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April 24, 2024

Letter from the Board: The Housing Crisis

By the Dispute Resolution Magazine Editorial Board

In December 2023, the United Nations celebrated seventy-five years since the Universal Declaration of Human Rights (UDHR) was established. It enshrined the right to adequate and affordable housing as an international human right. In 1948, forty-eight countries signed on to the UDHR and over fifty more have joined in the decades since. In the United States, homeownership has long since been viewed as path to stability and a way to pass along generational wealth.

Despite this fact, newsfeeds abound with stories warning about a shortage of affordable housing throughout the United States and Europe. Often, communities of color are the hardest impacted. In recent years, there has been a shift from individual homeowners to giant real estate corporations owning and controlling a staggering portion of the housing inventory. In most instances, there has been an increase in rents, worsening the housing crunch. It has become a commonly accepted fact that homeownership is out of reach for Generation Z and rents are too high for them to live independently. As a result, many Generation Z’ers continue to live at home with their parents. In major cities around the world, there is a proliferation of homeless encampments in parks and other public spaces because there is a lack of safe and affordable housing. The problem has become so acute in the United States that the U.S. Supreme Court is set to decide, in City of Grants Pass v. Johnson, whether the homeless can be fined or criminally charged for living or sleeping outdoors when there's no shelter or housing available.

The totality of these circumstances would suggest that a housing crisis clearly exists. How shall the dispute resolution field respond?

The last time we experienced a housing crisis was during COVID when a significant portion of the workforce lost their jobs and could not afford to pay their mortgages or rents. Federal and state programs established eviction and foreclosure moratoriums and diversion programs to try to stem a crisis within a crisis. Prior to COVID, the 2008 housing crisis stimulated the creation of foreclosure mediation programs throughout the United States. In both instances, we were forced to look at creative options.

Currently in the United States, the Biden Administration has proposed a rule that would require landlords who accept federal subsidies to provide thirty days written notice to tenants before filing an eviction in court. In some individual states, jurisdictions continue programs that addressed previous housing crises.

Nevertheless, we, the Editorial Board, believe that given this crisis, we should further examine the depths of it and explore creative options to address and resolve it.

In this issue, we cover pre-filing eviction mediation programs through an article by Margaret Huang and view eviction diversion programs through a public health lens with Deanna Parrish's article. We also take a retrospective look at Connecticut's Foreclosure Mediation Program in an interview with the Honorable Douglas Mintz (ret.). And, finally, we explore the obstacles to passing along of generational wealth through April Simpson's article on shared ownership of property by the descendants of African American landowners.

We hope you enjoy the articles as much as we did!

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