Wednesday, January 11, 2006
At the AALS Property and Local Government Sections joint panel on public use, Vicki Been made an interesting presentation about what we don't know about the real-world application of eminent domain. In the absence of empirical research on the subject, we don't really have much data on how eminent domain is used by government entities. The need for empirical data is particularly important now that many legislatures are considering placing post-Kelo restrictions on municipal exercises of eminent domain. Here's a list of the subjects Been suggested would be good candidates for empirical work:
The costs and benefits of actual uses of eminent domain.
What entity is doing the taking and who pays for the taking?
Is there a differences in eminent domain practices between states or within states? If so, what explains those differences?
What is being taken?
Do the takings involve private-public partnerships?
What compensation is being paid, and how (and why) does it vary?
Has the use of eminent domain become more or less frequent? If so, why? Are municipal attempts at promoting infill development having an impact on the rates?
Why is eminent domain being used rather than a market transaction? What does the bargaining process look like? Who settles and who doesn’t? What is the role of subjective value in the settlement process? What does holdout problem actually look like? Do tax issues factor in (e.g., when an exercise of eminent domain is more tax positive for the owner of property than a voluntary sale)?
Are economic development takings a good thing? Can economic development be effectively done in a patchwork, voluntary fashion, without eminent domain? What is the long term impact of redevelopment projects? If restrictions are put on economic development takings, will that lead to more redevelopment projects based on blight?
To this list I'd add: what is the impact of relocation on people, and is there a difference in this impact between people who are forced out and people who leave voluntarily? I researched this issue for my Home as a Legal Concept article, and there really isn't that much out there beyond Marc Fried's "Grieving for a Lost Home," a study of people displaced from Boston's West End that was published in Leonard J. Duhl's book The Urban Condition (1963).
[UPDATE: some text changed in response to a comment]
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