Forget about the “Ownership Society,” folks. As near as I can tell, yesterday we officially got owned.
I’m a little reluctant to wade too far into legal waters, for fear of quickly finding myself floundering in the surf, but yesterday I started hearing about the Supreme Courts’ ruling concerning eminent domain. I thought I hadn’t heard it right the first time.
The Supreme Court ruled yesterday that local governments may force property owners to sell out and make way for private economic development when officials decide it would benefit the public, even if the property is not blighted and the new project’s success is not guaranteed.
The 5 to 4 ruling provided the strong affirmation that state and local governments had sought for their increasing use of eminent domain for urban revitalization, especially in the Northeast, where many city centers have decayed and the suburban land supply is dwindling.
Opponents, including property-rights activists and advocates for elderly and low-income urban residents, argued that forcibly shifting land from one private owner to another, even with fair compensation, violates the Fifth Amendment to the Constitution, which prohibits the taking of property by government except for “public use.”
It sounds to me like a house is not necessarily a home, if a state or local government thinks the land might be put to better use. After checking in with a couple of legal eagles in blogland, I’m not convinced I’m wrong in my layman’s assessment.
Having become a homeowner a few years again, and again recently, I have a certain distate for the idea any government knocking on my door and telling me “you gots to move.” And I’m only somewhat reassured by the hubby’s assessment that it’s unlikely that state and local governments will come knocking on the front doors of those citizens who have the political and/or economic means to defend their ownership rights.