Wednesday, June 11, 2003

What is the trend line of privatization? Should we expect the number of private communities, for example, to continue to increase, and for how long? And what about the rate of increase? Should we expect CID housing to constitute an increasing share of the new housing stock, and for how long? I'd say both the number and the rate will increase for the forseeable future. If I'm right about the reasons for the CID revolution, there are three incentives: 1.) Rising land costs lead developers to seek ways to make high density palatable to middle class consumers; 2.) Fiscal problems affecting local governments lead them to permit high levels of CID construction as a "cash cow," because CIDs generate high property tax revenues without demanding much from those revenues in return; 3.) Some consumers like the idea of private government and local control. You can read about this in my article that appeared in Urban Affairs Reveiw. It is located at this link.
I see all of these incentives becoming more powerful. Sprawl, the budget crises affecting many states, and the popularity of gated communities seem to be driving this form of privatization to unprecedented levels.

Tuesday, June 10, 2003

Last night I taught the first class of my summer course on Condo Law (RE 617--Condominiums, Cooperatives, and oOher Forms of Common Ownership Communities) at John Marshall Law School in Chicago. Going over the course content with the students it struck me once again how there is a disconnect between private and public law. I come to this subject from a public law perspective, thinking in terms of municipal and constitutional law, along with civil rights and liberties. But most of the legal authorities in the field--especially the law professors--bring a private law perspective with them, grounded in the law of real property, contracts, and corporations. This second group strenuously resists the intrusions of people like me. I can see why. The values of public and private law differ. The values of public law include equality, for example, while in private law the idea is to protect people's ability to become unequal according to their individual choices. Some get rich, some loose their shirts, and it's all for the greater good. When I was practicing in the field of common interest development law, I was comfortable juggling all these private considerations, such as the language of insurance policies, the liability of real estate developers to home buyers, the powers of associations to make decisions affecting the common property, and so forth. But as a teacher and writer on the subject, I find myself thinking more about the larger values of public law and how the whole CID phenomenon fits into a larger social picture. Seems to me that this disconnect must pose a bigger problem for legislators contemplating issues of CID reform in California and elsewhere.