Vanderbilt Journal of Transnational Law


Ngai Pindell

First Page



Increasing poor people's access to property and shelter in urban settings raises difficult questions over how to define property and, likewise, how to communicate who is entitled to legal property protections. An international movement--the right to the city--suggests one approach to resolving these questions. This Article primarily explores two principles of the right to the city--the social function of property and the social function of the city--to consider how to better achieve social and economic justice for poor people in urban areas. Using Brazil as one example of a country incorporating these principles within constitutional and statutory provisions and employing these principles at the local level through ambitious and innovative property programs, this Article explores the potential application of the right to the city movement in the United States. Such a movement could incrementally advance moral and legal claims to a right to shelter through a more expansive and creative implementation of urban planning laws and land trust programs.