Eminent Domain Is the government’s right to take private property for public use. Through the 5th Amendment, they can rightfully seize anyone’s property as long as they can justify that their use of the property will benefit the public. But what exactly qualifies as public use?
There are two types of public use: direct and private. Direct public use is a project that will significantly enhance the benefit to the public immediately. Examples of this are buildings such as school or municipal administration, the preservation of historic sites and landmarks, and constructing freeways and roads.
It can be argued that projects such as these will directly enhance the experience of a person within that area. By providing things like schools and roads you allow a person to get an education as well as transportation. Historic sites allow us to understand and recognize the significance of our history.
The second type of public use projects are private projects that will contribute to public benefit. These can include things like railroads and utilities and even the renovation of “blighted” sites such as buildings with graffiti.
The argument for these types of projects is that it takes some of the financial burdens of restoration off the government. Railroads help us transfer things across the country but they are very expensive to build and upkeep. Renovating blighted buildings allows more travel within that area and can potentially increase safety and security.
However, when deciding between public and private development, the government typically opts to side with private. This can cause issues because private developers often don’t deliver on their promises for public use. When this happens, those whose properties have been “stolen” by the government have no reason to be evicted from their homes. This can contribute to distrust between the government and citizens.