• Urban Law Bulletin

The Urban Law Bulletin: December 17, 2019

The Urban Law Bulletin is a bi-weekly e-newsletter highlighting significant news and legal developments in the field of urban law.

Housing and Development #housing

How Far Can Cities Go to Police the Homeless? Boise Tests the Limit

Does enforcement against public camping and sleeping violate the Eighth Amendment’s bar on cruel and unusual punishments? In Boise v. Martin, the Ninth Circuit ruled that it was unconstitutional to criminalize the act of sleeping outdoors when shelter space is not realistically available. In August, the city of Boise, Idaho asked the Supreme Court to hear the case, arguing that the Ninth Circuit’s decision could “imperil a host of other public health laws.” This past Monday, the Supreme Court decided not to hear the case, letting the Ninth Circuit’s decision stand.

Homeless people gathering their belongings after a night sleeping outside a daytime drop-in shelter in Boise, Idaho.Credit Kyle Green for The New York Times

Law and Justice #justice

Is Tenants’ Right to Counsel On Its Way to Becoming Standard Practice?

In the two years since New York City guaranteed legal representation for tenants facing eviction, four cities have joined in offering similar tenant support. John Pollack, coordinator of the National Coalition for a Civil Right to Counsel, argues for “right to counsel” laws for tenants in cities in order to respond to the “‘eviction mill problem’” these cities are facing.

(Photo by Linh Do / CC BY 2.0)

Law and Justice #justice

California city sued for alleged housing discrimination

The U.S. Department of Justice filed a lawsuit against Hesperia, California alleging that a city ordinance, otherwise known as the “Crime Free Rental Housing Program,” discriminates against African American and Latino renters in violation of the Fair Housing Act. The ordinance requires “landlords to evict tenants who had allegedly committed crimes on or near their property” and the lawsuit alleges that the ordinance aims to “drive minorities out of the city.”


City Administration and Urban Governance #administration

When Cities Don’t Accept Cash for Public Services

Several cities, such as Washington D.C. and Houston, are considering cash bans on transit systems and other public services in an effort to combat inefficiency and improve security. These proposals have been met with pushback from advocates for low-income communities, who argue that cash bans “discriminate against low-income and [the] elderly…[who] are more likely to be unbanked or underbanked.

New York City's transit agency recently rolled out their OMNY system to encourage riders to use contactless payments. Brendan McDermid/Reuters

Scholarship Corner #scholarship

"[B]ecause some owners choose to exit private sector programs . . . it remains unclear what the mandated length of these affordability restriction periods should be . . . housing advocates have increased calls for ‘permanent affordability’ requirements on housing developments that receive any form of public subsidy. Permanent affordability means mandating affordability restrictions on a property, or the land on which it is developed, that run in perpetuity — unless the governing agency agrees to release the property from its affordability contract. This Article discusses the role and length of such affordability restrictions, and the potential benefits and challenges associated with mandating permanent affordability."

Vincent J. Reina, Affordable Housing, but for How Long? The Opportunity and Challenge of Mandating Permanently Affordable Housing, 46 Fordham Urb. L.J. 1267, 1268-69 (2019).

Now Available: Selected Papers from The Fifth Annual International and Comparative Urban Law Conference

Selected Papers from The Fifth Annual International and Comparative Urban Law Conference is a collection of works presented at the International and Comparative Urban Law Conference held at Mackenzie Presbyterian University in São Paulo, Brazil from June 21-22, 2018 in partnership between the Urban Law Center at Fordham University School of Law, Mackenzie Presbyterian University, and MackCidade, with UN-Habitat co-sponsorship. This conference provided a dynamic forum for urban law and policy scholars to engage in comparative and interdisciplinary dialogue on present intersections between cities and law. The selected papers address topics of urban law such as the structure and functions of local authority and autonomy, urban and metropolitan governance, finance and urban political economy, housing and the built environment, migration and citizenship, and sustainability, climate change and resilience. The e-book is now available on the Urban Law Center’s website here.

Selected Papers from the Fifth Annual International and Comparative Urban Law Conference (Belo Horizonte: Fórum, 2020).


We thank the Urban Law Center’s Urban Law Student Fellows for assisting in preparation of The Bulletin, which provides news in major areas of urban law, and categorizes the stories as follows:

· City Administration and Urban Governance #administration

· City-State Relations and Preemption #preemption

· Diversity, Equality, and Inclusion #equality

· Environment and Sustainability #sustainability

· Housing and Development #housing

· International/Global Urban Law #international

· Law and Justice #justice

· Public Health #health

· Technology #technology

· Transportation and Infrastructure #transportation

· Urban Mobility #mobility

· Urban Planning and Space #planning


If you have an article, legal decision, or commentary that you would like to share in an upcoming Bulletin, please email it to urbanlaw@fordham.edu.

Subscribe to The Urban Law Bulletin here.


The Urban Law Center at Fordham University School of Law

Nestor M. Davidson

Faculty Director, Urban Law Center

Geeta Tewari

Associate Director, Urban Law Center


Urban Law Student Fellow Contributors

Quinn D’Isa

Justin Meshulam

Haleigh Zillges

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