Just, Smart: Civil Rights Protections and Market-Sensitive Vacant Property Strategies

Center for Community Progress (2014)

Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 1439

19 Pages Posted: 13 Sep 2014 Last revised: 17 Jan 2016

Date Written: September 10, 2014

Abstract

This essay, prepared for and published by the Center for Community Progress, a national, non-profit intermediary dedicated to developing effective, sustainable solutions to turn vacant, abandoned and problem properties into vibrant places, examines the legal and normative implications of local governments' use of neighborhood real estate market data to strategically focus vacant property remediation tools. I and other writers, such as Frank Alexander, Alan Mallach and Joseph Schilling, have argued for the importance of understanding the economic feasibility of market-based rehabilitation of derelict, vacant houses in making decisions as to how and when to use a variety of code enforcement, tax foreclosure and land banking mechanisms.

Part I of this essay explains how treating vacant properties in similar states of disrepair differently because of the condition of the properties around them appears to constitute, at least in the short term, vigilant support for healthy neighborhoods and acquiescence to continuing decline in more distressed areas. Because the distressed areas in many of the cities dealing with long-term vacant property problems are far more likely to have high percentages of African-American residents, the first part examines the scope and evidentiary standards of the relevant civil rights law, including the Fourteenth Amendment's Equal Protection Clause, 42 U.S.C. ยง1982 and the Fair Housing Act.

Part II concludes by outlining recommendations for local jurisdictions looking to create a substantively just and legally compliant approach to vacant property remediation that takes advantage of market-sensitive strategies.

Keywords: vacant houses, code enforcement, land banking, civil rights, equal protection, 42 USC 1982, Fair Housing Act, neighborhood markets, housing, racial discrimination

JEL Classification: H77

Suggested Citation

Kelly, James J., Just, Smart: Civil Rights Protections and Market-Sensitive Vacant Property Strategies (September 10, 2014). Center for Community Progress (2014); Notre Dame Legal Studies Paper No. 1439. Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=2494810 or http://dx.doi.org/10.2139/ssrn.2494810

James J. Kelly (Contact Author)

Notre Dame Law School ( email )

P.O. Box 780
Notre Dame, IN 46556-0780
United States

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