Homelessness, Property Rights, and Institutional Logics

Working paper 750
Author(s): 
John M. Luiz and James Rycroft
Publication date: 
June, 2018
Classification-JEL: 

We explore whether there is evidence of property rights amongst the homeless, and if so, how these rights are governed. We show that although the homeless are able to derive some value from assets, and can exclude other members of their community, these rights are precarious and dependent upon state agents not seizing the “property” and overriding the community’s rules of the game. The transferring of assets are especially curtailed. We demonstrate the intersectionality of claims with respect to the same physical property from the varying perspectives of the claimants involved and how this differs depending on the property. Homeless people rely on a community logic to develop rules of the game which results in the appearance of a market logic. In the absence of formal institutions effectively operating in their spaces, they have constituted social norms which provide some semblance of property rights which are respected within the group.

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