons). Here's the abstract:
In this symposium essay, I trace some of the ways that Elinor Ostrom’s focus on situated examples has advanced interdisciplinary dialogue about property as a legal institution and as a human invention for solving practical problems. Although the richness of these contributions cannot be distilled into a single thesis, their flavor can be captured in a maxim I call Ostrom’s Law: A resource arrangement that works in practice can work in theory. I begin by highlighting the attention to detail that characterizes Ostrom’s methodology. I then examine how Ostrom’s scholarship yields insights for, and employs insights from, property theory. Next, I consider the question of scale, an important focal point of Ostrom’s work, and one that carries profound implications for law. I conclude with some observations about interdisciplinarity as it relates to research on the commons.
Tuesday, November 22, 2011
Much media attention is being paid to the roundabouts of Carmel, Indiana. With a whopping 70, Carmel is apparently the roundabout capital of America. The above clip is from Anderson Cooper's show in May 2011 (by the way, Anderson mis-pronounces the name of the city, but the reporter gets it right) and today, The Economist (!) has an article on the same topic. I lived a mile south of Carmel for most of my life and have experienced the roundabouts firsthand. It is a much more pleasant experience driving east/west on 96th Street (which is in Carmel and has roundabouts) than driving the parallel east/west path ten blocks south on 86th Street (which is Indianapolis and doesn't).
Perhaps one reason that the roundabouts work in Carmel is that the typical Hoosier driver is pretty polite. When four cars all stop at a four-way stop at the same time, usually everyone waves everyone else on. I have lived in other parts of the United States (which shall remain nameless) where all four drivers in the same situation would gun their engines simultaneously.
If a low appraisal threatens to scupper your real estate deal, what can you do? Among other strategies, the L.A. Times recommends:
After the appraisal is completed, always ask for a copy to review — it's your right under federal law. If the value comes in low, check everything in the report, including the selection of comps and the accuracy of property measurements. If you find serious mistakes and the appraiser refuses to make corrections, appeal directly to the lender. Most have procedures to follow regarding "reconsiderations of value." Ask for a second valuation by a locally competent appraiser, even if that costs you more money.
For anyone that teaches a transactional law class, this may be of interest; Slate is running a mini-course on basic negotiation skills. The episodes over topics like: Who should make the first offer, schmoozing, dealing with jerks, and closing the deal.
And, just for fun, here's a list of 21 things you should always haggle over.