Chapter 24: Urban property and housing rights in the time of the coronavirus
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The Coronavirus or Covid-19 proliferated in the United States in 2020, and it is the most contagious virus without a vaccine or treatment since the 1918 Spanish Flu. The virus highlights the advantages and the limitations of the dominant 18th Century Anglo-American conception of property ownership, as individualistic, sole dominion, over independent, clearly delineated, parcels of land and space. The emergency and public health tragedy that the Coronavirus has wrought also unveils the contingent nature of ownership, security of tenure, and the right to exclude for the vast majority of American residents. The federal response to this deadly public health crisis has been inadequate to stem the ensuing economic devastation and housing instability. The lack of federal action is its own unique problem, but it also exposes the need for greater social and economic rights in the United States, including security of tenure and a right to housing. New legal realist methodologies can reveal the chasm between the legal and economic crises occurring “on the ground” and the federal and state responses. Scholars and universities working with regional public and private collaborations will be increasingly necessary to develop new legal realist approaches to data development and analysis that will identify inequities and inadequacies in the American response, as well as new property arrangements that will better meet Americans’ future housing needs.

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