Eminent Domain and the Sanctity of Home

37 Pages Posted: 12 Jul 2008

See all articles by John Fee

John Fee

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School


The Supreme Court's decision in Kelo v. New London has caused alarm over how easy it is for government to take private homes through eminent domain. The image of government officials ousting people from their homes for unnecessary projects has sparked movements to reform eminent domain in many states. Typically, such reform efforts are focused on the public use doctrine and what government agencies plan to do with property after taking it, rather than the unique nature of home property and its value to homeowners.

This article concludes that the root of the problem lies beyond the public use doctrine. Government takes too many homes from unwilling homeowners, and for too cheaply, even for traditional public use projects. The article explores potential methods of protecting homes against unjustified condemnation, including substantive and procedural methods. The article concludes that while various methods have advantages, adjusting the compensation structure of eminent domain to require significantly greater compensation in the case of home takings is most likely to produce optimal results. A system of compensation that recognizes more accurately what homes are typically worth to their owners would produce greater deterrence against government takings, and would improve the bargaining process between government officials and homeowners, while still allowing governments to overcome holdouts in cases of genuine public necessity.

Keywords: Eminent Domain, Just Compensation, Public Use, Condemnation, Homes, Redevelopment, Transportation

Suggested Citation

Fee, John, Eminent Domain and the Sanctity of Home. Notre Dame Law Review, Vol. 81, No. 3, pp. 783-820, 2006, Available at SSRN: https://ssrn.com/abstract=1159111

John Fee (Contact Author)

Brigham Young University - J. Reuben Clark Law School ( email )

430 JRCB
Brigham Young University
Provo, UT 84602
United States

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