The Supreme Court sent shockwaves across the country on June 23, when a 5-4 majority ruled (in Kelo v. New London) that a city may use eminent domain to take someone’s home and give it to a developer who wants to build a mall, a hotel, etc. Previously, eminent domain could only be used for a greater public purpose, such as widening a highway or putting in a school.
The decision seemed to defy the very heart of the American Dream, to own a home and call it your own. Its impact was felt here in the St. Louis area, where there’s currently a bitter fight over the Sunset Hills development, and all across the country.
Unfortunately, the worst ripple effect of that decision is still being felt in New London, Connecticut, by the woman at the center of the case, Suzette Kelo, and her neighbors, who were fighting against the city to keep their homes.
Under eminent domain, homeowners are supposed to get something approaching market value for the house and land that’s taken from them. However, New London is rubbing salt in the wound by refusing to pay Suzette et al the current value of the homes in 2005 dollars. Instead, they’re only being offered the 2000 value, which is considerably less than what they’d get in the current boom market.
And it gets worse.
According to a piece by Jonathan O’Connell in Fairfield Weekly, not only are their land and homes being confiscated, but the city is charging these homeowners back rent!
The New London Development Corporation condemned the homes in 2000. Suzette and her neighbors fought back, literally making a federal case out of it. Since the city won, it claims that all of these people have been living on city property for the last five years, so they owe retroactive rent.
In Suzette’s case, that’s around $57,000, which is not only a helluva lot of money to live in a place that was condemned, but also more than the equity she has in the house. That means she and her husband would have no house to live in and no money to buy a new house. She told O’Connell, “I could get a large-size refrigerator box and live under the bridge.” Unfortunately, the city probably owns that land, so she’d have to pay rent there, too!
This is the United States of America? Land of the free and home of the brave? Sorry, brave, your home is right where we want to build a new Wal-Mart, Sheraton, and TGIFriday’s, so the only freedom you’re entitled to is the right to be screwed!