18 November 2008

Mt Holly Gardens Eminent Domain

The Mount Holly Gardens case is getting enough attention that it seems plausible that this case could trigger a larger response about eminent domain. The news descriptions capture some particulalry interesting twists, like this Inquirer account of how one person owed more than the Eminent Domain covered:

The problems accompanying the Gardens' redevelopment have been especially acute for seniors, the report found. One resident, Carole Richardson, 71, said she received $54,000 for selling her house of more than a decade to the township in March. Now she lives in a trailer in Columbus. Another resident, Evans Jackson, 63, anticipated paying off his home loan in three years but had to enter into a new 30-year mortgage after receiving $116,000, including a loan, from selling his house to the township two years ago.

With more an more homeowners upside down, could eminent domain be a new threat
The Gannett report on the case offers a fact of limited usefulness in determining whether this is an abuse of ED or just an unfortunate but necessary situation:

The township offered nothing to the displacedan unfortunate renters but well over the legal minimum to owners, from $27,000 to $49,000 per unit. That was far less than what residents said they needed to relocate in the region, where an average price for a home is $206,000.

The pictures make it seem like the housing is probably not comparable to the average in Mt Holly, so that number isn't really relevant except in reminding us that ED usually impacts people already living in housing that is well below the community average.

The use of eminent domain is quickly approaching a status in New Jersey (and elsewhere) where its application is so unpopular that it no longer matters if it is being used appropriately and fairly. The very mention of its name creates such a public stir that it chills any further conversations. I suspect that we will be seeing some new legislation soon.

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