Every government in the United States has the power to take private property for a public purpose, so long as the former owner is paid ‘just compensation.’ And post-Kelo, we know that “public purpose” is very broadly defined. So can eminent domain be useful in solving our housing and foreclosure crisis? Maybe. The details matter.
The San Bernandino Approach
Eminent domain is the housing market solution du jour because San Bernadino County, California, and two of its largest cities, have formed an Authority to possibly take loans using eminent domain. According to Housing Wire, the communities have been approached by Mortgage Resolution Partners (MRP) and two nonprofits with plans to take underwater mortgages and refinance them at market value. A public hearing will be held by the Authority this Friday, 9 a.m. PDT (webcast available here, agenda here.)
Most of the agenda involves constituting the authority that would wield eminent domain, but listed too is the critical “public comment” opportunity. I encourage you to listen in to at least that part of the meeting, and if you can show, to ask questions. In this post I hope to arm you with enough information to ask good questions.