Institute for the Study of Law and Urban Justice

Current Investigations Include

Robert Adelman and Robert Granfield along with three law school faculty have been awarded $39,000 by UB's Interdisciplinary Research Development Fund to study residential foreclosures in the city of Buffalo. The study is titled, "The Limits of Ownership: Residential Foreclosure and Its Impact in Buffalo, New York." Residential foreclosures have been on the rise over the last twenty years. Within the context of a sub-prime lending market, and continuing racial and class residential segregation, this trend has ominous implications. We seek to better understand foreclosures, or mortgage defaults, generally, and in Buffalo, New York, specifically. With the assistance of the Buffalo Housing Court, we will interview fifty individuals. Some of these individuals will have experienced a foreclosure, while others will have successfully navigated the Buffalo Housing Court to maintain their property. For both sets of people, we will perform in-depth life-histories that will include special attention to mortgage history and pathways to the Buffalo Housing Court, in addition to an assortment of other factors that may help us understand residential foreclosure. From these case histories, the research team, in association with Buffalo Housing Court personnel and community workers from People United for Sustainable Housing (PUSH), a non-profit community organization working on issues related to housing in Buffalo, will construct a profile of foreclosures and non-foreclosures, and use these data to develop a foreclosure mediation program that will be pilot tested upon the receipt of additional external funds. Without systematic attention to residential foreclosures, and attempts to reduce them, more individuals and families will become vulnerable to the social and economic consequences of the limits of ownership

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"Drug War Casualties Come Home": Robert Granfield, Sociology, principal investigator; Sarah Elder, Media Study; Teresa Miller, Law; Thomas Nochajski, Social Work; and Peter St. Jean, Sociology, co-investigators. This project will investigate how formerly incarcerated individuals develop effective pathways out of drug use, drug addiction and drug trafficking. The researchers plan to develop an intervention strategy for the healthy reintegration of offenders back into their communities.

“Dealing with the Foreclosure Crisis: City Government and Community Response”
Christopher Mele
This project investigates the socioeconomic consequences -- spill-over effects or negative externalities -- of mass foreclosures in cities across the US. Its focus is not on the foreclosure process per se but the destabilizing impact concentrated foreclosures have on communities. Spill-over effects include increased inventories of abandoned or vacant properties, demolitions, building code violations, prolonged situations of ‘legal limbo’ (untidy property deeds, liens, etc.), diminished property tax rolls or unpaid property taxes, blighting effects  (graffiti, property crimes, overgrown lawns, accumulated debris)and additional policing in neighborhoods with vacant homes. Research includes a survey completed in Fall, 2008 on spillover effects related to foreclosures, types of neighborhoods experiencing these problems, and how communities and municipal governments are or are not responding. The survey, a collaborative effort with the National League of Cities, queried over 4,000 municipal government officials and department heads (i.e., city managers, code enforcers, police and fire officials, community development leaders, and city attorneys) from 1,500 small, medium, and large cities across the United States (response rate: 20%). The next stage in the research examines the range of recourse and options available to municipal officials to address the fallout -- various sociolegal practices either already put in place or under consideration by municipalities to address, curtail, and recoup the costs of spillover effects of mass foreclosures. Project funded by the Baldy Center for Law and Social Policy, 2008-2009 and UB 2020 Scholars Fund, 2008-2009.