Kansas City Eminent Domain Will Harm Residents
According to KSHB, Kansas City Councilman Jermaine Reed has delayed a vote to proceed with the eminent domain condemnation process for holdout landowners on the site of a planned $57 million East Patrol Division/Crime Lab police campus. Hopefully, the two-week delay will help the soon-to-be-displaced property owners better voice their concerns.
The Show-Me Institute has repeatedly highlighted the harms of eminent domain. For example, the exercise of eminent domain power disproportionately affects the poor, destroying struggling neighborhoods. As one affected resident told me via e-mail, “You don’t destroy the neighborhood to make it safer.”
Additionally, while displaced residents are owed “fair market value” for their property, government often inadequately compensates property owners for their losses. This is especially pronounced in a time of depressed housing prices when, as eminent domain professional Rick Rayl observes, “Condemnees are penalized because they are forced to sell at a time when no reasonable seller would do so.”
Kansas City resident Ameena Powell
protests the new police campus location.
(Photo Credit: Michael Mahoney)
The police campus project appears to follow the usual patterns of driving out low-income residents for public investment. Ameena Powell, a property owner in the project area, told me via phone that the city provided three property appraisals ranging from $23,000 to $55,000. That is a $32,000 margin of error in a ZIP code where the annual per capita income is less than $20,000.
This $32,000 difference highlights the problems that arise when cities, not markets, price property for sale. While the city often adopts the highest of several appraisals, appraised values can vary wildly. Because appraisals determine the city’s offer, this may force some property owners to sell their property on the cheap following unusually low appraisals. Worst of all, the appraisals ignore personal reasons for valuing a property.
This might dramatically impact individuals’ lives. In the KSHB story, Teri Merriweather, a resident of the soon-to-be-demolished neighborhood, said that “some people still have mortgages, and what the city is offering isn’t enough or is just enough to pay off their mortgage . . . So they have nothing to go buy a new home with.”
The consolidation of police resources to save taxpayer dollars is a praiseworthy objective. However, alternative sites (or possibly even a one-block move, as some residents have suggested) deserved more consideration than the city granted.