A city foreclosed: Mortgage default, residential abandonment, and property code enforcement in Buffalo, New York
Cooper, Cindy Tyrene
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This project investigated the relationships between mortgage lending practices, residential abandonment, and housing code enforcement in Buffalo, New York. In this local context, unclear and unstable ownership of vacant, dangerous, and valueless property presents a crisis to the regulatory and bureaucratic institutions meant to uphold housing standards and maintain local quality of life. This project focused upon the intersections of certain patterns and practices of these institutions and actors therein. Using data from Housing Court records, title searches, institutional ethnography, and background legal research, this project investigated the institutional histories of fifty-one (51) foreclosed, defaulted and abandoned properties that had been cited for code violations. This study uncovers the contextual and contingent nature of the regulatory state and how socio-legal processes may construct (or in this case, deconstruct) the urban landscape. Key findings include a detailed account of how private mortgage foreclosures and municipal tax foreclosures implicate each other as stakeholders attempt to walk away from valueless properties under the assumption that some other institution will step up in their place. This study presents a new contribution to the fields of urban sociology and socio-legal studies.