Privatizing the Neighborhood: A Proposal to Replace Zoning with Private Collective Property Rights to Existing Neighborhoods

Posted: 7 Dec 1999  

Robert H. Nelson

University of Maryland - School of Public Policy

Abstract

In the past 30 years, community associations and other forms of collective ownership of residential property have spread across the United States, now meeting the housing needs of about 15 percent of all Americans. In almost all cases, the collective ownership instruments have been established by a developer prior to the construction of the housing project. In existing neighborhoods under individual property ownership, municipal zoning has instead served to protect the quality of the neighborhood environment. This article proposes that a new legal instrument be enacted to permit existing neighborhoods to establish collective private property right regimes of their own. Neighborhood property owners could vote -- a supermajority but not unanimity would be required -- to create a private "neighborhood association" to regulate land use and perform other service functions in their area. Before holding such a vote, various conditions would have to be met that would be overseen by a governmental entity.

Suggested Citation

Nelson, Robert H., Privatizing the Neighborhood: A Proposal to Replace Zoning with Private Collective Property Rights to Existing Neighborhoods. George Mason Law Review, Vol. 7, No. 4, Summer 1999. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=187288

Robert H. Nelson (Contact Author)

University of Maryland - School of Public Policy ( email )

College Park, MD 20742-1815
United States
301-405-6345 (Phone)
301-718-4377 (Fax)

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