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Wednesday, June 06, 2007

Community Improvement Projects

It starts with city counsels condemning waterfront property in order to redevelop downtown. They say the homes are blighted, regardless of their condition and offer the homeowners enough money to move somewhere else. The amount usually falls far short of what it would cost to buy another house in the same area, most especially the new construction. Sometimes, the community does benefit from eminent domain. Perhaps, a new highway...and, um...I suppose there are lots of other legitimate reasons to seize private property. I wonder though, what sorts of compensation the founders of our country had in mind when they drafted the 5th amendment; because it seems to me, compensation is offered at a level to keep the poor, the lower and even upper middle class out of most new "community" redevelopment projects. It is not the current residents of a "blighted" area that most developers and city counsel members have in mind when they are envisioning new high rises, casinos or gaming venues. Cities and communities will improve when the residents of said area take the initiative themselves to improve it. Elected officials, many out of touch with the lowest of whom they *serve* want to attract money and care little for building and saving a community. It is a slippery slope once we start seizing property to create luxuries for the upper crust of society. Where could it lead I wonder?

Beijing to Evict 1.5 million for Olympics
BEIJING (Reuters) - Some 1.5 million residents of Beijing will be displaced by the time it hosts the 2008 Olympics, many of them evicted against their will, a rights group said on Tuesday, prompting a sharp denial by China.
The Geneva-based Centre on Housing Rights and Evictions (COHRE) said residents were often forced from their homes with little notice and little compensation, as the government embarks on a massive city redevelopment to accommodate the Games.


Kimberly said...

If you can find a used copy, I would highly recommend reading the book, “Poletown: A Community Betrayed” by Jeannie Wylie. I found the book when I was doing research on a paper on eminent domain for my constitutional law class. It’s obvious from the first page whose side she’s on and she makes no apologies for it. An entire neighborhood in Detroit was razed just so General Motors could build a new plant. I never did understand how an automobile factory translated into a “public use.”

“In 1981 the neighborhood was cleared to make way for the construction of the General Motors Detroit/Hamtramck Assembly plant. The city of Detroit relied on eminent domain to compel the displacement of the 4,200 people who lived in the area, along with their 1,300 homes, 140 businesses, six churches and one hospital. [1] The plant was built at the boundary of Hamtramck and Detroit as a BOC factory (Buick-Oldsmobile-Cadillac) and became known as the Poletown Plant.

The displaced residents sued the city but the Michigan Supreme Court ruled that economic development was a legitimate use of eminent domain. Public resistance especially from one Catholic parish led to national news attention and the involvement of Ralph Nader and the Gray Panthers. A 29-day sit-in at the Immaculate Conception Church came to an end on July 14, 1981 when police forcibly evicted 20 people from the church.”

The Michigan Supreme Court overturned the 1981 decision. Below is a link to an article that provides a bit more detail: