Resource: Negotiating the (legal) right to the city: Public housing demolition and the federal courts in two postindustrial U.S. cities

By: John N. Robinson III

November 23, 2016

Taylor & Francis Online

Public housing reform has fostered widespread revitalization in American cities. Courts have been critical to this process, but so far urban scholars have not yet closely analyzed this role. This article illuminates how courts participated in reform, sometimes empowering and at other times disempowering tenants. Looking at litigation filed by tenants to fight demolition, I examine how courts framed disputes in legal terms and how the judicial stance on demolition coevolved with national policy debate. In particular, I emphasize how tenants tapped into the ideological power of rights in American society and show that courts never explicitly rejected the notion that tenants held rights against demolition but instead gradually adopted urban planning sensibilities that implicitly denied rights to tenants. Thus, this article reveals the complicated and paradoxical nature of legal rights in the Right to the City struggles.