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Urban renewal in one step: allow homesteaders to take possession of abandoned properties. Settlers obtain legal title to the property after paying property taxes for five years (or whatever is customary in common law). What are the political obstacles to such a plan?

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COMMENTS (6 to date)
vikingvista writes:

1. Determination of "abandoned", particularly in a property tax-free regime.

2. In urban areas, squatters are sometimes legion. This would likely often be the case before anyone even considered applying for official homesteading. Who gets awarded the property, first squatter or first claimant?

3. Bad incentives for politicians to confiscate non-abandoned property and award it selectively to political allies.

I agree homesteading of abandoned property is a peaceful (and so natural) way of acquiring property. But there can be a lot of imprecision in the factual determination of abandonment and first claims. It would probably work better to let squatters, new claimants, and old claimants work it out among themselves through interpersonal negotiation without having government back with force a particular party. Particularly in urban areas, there would likely be considerable transparency and extensive private institutional involvement in these situations to aid in peaceful determinations consistent with established norms.

And although someone might protest that it is unfair, e.g., to have to pay off squatters to get them to leave her property, it may be considerably cheaper and safer than employing a government for property protection services.

SG writes:

The concept you're looking for is adverse possession, and in Michigan you need to occupy the property continuously for 15 years.

Dan W. writes:

A large political problem is the current inner city dependents would squawk about having new competition and this would divide Democratic interests. Consider that in Maryland the liberal Governor rejected the Fed's plan to ship illegals to a rural part of his state. O'Malley said placing them there would subject them to discrimination from the "conservative" residents (a cheap political shot if you ask me). Odd thing is O'Malley, who originally advocated caring for the illegals, did not offer to move them to Baltimore city. It is a shame no one questioned him about doing this. What reason would he have given for not supporting such action?

Richard Besserer writes:

This assumes the abandoned properties are otherwise desirable. A natural question then is why they would remain abandoned for any length of time.

I doubt that many cities that would be tempted by this arrangement are places where many immigrants would be tempted to settle for long. Nobody with the ambition in life to move to the United States at all will be content to live in a half-abandoned Detroit neighbourhood for any longer than he can get away with.

Hazel Meade writes:

A lot of abandoned property is owned by the government due to unpaid tax leins, which makes it ineligible for adverse possession. Rather unfairly, the doctrine only applies to private property.

And the government doesn't like to give away property it owns.

Your main political opponent is the state.

Matthew Whited writes:

What are you considering abandoned? There are plenty of bank owned properties that were technically abandoned by the "owner". Just because a house isn't currently occupied doesn't mean it isn't owned by someone. We can't allow a claim of ownership to be transferred simply based on vacancy.

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