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Market Price, Social Price, and the Right to the City: Land Taxes and Rates for City Services in Brazil and the United States

Alan M. White
The University of Miami Inter-American Law Review
Vol. 44, No. 2 (Spring 2013), pp. 313-335
Stable URL: http://www.jstor.org/stable/23645598
Page Count: 23
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Market Price, Social Price, and the Right to the City: Land Taxes and Rates for City Services in Brazil and the United States
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Abstract

Brazil's 1988 Constitution and 2001 City Statute explicitly adopt the concept of a right to the city articulated by French philosopher Henri Lefebvre. As residents of Rio de Janeiro's informal self-constructed communities achieve success in their struggle for legalization and citizenship, they are confronted with the high market price of property ownership. Willing to pay for city services according to their ability, they argue for a social price, rather than a market price, for city services, to prevent their inevitable displacement. While Brazil has the legal tools in place, it is unclear whether, and if so how, the idea of a social price will take hold for residents of newly "regularized" settlements. The city and state have responded to the argument for a social price with a variety of measures, hesitating between a true social price and the imperatives of the market. In the United States, cities have grappled, on an informal and largely ad hoc basis, with the social-price issue. A variety of tax abatements, transfers, and utility rate programs exist at the state and municipal government level to address the reality that market pricing of city services will drive the poor out of the city center, where their labor and social communities are either needed or at least tolerated. While the concept of a right to the city, and of social pricing, are foreign to United States law and the neoliberal consensus, the catalog of these programs reveals a certain recognition of an inchoate right to an affordable city, in continual opposition to the rules of the market.

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