The Unbounded Home

The Unbounded Home: Property Values Beyond Property Lines

Lee Anne Fennell
Copyright Date: 2009
Published by: Yale University Press
Pages: 256
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt1nprxn
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  • Book Info
    The Unbounded Home
    Book Description:

    The Unbounded Homegrapples with a core modern reality -- that the value and meaning of a home extend beyond its property lines to schools, shops, parks, services, neighbors, neighborhood aesthetics, and market conditions. The resulting tension between the homeowner's desire for personal autonomy at home and the impulse to control everything that could affect the home's value fuels continual conflict among neighbors and communities.

    The home's unbounded nature implicates nearly every facet of residential life, from the financial vulnerability of homeowners to the persistence of segregation by race and class. This book shows how innovations that increase the flexibility of property law can address critical issues of neighborhood control and community composition that have been simmering unresolved for decades -- and how homeownership itself can be reinvented to better deliver on its promises.

    eISBN: 978-0-300-15502-0
    Subjects: Business

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. ACKNOWLEDGMENTS
    (pp. ix-xii)
  4. INTRODUCTION
    (pp. 1-6)

    What does property mean, here and now, in the early twentyfirst-century United States? This book approaches the question by examining a set of problems surrounding our society’s most familiar, important, and emotionally freighted manifestation of property—the home. That the home has evolved as a resource over the past two centuries should not surprise even the most casual observer of social history. In 1790, just over 5 percent of the U.S. population lived in urban areas; by 2000, the figure was 79 percent, and more than 80 percent of the population resided within metropolitan areas.¹ Homeownership rates have also grown...

  5. PART I. PROPERTY OUT OF BOUNDS
    • 1 BEYOND EXCLUSION
      (pp. 9-24)

      The institution of homeownership, despite its familiarity, produces conflicting and even incoherent attitudes. People are shocked to learn that acts like building a fence or painting a door can be prohibited on their own property, but they are equally appalled at the prospect of a high-density development down the block. They are terrified that their beloved home might be taken through eminent domain, yet they are aghast if the city allows local conditions to erode their property values. Homeowners want an ironclad sphere of privacy and autonomy, but they want it wrapped in an environment that they can control in...

    • 2 CONSTRUCTING THE HOME
      (pp. 25-44)

      Consider the residence selection task of a typical homebuyer, Homeria. In evaluating a home, she cares about its layout, construction, curb appeal, square footage, and other physical attributes. But these concerns are hardly primary. Before she even begins house hunting, she has likely narrowed her choices to a particular geographic area based on a complex set of factors usually lumped under the heading of “location.” Buying a home means buying much more than a structure—it also means buying a set of near neighbors, a neighborhood living environment, a particular degree of proximity to points of interest such as one’s...

    • 3 THE COMMONS AND THE ANTICOMMONS
      (pp. 45-64)

      In 1967, Ezra Mishan used the example of gasoline-powered lawnmowers to argue for an “amenity rights” approach to neighborhood spillovers. Mishan observed that the noise produced by a single power ower could disrupt the peace and quiet of dozens of neighbors. Mishan’s solution shifted the balance of power from the oblivious mower operator to the suffering neighbors by granting each of those neighbors the right to be free of the disturbance. If a homeowner wanted to operate a gaspowered mower, she would first have to purchase amenity rights from everyone within earshot. Under such an arrangement, “no man could be...

  6. PART II. SPILLOVERS WITHIN NEIGHBORHOODS
    • 4 MANAGING THE NEIGHBORHOOD COMMONS
      (pp. 67-95)

      In any community, control over resources must be divided somehow between the individual members and the group as a whole. This holds true even in the smallest of communities, the household, as Robert Ellickson’s work has shown.¹ Although household members may share many resources, specific individuals typically have proprietary control over privatized areas, such as particular bedrooms. Even within these spaces, however, the household’s “management” has veto rights over activities that produce spillovers. Thus, a child may correctly assert that a particular bedroom is “his,” even though he lacks the authority to set a fire within it, to crank the...

    • 5 ADAPTIVE OPTIONS
      (pp. 96-120)

      A merchant ship pitches wildly as a raging storm intensifies. Cargo must be jettisoned immediately or the ship will be lost. But whose cargo should be tossed, and how should the owner of the goods be compensated? The law of general average contribution provided elegant answers.¹ Every merchant was required to place a value on her goods. That valuation carried two implications: first, it established the amount that the merchant would be compensated if those goods were lost en route; and second, it determined how the cost of that compensation would be divided among the other merchants whose goods arrived...

  7. PART III. COMMUNITY COMPOSITION
    • 6 ASSOCIATION AND EXCLUSION
      (pp. 123-146)

      Part II considered the interhousehold difficulties that can arisewithina given jurisdiction or neighborhood and explored how entitlements might be designed to address those problems. If we zoom out from this highly localized view to examine an entire metropolitan area, we see similarly structured strategic dilemmas playing outbetweencommunities. Although interjurisdictional conflicts can arise over a variety of issues, the most challenging and controversial of these involve the inclusion and exclusion of residents. In this part, I suggest that associational patterns can amount to resource dilemmas that might be usefully addressed with the theoretical tools of property.

      Homeowners...

    • 7 PROPERTY IN ASSOCIATION
      (pp. 147-170)

      When people buy a home, they also buy proximity to a current and prospective set of neighbors.¹ These associational purchases usually attract little attention. Yet, the resulting pattern of subgroups within a metropolitan area can be inefficient, even tragic.² Two responses to this state of affairs have dominated the public discourse. First is the assertion that the individual decisions of municipalities, private communities, and homebuyers make up a free-market system that produces results that are not only efficient but also essential to personal autonomy. A second, and diametrically opposed, response takes the existence of concentrated poverty, especially when it involves...

  8. PART IV. RECONFIGURING HOMEOWNERSHIP
    • 8 BREAKING UP THE BUNDLE
      (pp. 173-196)

      A few blocks from my home in Chicago stands the Original Rainbow Cone, an ice cream parlor in its eighty-third year that is famous among locals for its quirky namesake treat—five colorful flavors piled atop a single cone. Unsurprisingly, when I go there for ice cream, I am not required to buy an ownership stake in the business. My limited ownership bundle in the cone itself comes with some risks that are primarily under my control—melting mishaps or ice cream headaches—but the larger risks of running the enterprise are wisely left to Rainbow Cone’s owners. Much as...

    • 9 HOMEOWNERSHIP, VERSION 2.0
      (pp. 197-218)

      Altering the risks associated with homeownership is no mere thought experiment. The idea has been around for decades, but academic and popular interest in realizing it on a broader scale has greatly intensified in recent years.¹ The introduction of derivatives markets based on local housing market indexes should soon make it feasible for homeowners to shield themselves from off-site threats to home values and to alienate the appreciation potential attributable to off-site factors. The previous chapter offered a theoretical account of how these sorts of changes in risk-bearing might fit together with this book’s thesis and with other mechanisms for...

  9. CONCLUSION
    (pp. 219-222)

    This book has attempted to shed light on the modern meaning of property ownership by examining its most familiar and contentious manifestation—the home. Interdependent, urban residential life drives a wedge between boundary-focused property templates and the reality of homeownership. With much of the home’s value bound up in off-site factors, homeowners seek ways to expand their sphere of control, even as they resist any diminution in their right to control what happens on their own parcels. The trade-offs are difficult ones for which homeowners have been given neither a useful theoretical framework nor the right practical tools. I have...

  10. NOTES
    (pp. 223-262)
  11. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 263-290)
  12. INDEX
    (pp. 291-298)