New Article: Margaret F. Brinig & Nicole Stelle Garnett, A Room of One’s Own? Accessory Dwelling Unit Reforms and Local Parochialism, 45 Urb. Lawyer 519 (2013). Abstract below:
Over the past decade, a number of state and local governments have amended land use regulations to permit the accessory dwelling units (“ADUs”) on single-family lots. Measured by raw numbers of reforms, the campaign to secure legal reforms permitting ADUs appears to be a tremendous success. The question remains, however, whether these reforms overcome the well-documented land-use parochialism that has, for decades, represented a primary obstacle to increasing the supply of affordable housing. In order to understand more about their actual effects, this Article examines ADU reforms in a context which ought to predict a minimal level of local parochialism. In 2002, California enacted state-wide legislation mandating that local governments either amend their zoning laws to permit ADUs in single-family zones or accept the imposition of a state-dictated regulatory regime. We carefully examined the zoning law of all California cities with populations over 50,000 people (150 total cities) to determine how local governments actually implemented ADU reforms “on the ground” after the state legislation was enacted. Our analysis suggests that the seeming success story masks hidden local regulatory barriers. Local governments have responded to local political pressures by delaying the enactment of ADU legislation (and, in a few cases, simply refusing to do so despite the state mandate), imposing burdensome procedural requirements that are contrary to the spirit, if not the letter, of the state-law requirement that ADUs be permitted “as of right,” requiring multiple off-street parking spaces, and imposing substantive and procedural design requirements. Taken together, these details likely dramatically suppress the value of ADUs as a means of increasing affordable housing.
I have been resisting posting this for a while because I wanted to finish reading it, and with 5 long articles, it is a long series. But it is worth reading! I plan on using it in my housing law class and suggesting it in my poverty law class.
Andrea Elliot, Invisible Child, New York Times, Dec. 2013, http://nytimes.com/invisiblechild.
(As an aside, Bloomburg’s response is here.)
Annie Lowrey, Few Places to Go, New York Times, Dec. 9, 2013, Few Places to Go – NYTimes.com [article about how high rent burdens are impacting poor people].
NOTE: In order to do a better job getting material on the website, I am going to try a new tool that will alter somewhat the format of some posts but will make updating the page quicker.
New Article: Rachel D. Godsil, The Gentrification Trigger: Autonomy, Mobility, and Affirmatively Furthering Fair Housing, 78 Brooklyn L. Rev. 319 (2013). Abstract below:
Gentrification connotes a process where often white “outsiders” move into areas in which once attractive properties have deteriorated due to disinvestment. Gentrification creates seemingly positive outcomes, including increases in property values, equity, and a city’s tax base, as well as greater residential racial and economic integration; yet it is typically accompanied by significant opposition. In-place residents fear that they will either be displaced or even if they remain the newcomers will change the culture and practices of the neighborhood. Gentrification then is understood to cause a loss of community and autonomy – losses that have been well recognized in the eminent domain literature.
This article focuses on gentrifying neighborhoods that were abandoned during the government sponsored suburban migration of the 1950s through the 1980s. Racially discriminatory practices of government and private actors often denied Black and Latino families the option either to join the migration to the suburbs or to maintain their homes in city neighborhoods. This article argues that in-place residents of now gentrifying neighborhoods should have access to rental vouchers or low-interest loans to restore the autonomy they were previously denied, providing them with viable, self-determining options to remain or exit the neighborhood. Such a remedy – which is consistent with the Fair Housing Act’s obligation to HUD and its grantees to “affirmatively further fair housing” – has the potential to alter the political terrain of gentrification.
New Article: Adam J. Levitin & Susan M. Wachter, The Public Option in Housing Finance, 46 UC Davis L. Rev. 1111 (2013). Abstract below:
The U.S. housing finance system presents a conundrum for the scholar of regulation because it defies description using the traditional regulatory vocabulary of command-and-control, taxation, subsidies, cap-and-trade permits, and litigation. Instead, since the New Deal, the housing finance market has been regulated primarily by government participation in the market through a panoply of institutions. The government’s participation in the market has shaped the nature of the products offered in the market. We term this form of regulation “public option” regulation.
This Article presents a case study of this “public option” as a regulatory mode. It explains the public option’s rise as a governmental gap-filling response to market failures. The public option, however, took on a life of its own as the federal government undertook financial innovations that the private market had eschewed, in particular the development of the “American mortgage” — a long-term, fixed-rate fully amortizing mortgage. These innovations were trend-setting and set the tone for entire housing finance market, serving as functional regulation.
The public option was never understood as a regulatory system due to its ad hoc nature. As a result, its integrity was not protected. Key parts of the system were privatized without a substitution of alternative regulatory measures. The consequence was a return to the very market failures that led to the public option in the first place, followed by another round of ad hoc public options in housing finance. This history suggests that an awareness of the public option regulatory mode in housing finance is in fact critical to its long-term success, and that the public option is a well- pedigreed regulatory mode that has historically been associated with stable housing finance markets.
New Article: Nestor Davidson, New Formalism in the Aftermath of the Housing Crisis, 93 B.U. L. Rev. 389 (2013). Abstract below:
The housing crisis has left in its wake an ongoing legal crisis. After housing markets began to collapse across the country in 2007, foreclosures and housing-related bankruptcies surged significantly and have barely begun to abate more than six years later. As the legal system has confronted this aftermath, courts have increasingly accepted claims by borrowers that lenders and other entities involved in securitizing mortgages failed to follow requirements related to perfecting and transferring their security interests. These cases – which focus variously on issues such as standing, real party in interest, chains of assignment, the negotiability of mortgage notes, and the like – signal renewed formality in nearly every aspect of the resolution of mortgage distress. This new formalism in the aftermath of the housing crisis represents something of an ironic turn in the jurisprudence. From the earliest history of the mortgage, lenders have had a tendency to invoke the clear, sharp edges of law, while borrowers in distress have often resorted to equity for forbearance. The post-crisis caselaw thus upends the historical valence of lender-side formalism and borrower-side flexibility.
Building on this insight, this Article makes a normative and a theoretical claim. Normatively, while scholars have largely embraced the new formalism for the accountability it augurs, this consensus ignores the trend’s potential negative consequences. Lenders have greater resources than consumers to manage the technical aspects of mortgage distress litigation over the long run, and focusing on formal requirements may distract from responding to deeper substantive and structural questions that still remain largely unaddressed more than a half decade into the crisis. Equally telling, from a theoretical perspective, the new formalism sheds light on the perennial tension between law’s supposed certainty and equity’s flexibility. The emerging jurisprudence underscores the contingency of property and thus reinforces – again, ironically – pluralist conceptions of property even in the crucible of hard-edged formalism.
Editor’s Note: though some of the paper is more for property folks than pure poverty profs, it does a good job of summarizing borrower-side post-crisis litigation strategies used to defend against foreclosure.