Freeing the City to Compete

25 Pages Posted: 24 Jul 2017 Last revised: 5 Nov 2017

Date Written: July 20, 2017


In this paper, I examine how the rights of owners, lenders and residents threaten the functioning of real markets in distressed urban neighborhoods, perpetuating the pall that vacant and abandoned houses cast over their future. Even a single abandoned house can present an example of how the rights of several stakeholders create a form of gridlock known as anticommons, which isolates that property from a potentially transformative transfer of title. In addition to this legal anticommons, some neighborhoods are so beset by vacant property problems that they require coordination of investment that is frustrated by both the multiplicity of private ownership interests and the rights of the residents to be protected against forced relocation. Ultimately, these costs of moving communities forward to a more viable future can prevent them from going anywhere. In confronting transaction costs through title assembly as well as "soft" and "hard" varieties of land assembly, cities are acting to confront historic burdens that make development and provision of public goods more challenging on urban land.

Keywords: Vacant properties, urban neighborhoods, code enforcement, tax foreclosure, vacant house receivership, land banking, eminent domain

Suggested Citation

Kelly, James J., Freeing the City to Compete (July 20, 2017). Chicago-Kent Law Review, Vol. 92, No. 2, p. 569 (2017), Available at SSRN:

James J. Kelly (Contact Author)

Notre Dame Law School ( email )

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

Do you have a job opening that you would like to promote on SSRN?

Paper statistics

Abstract Views
PlumX Metrics