Saturday, October 24, 2009

Idea on eminent domain a bit silly

Lisa Borders said she'd use eminent domain to let the city take abandoned/blighted properties.  It created a big to-do.  As a blog that focuses on local politics and real estate, I guess I should have a say....

I got the impression from the quote that it was in reference to foreclosed or abandoned properties with absentee landlords (typically banks) who cannot or will not maintain property.  So my question is, why do we need to use eminent domain?

With eminent domain, you still have to pay fair market value, or "just compensation," for the property.  I presume that the bank or absentee landlord would be happy to get rid of the property right now, they just can't sell it.  Why can't the city just buy the properties, rather than using eminent domain? 

Using eminent domain would likely provoke a ton of lawsuits by landowners who thought their property was either undervalued or not blighted.  Just buying the property outright seems to be much easier, and it isn't like the city has a ton of funds for this sort of thing.  Target the houses that are REO and use the funds quickly.  The value to the community of just purchasing the homes from the banks quickly would be better than going through the whole condemnation process, right?

If Borders is talking about landowners who are not maintaining vacant property, yet don't want to sell, I would wonder if these aren't essentially abandoned properties.  Are they paying their property taxes?  Probably not if they aren't doing anything else with the property.  Put a tax lein on the property and put it into foreclosure, if the banks haven't already. 

I see the eminent domain comment as more a signal to the neighborhood that the city would be willing to be aggressive and to use all available tools to help clean up the neighborhoods.  As an actual tool, I think it is unnecessary and too blunt of an instrument.

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