The New Progressive Property and the Low-Income Housing Conflict

BYU Law Review, Volume 2012, Issue 4, p. 1109 (2012)

56 Pages Posted: 18 Nov 2013

See all articles by Zachary Bray

Zachary Bray

University of Kentucky - College of Law

Date Written: December 1, 2012


The foundation of property law has been much debated in recent years, as several scholars have sought to provide a theoretical alternative to what they call the dominant, “law-and-economics” approach to property. In place of the law-and-economics approach, these scholars advance a new theoretical approach, which I call “the new progressive property.” At its core, this new approach favors rules thought to promote the collective well-being of the larger community while ensuring that relatively disadvantaged members of society have access to certain basic resources. This Article explores the boundaries and practical implications of the new progressive property. To do so, I focus on two potential examples of this theoretical approach related to low-income housing: the federal Section 8 housing voucher program and local rent-control ordinances. I argue that Section 8 is a better example than rent control of the new progressive-property approach, even though rent control has previously been identified as a practical example of the new progressive property and Section 8 has not.

I then turn to examine a deep conflict at the intersection of Section 8 and rent control, which presents an important opportunity to further test and refine the new progressive property. In particular, I argue that this underexamined low-income housing conflict provides good reasons to abandon rent control, even from a progressive-property perspective. In addition, the low-income housing conflict between Section 8 and rent control sheds light on the ambiguous relationship between law-and-economics analysis and the progressive-property framework. More specifically, I argue that the conflict between rent control and Section 8 demonstrates that even the most basic law-and-economics tools must be incorporated into a progressive-property framework to achieve the ends of the new progressive property.

Keywords: land use, property, law and economics, virtue ethics, Aristotle, Demsetz, progressive property, progressive theory, housing vouchers, voucher program, housing assistance

Suggested Citation

Bray, Zachary Andrew, The New Progressive Property and the Low-Income Housing Conflict (December 1, 2012). BYU Law Review, Volume 2012, Issue 4, p. 1109 (2012), Available at SSRN:

Zachary Andrew Bray (Contact Author)

University of Kentucky - College of Law ( email )

620 S. Limestone Street
Lexington, KY 40506-0048
United States
(859) 257-1783 (Phone)


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