“The city is an apartment house”: property, improvement and dispossession in early twentieth-century Halifax, Nova Scotia

“In early twentieth-century Halifax, municipal policies of property taxation and assessment became an important object of political discussion and contestation. Central to these political contests was a particular, theoretically informed distinction between “land” and “improvements.” This distinction would ultimately ground a set of changes in municipal taxation and assessment (introduced between 1914 and 1918) and would help to constitute a new and consequential logic of state action within property relations. Drawing on the literature on property “enactment,” this article examines how early twentieth-century struggles over municipal taxation and assessment reshaped the prevailing understanding of real property in the city of Halifax.

Consistent with existing research, I demonstrate how a new perspective on property—including a new distinction between land and improvements—gradually came into being through a series of performances, practices and material devices. Embedded within this new perspective, crucially, was a specific logic of dispossession, a new and calculative rationale for the expropriation and redevelopment of the city’s “underimproved” land. While the literature on property enactment has quite often investigated practices of dispossession, I point out that its analysis of dispossession’s logic or rationale has tended to be confined to a single property theorist, John Locke, and his justifiably famous distinction between land and improvements. Emphasizing the rather different, post-Lockean conception of property that emerged in early twentieth-century Halifax, I suggest that more attention ought to be paid to the multiple and varying logics of dispossession that are liable to be contained within prevailing property enactments.”

Published in Urban Geography | Ted Rutland | 2015, https://www.semanticscholar.org/paper/%E2%80%9CThe-city-is-an-apartment-house%E2%80%9D%3A-property%2C-and-in-Rutland/321d580be4e76c58238d61414b16b74050ec19c6, https://consensus.app/details/emphasizing-rather-conception-property-emerged-rutland/3a7efc4573bb57a88bc2044660fc731f/