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The Meaning and Nature of Property: Homeownership and Shared Equity in the Context of Poverty

29 Pages Posted: 6 Aug 2010  

Michael Diamond

Georgetown University Law Center

Date Written: 2009


While a Blackstonian view of property envisaged a "despotic dominion" of an owner over a thing, property has never been so absolute. In fact, as I argue in this paper, the nature of property has been culturally constructed and property means different thinks across cultures and even over time within the same culture. The question of the nature of property was highlighted for me when a student questioned whether equity limitations placed on homes purchased by low income buyers using subsidized public financing created a "second class" form of homeownership.

In attempting to answer this question, I examined the ideas of property and ownership over various cultures and then concentrated on those ideas in the American cultural, legal and political history. After examining the various views of property in America, I examine the reality of property ownership and the restrictions on such ownership in today’s legal and political milieu. I conclude by suggesting that the equity restrictions associated with some publicly financed mortgages are not different in kind from other restrictions on property generally that are widely accepted in society. Finally, I suggest that a concept of property might be broadened to include the reasonable expectations of future potential users. Thus, a recognized principle such as stewardship might give property like entitlements to generations of low income persons who will be seeking decent affordable housing in the future.

Keywords: Home Ownership, Property, Community Development

JEL Classification: D23, K00, K11, R31

Suggested Citation

Diamond, Michael, The Meaning and Nature of Property: Homeownership and Shared Equity in the Context of Poverty (2009). St. Louis University Public Law Review, Vol. 29, pp. 85-112, 2009; Georgetown Public Law Research Paper No. 10-50. Available at SSRN:

Michael R. Diamond (Contact Author)

Georgetown University Law Center ( email )

600 New Jersey Avenue, NW
Washington, DC 20001
United States

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