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Show-Me-Institute Releases Study on Eminent Domain

October 17th, 2007 by mopns · No Comments

The Show-Me Institute has released a policy study about the abuses of eminent domain when used for private profit in Missouri. Although many government officials believe that eminent domain is necessary for comprehensive development projects that will help stimulate the economy, the study focused on how eminent domain often hurts economic development by creating economic uncertainty and harming small businesses. Furthermore, it exacerbates poverty in inner city communities by destroying affordable housing and undermining community reform efforts.

This study is particularly relevant now, a year after HB 1944 was passed — ostensibly to “strengthen” Missouri property rights. Despite this legislation, the use of eminent domain for private profit has continued unabated in Missouri. HB 1944 failed to address the root cause of eminent domain abuse — financial incentives that spur cities to “redevelop” ordinary neighborhoods, and the considerable discretion that officials exercise in designating property as “blighted.”

For example, residents of Richmond Heights, a historically black neighborhood in Saint Louis, were evicted from their homes when the city used eminent domain to pave the way for a new Wal-Mart development complex. The ongoing threat of eminent domain expansion has had a deleterious impact on the community ever since. A recent St. Louis Post-Dispatch editorial noted, “Before the big-box stores and others arrived, the area was a stable, blue-collar neighborhood.” But redevelopment instilled a sense of “uncertainty that comes with the specter of eminent domain — [and] the neighborhood’s foundations [have begun] to weaken.”

The same thing happened in Kansas City’s new downtown East Village project. The project required the demolition of nearly a dozen blocks of low-income housing, replacing them with high-end condominiums. But replacing low-income housing did nothing to eliminate urban poverty. Rather, poor residents relocated into other increasingly crowded and dangerous neighborhoods. As one small business owner affected by the development begged in a Kansas City Star editorial, “I’m asking you to draw a circle around our building and let us keep going.” Affordable housing is scare, and it gets scarcer every time more of it is demolished by well-intentioned city planners.

The study provided a full decade’s worth of anecdotal evidence on the negative impact that eminent domain abuse has brought to local communities. It argues that the abuses will only worsen, until the Legislature passes a constitutional amendment that strengthens property rights in Missouri.

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Tags: Eminent Domain · Kansas City · MO Legislature · St. Louis

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