17 Cornell J. L. & Pub. Pol'y 1 (2007-2008)
Absentee Landlords, Rent Control and Healthy Gentrification: A Policy Proposal to Deconcentrate the Poor in Urban America

handle is hein.journals/cjlpp17 and id is 7 raw text is: ABSENTEE LANDLORDS, RENT CONTROL AND
HEALTHY GENTRIFICATION: A POLICY
PROPOSAL TO DECONCENTRATE THE
POOR IN URBAN AMERICA
Jorge 0. Elorza*
ABSTRACT
Empirical data overwhelmingly suggests that the presence of mid-
dle- and working-class homeowners is beneficial for inner-city communi-
ties. Yet, absentee landlords have a systematic financial advantage over
resident landlords when it comes to purchasing homes in blighted neigh-
borhoods. This advantage has disastrous effects for inner cities, as the
communities with the greatest need for the stabilizing presence of mid-
dle- and working-class homeowners are the ones least likely to attract
them. The lack of in-moving homeowners and the resulting increase in
poverty cause declining neighborhoods to fall deeper into downward
spirals.
In this Article, I propose a rent control plan designed to attract
middle- and working- class homeowners to blighted neighborhoods, and
I argue that many positive outcomes will result. By designing this plan, I
hope to challenge the conventional wisdom that rent control has only one
legitimate purpose, reducing tenants' rents, and call attention to the ex-
ternalities caused by the absentee landlord industry. Second, I provide a
legal and economic model for inner cities to deconcentrate poverty and
to better integrate the poor into mainstream society. Third, I develop a
model for healthy gentrification whereby vicious cycles of poverty are
transformed into virtuous cycles of stability.
A B STR A C T  ..................................................  1
INTRODUCTION      .............................................  3
I. UNDERSTANDING URBAN INSTABILITY ...........               5
* Assistant Professor of Law, Roger Williams University School of Law. B.S., Univer-
sity of Rhode Island; J.D., Harvard Law School. I would like to express my deep gratitude to
Duncan Kennedy and Colleen Murphy for their helpful comments. I also benefited from the
comments of Emilie Benoit, Jeffrey Dana, Jared Goldstein, Andrew Horwitz, James Huguley,
Bruce Kogan, Timothy Kuhner, George Nnona, Nicolas Retsinas, Leticia Tejada, and David
Zlotnick. I would also like to thank my able and diligent research assistants Timothy Cavazza,
Katherine Johnston, Michael McMillen, and Rikin Mehta. This research was generously sup-
ported by a RWU SoL Summer Research Grant.

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