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June 26, 2005

Renters, Kelo and Community

Here's an odd point about Kelo: people keep talking about its injustice as if the land was being stolen, rather than the owners being given the market value of the property, so that they have the ability to buy equivalent property.

Marty Lederman at SCOTUSblog highlights the fact that the underlying outrage is no doubt the fear that market value doesn't reflect the value of living in a community for years that may be lost to being evicted from a home by eminent domain.

Which is accurate, but then where is the outrage at the pervasive evictions of renters from their homes by private landlords who develop property? That is far more common than eminent domain and disrupts far more communities.

This outrage on behalf of an incredibly tiny number of homeowners, while renters suffer day-to-day threat of such evictions with almost no legal resource and no democratic vote by the community, just seems out of balance, especially by progressives.

A lot of progressives opposed to Kelo evoke the horrors of urban renewal, but it's worth remembering that the problem there was that most of the people displaced were RENTERS, and thus got no economic compensation to help them find new homes.

Even where renters are not officially evicted, rising rents drive many out of their homes and destroy communities in a repetitive manner.

So if the reaction against Kelo is based on a fear of losing existing communities that should not be priced merely at the market value of property, we should be far more politically outraged at the way private real estate markets destroy poor renters' lives and their communities.

So I continue to be perplexed by the liberals attacking Kelo. Here you have a small group of property owners getting full economic compensation for their property. Yes, they suffer intangible losses, but compared to the intangible AND economic losses suffered every day by renters due to gentrification, it just seems like a pretty minor problem.

And the major problem of letting rightwing courts expand their reach into local economic policy seems like a far worse danger, so I'm still left perplexed at the liberals all worked up over Kelo.

Posted by Nathan at June 26, 2005 05:19 PM