Category Archives: Urban Issues

Article: Now is the Time: Challenging Resegregation and Displacement in the Age of Hypergentrification

Article: Bethany Y. Li, Now is the Time: Challenging Resegregation and Displacement in the Age of Hypergentrification, 85 Fordham L. Rev. 1189 (2016).

Gentrification is reaching a tipping point of resegregating urban space in global cities like New York and San Francisco, often spurred by seemingly neutral government policies. The displacement resulting from gentrification forces low-income people from their homes into areas of concentrated poverty. Low-income communities consequently lose space, place, social capital, and cultural wealth that residents and small businesses have spent decades building up. This Article argues that communities at this tipping point must integrate litigation strategies directly aimed at stemming the adverse impacts of gentrification. Community organizing is integral to antidisplacement efforts, but litigation—and its injunctive powers—should play a larger role in protecting residents in hypergentrified neighborhoods. Using a rezoning that spurred gentrification in New York City’s Chinatown and Lower East Side as a case study, this Article considers how the Fair Housing Act, state constitutions, and a new vision of property law could counter the negative and often racially discriminatory effects of gentrification on low-income communities.

Article: Spaces for Sharing: Micro Units Amid the Shift from Ownership to Access

Article: John Infranca, Spaces for Sharing: Micro Units Amid the Shift from Ownership to Access, 43 Fordham Urb. L.J. (forthcoming).

This article, written for the Fordham Urban Law Journal’s symposium entitled Sharing Economy, Sharing City: Urban Law and the New Economy, explores the interaction between the sharing or peer-to-peer economy and new forms of housing, particularly micro-units. Certain components of the sharing economy, such as car sharing and co-working, rely on sufficient demand, typically produced by residents within close proximity to an asset-hub. Trade in the idle capacity of privately-owned goods frequently depends upon potential users sufficiently nearby to render sharing convenient. Land use regulations that permit development of micro-units may increase density to levels that better support a sharing economy infrastructure. The sharing economy is also frequently invoked to explain consumer demand for such units – as potential residents choose to forego space and rely on shared resources. Developers have sought to make micro-units more attractive to potential residents by providing access, sometimes on-site, to car and bicycle sharing. Such resources also may ease worries of neighbors concerned about increased density and some local governments have begun to consider the provision of sharing economy infrastructure in the land use approval process. In addition, certain new forms of residential development more expressly incorporate a culture of sharing and at times explicitly identify as a component of the sharing economy.

This article sketches out some of the theoretical and practical implications of the relationship between micro-units and housing more generally and the sharing economy. Even as many micro-unit residents embrace the sharing economy to complement their small living spaces, these units provide residents with an alternative to perhaps the simplest form of contemporary property sharing – living with roommates. They represent a turn away from certain informal sharing of property (kitchen items and food, living room furniture, music and book collections) towards more formal sharing through the peer-to-peer economy. The new exchanges of personal property facilitated by the sharing economy thereby simultaneously enable the increased privatization of an individual’s residence.

As the sharing economy reshapes cities it is also changing the types of housing demanded by urban residents. This article suggests that as cities revise existing regulations to respond to both the growing demand for micro-units and the expanding role of the sharing economy in urban areas, they should more carefully consider the potential synergies between these phenomena.

News Coverage of Supreme Court’s decision in Bank of America v. Miami

Here: New York Times, Washington Post, Miami Herald (AP), and the decision itself is here.

Article: Housing Defense as the New Gideon

Article: Kathryn A. Sabbeth, Housing Defense as the New Gideon, 43 Harv. J. L. & Gender (forthcoming).

New York City is poised to become the first jurisdiction in the United States to guarantee a right to counsel for poor people at risk of losing their homes. Although millions of Americans are evicted every year, until recently, scholars and policymakers largely ignored the eviction phenomenon. New research demonstrates the frequency of eviction and the breadth of its economic and social impacts on individuals, their families, and society at large. Relying on studies showing that housing defense lawyers decrease eviction rates and promote positive social outcomes, NYC legislators concluded that a right to housing defense counsel would be both morally right and cost-effective. They introduced Intro 214-A to establish such a right and, in February 2017, the NYC mayor announced that his administration will provide the funds the bill needs to move forward. This Article is the first to analyze this ground-breaking legislation.

The right to appointment of criminal defense counsel recognized in Gideon v. Wainwright grew out of the Supreme Court’s response to the Civil Rights Movement. Using NYC’s housing defense bill as a case study, this Article identifies three ways in which the civil right to counsel has the potential to build on the Gideon model and expand it for today. First, in targeting the secondary effects of the eviction phenomenon, the NYC legislature moves beyond procedure to promote substantive outcomes. Second, its focus on housing defense recognizes a set of concerns that disproportionately impact Black women, thus building on the racial equality aims underlying Gideon and adding a move toward gender equality. Third, whereas the criminal defense model defends individuals against state power, the new bill applies to tenants of public and private landlords, thus checking abuses of private power.

The Article also addresses the dynamics of defensive lawyering, a feature of both the old and the new models of appointment of counsel. Defensive lawyering suffers from systemic limitations and fails to challenge social problems that could be addressed through affirmative suits—such as discrimination, harassment, and unsafe conditions. The availability of counterclaims in civil litigation, however, makes the civil defensive position more flexible than its criminal cousin, and may overcome some of these limits. The Article concludes that the new right to counsel holds significant promise.

Article: Racial Subjugation by Another Name? Using the Links in the School-to-Prison Pipeline to Reassess State Takeover District Performance

Article: Steven L. Nelson, Racial Subjugation by Another Name? Using the Links in the School-to-Prison Pipeline to Reassess State Takeover District Performance, 9 Geo. J. L. & Mod. Crit. Race Persp. (2017).

The state takeover of locally governed schools in predominately black communities has not disrupted the racial subjugation of black people in the United States. Using proportional analyses and the cities of Detroit, Memphis, and New Orleans as sites, the researcher finds that state takeover districts have not consistently disrupted the school-to-prison pipeline for black students in urban settings. Furthermore, the researcher found little evidence that would support broader and more intentional efforts to combat the over disciplining of black students in the United States Department of Education’s proposed rules for implementing the Every Student Succeeds Act, the most recent reauthorization of the Elementary and Secondary Education Act. In fact, the legislation perpetuates strategies that have aided the creation of the school-to-prison pipeline and supplies only strong recommendations to replace strategies that have compounded the harm of the school-to-prison pipeline. This finding is important in the context of education reform, particularly as researchers begin to question the motives and results of contemporary education reform. Moreover, this work is important to the current scholarly discussions that consider the many civil rights that black communities are required to exchange for the prospect of better schools.

Article: Rights and Queues: On Distributive Contests in the Modern State

Article: Katharine G. Young, Rights and Queues: On Distributive Contests in the Modern State, 55 Colum. J. Transnt’l L. 65 (2016).

Two legal concepts have become fundamental to questions of resource allocation in the modern state: rights and queues. As rights are increasingly recognized in areas such as housing, health care, or immigration law, so too are queues used to administer access to the goods, services, or opportunities that realize such rights, especially in conditions of scarcity. This Article is the first to analyze the concept of queues (or temporal waiting lines or lists) and their ambivalent, interdependent relation with rights. After showing the conceptual tension between rights and queues, the Article argues that queues and “queue talk” present a unique challenge to rights and “rights talk.” In exploring the currency of rights and queues in both political and legal terms, the Article illustrates how participants discuss and contest the right to housing in South Africa, the right to health care in Canada, and the right to asylum in Australia. It argues that, despite its appearance in very different ideological and institutional settings, the political discourse of “queues” and especially “queue jumping” commonly invokes misleading distinctions between corruption and order, markets and bureaucracies, and governments and courts. Moreover, queue talk obscures the first-order questions on which resource allocations in housing, health care, or immigration contexts must rely. By bringing much-needed complexity to the concept of “queues,” the Article explores ways in which general principles of allocative fairness may be both open to contestation and yet supportive of basic claims of rights.

Article: Demosprudence on Trial: Ethics for Movement Lawyers, in Ferguson and Beyond

Article: Justin Hansford, Demosprudence on Trial: Ethics for Movement Lawyers, in Ferguson and Beyond, 85 Fordham L. Rev. 101 (2017).

A complex, dynamic, and creative tension endures between law and social movements. Not only can law affect and even help from social movements, but social movements can affect and even help form law. Just as jurisprudence is the study of how judges make law, demosprudence is the study and practice of how social movements can also affect change through the law.

This Article explores how movement lawyers can use demosprudence to promote social change outside of the courtroom. It uses the civil rights movement and the Black Lives Matter movement in Ferguson as examples. By applying this framework to the movement lawyering context, movement lawyers can adapt to the void in voice created by the vanishing trial in civil litigation and still help the movement.

Note: The Misguided Appeal of a Minimally Adequate Education

Note: The Misguided Appeal of a Minimally Adequate Education, 130 Harv. L. Rev. 1458 (2017).

Series: The New Face of American Unemployment

Series: Jeanna Smialek and Patricia Laya, The New Face of American Unemployment, Bloomberg (2017).

News Article: Hard Lessons From Chicago’s Public Housing Reform

News Article: Susan J. Popkin, Hard Lessons From Chicago’s Public Housing Reform, CityLab (Feb. 7, 2017).