The Philadelphia Redevelopment Authority wants to use eminent domain to ease the way toward building affordable housing in the Point Breeze Urban Renewal Area, leaving local property owners dismayed.
Some developers said they intend to build on their lots or rehabilitate properties and don’t want the city to buy their plots of land.
The redevelopment panel, which has the duty of reducing blight in the urban area, got the go-ahead recently to build the planned housing in the Point Breeze area. The designated district has been in existence since 1971, and it encompasses the area between Washington Avenue and Morris Street to Broad and 25th streets.
Already, a city councilman who represents the Point Breeze area has introduced legislation that would grant the power to the authority to condemn 43 properties, a dozen of them owned by Philadelphia and the rest by private property holders. Fourteen of them have delinquent taxes.
One consultant with extensive experience in community development in Pennsylvania said it is highly unusual for a city to declare eminent domain when property owners have ongoing improvement projects. A spokesman for the redevelopment authority, however, said the city supports the process of gathering parcels to provide affordable housing.
One property owner said he intends to battle the plan to confiscate his land on the basis it is illegal and makes no acknowledgement of the rights of owners. An authority representative said the city must not allow all properties to be developed at market rate and must provide for affordable housing.
The city’s intentions are legal; eminent domain is allowed. Still, property owners who have a sincere desire to develop their properties must stop to determine if their dispute is worth fighting the city over. Property owners do have a right to develop their property and should explore all avenues to do so, should they desire to.
Source: Daily News, “Developers call city’s Point Breeze eminent domain move a land grab,” Jan Ransom, Oct. 11, 2012