Land Assembly Districts

63 Pages Posted: 20 Nov 2017

See all articles by Michael Heller

Michael Heller

Columbia University - Columbia Law School

Roderick M. Hills, Jr.

New York University School of Law

Date Written: April 2008


Eminent domain for economic development is both attractive and appalling. States need the power to condemn because so much land in America is inefficiently fragmented. But public land assembly provokes hostility because vulnerable communities get bulldozed. Courts offer no help. The academic literature is a muddle. Is it possible to assemble land without harming the poor and powerless? Yes. This Article proposes the creation of Land Assembly Districts, or “LADs.” This new property form solves the age-old tensions in eminent domain and shows, more generally, how careful redesign of property rights can enhance both welfare and fairness. The economic and moral intuition underlying LADs is simple: when the only justification for assembly is over-fragmentation of land, neighbors should be able to decide collectively whether their land will be assembled. Our legal theory solution is equally simple: use property law to retrofit communities with a condominium-like structure tailored to land assembly. Let’s try giving those burdened by condemnation a way to share in its benefits and to veto projects they decide are not worth their while.

Suggested Citation

Heller, Michael and Hills, Roderick Maltman, Land Assembly Districts (April 2008). Harvard Law Review, Vol. 121, No. 6, p. 1465, 2008, Columbia Public Law Research Paper, Available at SSRN:

Michael Heller (Contact Author)

Columbia University - Columbia Law School ( email )

435 West 116th Street
New York, NY 10025
United States

Roderick Maltman Hills

New York University School of Law ( email )

40 Washington Square South
New York, NY 10012-1099
United States


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