Eminent Domain Abuses are Prevalent
April 28, 2003
For many, the American Dream means buying a family home after years of saving or building a small business from the ground up. No one imagines the government will take that property only to hand it over to someone else. But it happens far too frequently.
A report from the Institute for Justice documents instances of eminent domain abuse -- where the government forcibly takes private property from its owner so it may give it to another private party. From 1998 through 2002, more than 10,000 properties in 41 states have faced condemnation, or the threat of it, to hand the land to private developers. And that is just the tip of the iceberg, as many if not most, condemnations are never reported in public sources.
In the past five years, according to the Institute for Justice, governments have:
- Evicted four elderly siblings in Bristol, Conn., from their home of 60 years for an industrial park.
- Destroyed a black middle-class neighborhood in Atlantic City (including the home of a woman who lived on a street named after her father) to build a tunnel to a new casino that was never built.
- Removed a woman in her 80s from her home of 55 years for the claimed purpose of expanding a sewer plant -- but Bremerton, Washington actually gave her former home to an auto dealership.
- Condemned 10 homes for a shopping center and parking lot in Hurst, Texas, forcing two families to move while a spouse was dying of cancer.
Fortunately, say property rights advocates, the tide is turning -- courts have sided with property owners in 37 of 91 recent cases.
Source: Dana Berliner, "Public Power, Private Gain," April 22, 2003, Institute for Justice.
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