While visiting my family in Montana for Easter, I read my brother William’s April 2006 copy of Builder Magazine. It was a very interesting read, and had some of the best articles and commentary about property rights that I’ve seen in quite some time. Here are some of the highlights.
“One Man’s Blight . . . Definition of blight spurs call for eminent domain reform in Florida”
Florida’s definition of “blight” is so vague that it is too easy to declare eminent domain (according to some). The Inlet Harbor redevelopment project could require relocating more than 5,000 people because of blight. A 2001 study commissioned by Riviera Beach said approximately 1/3 of Riviera Beach was blighted.
“As the plan moved forward, opponents reviewed the blight study in detail
and reported that several parcels described as vacant, blighted, or
substandard actually had homes built as recently as two years before the
This article has a lot of mixed issues. Reform efforts are underway in state law, but there are also concerns that reforms will go too far and eliminate eminent domain completely. Also, what about existing redevelopment projects? If the state of Florida gets overenthusiastic and tells existing redevelopment projects to take a flying leap, will any decent companies want to do business there in the future?
Sprawl is driven by low land prices & economic prosperity, not by
highway expansion, as previously thought. At least, that’s the conclusion of
recent study by researchers at the University of Illinois-Chicago’s urban
transportation center. The rationale: First-time buyers will often trade a
convenient commute for extra square footage, and larger homes tend to be
where land is cheaper, father from the urban core. On the flip side,
suggest that counties where jobs are plentiful have higher land
therefore, fewer home buyers.
“Sprawl Busters. New report highlights succesful projects that avoid sprawl.”
Taking a show-and-tell approach to curbing sprawl, Washington-based Sierra
Club has published a 32-page report that gives examples of 12 projects where
good town planning created livable communities.
The projects range from large to small, from urban to suburban. They
include “economically challenged” areas such as Fruitvale in Oakland, Calif.,
and well-off neighborhoods such as Manchester-by-the-Sea in Massachusetts.
Despite the differences, however, the projects do have similarities, say Eric
Olson, project coordinator for the study. “They are all walkable communities,
involve public transportation, and address issues like stormwater runoff,” he
Olson says that the report shows how successful communities result when
developers redevelop existing neighborhoods & incorporate public
transportation, parks, and mixed-use components.
The one thing builders can take away from the study, Olson says, is that
there is a market for these types of projects: “There is a demand for
redevelopment in urban & old suburban areas, and many developers are
thriving doing them.” Sierra has begun a follow-up study that will focus on
sucessful stormwater management.
-N. F. Maynard
“Government for the people?” by Davis Pressly, Jr.,
Pressly, the President of the National Association of Home Builders (NAHB), based in Washington, D.C., writes about increasing regulation of home builders at the state & federal levels. In some areas, 30% of a home’s costs can due to regulation.
“Taking No More”
This was an small blurb talking about an interesting (& probably heart-breaking) paradox for property owners. If you have a takings claim you wish to pursie under the 5th Amendment to the United States Constitution, you must first litigate in the state court.
However, having the case decided in state court will likely mean it will be deemed ineligible for federal court.
All other civil rights claims can be taken directly to federal court. The article used the example of an adult bookstore owner getting their day in court sooner (a 1st Amendment issue) than a legitimate and non-controversial property owner with a 5th Amendment issue.
H.R. 4772, introduced by Steve Chabot (R – Ohio) & Bart Gordon (D – Tenn.) is supposed to fix this.
The cover story for the entire issue was a section titled “The Personal Touch”. This was a whole section devoted to extra steps builders should take to make the experience a pleasant one for customers.
- Some made sure customers were given bi-weekly or weekly updates on financing, escrow, & insisted customers take an afternoon class from the lender about credit ratings and financing.
- Another used an outside consultant to help clients sort through options (& said when buyers didn’t feel pressured, had lots of time to ask questions, & had access to comprehensive information, they were more likely to upgrade to more durable items anyway — now isn’t that interesting?).
- Another companies had a weekly updated website with pictures from the construction, and then there was
- scheduled walkthroughs at major stages,
- staggered move-in dates at large housing projects (to avoid traffic jams),
- free use of a moving truck,
- providing a complimentary basket of needed move-in items like towels, hand-cleaner, & garbage bags, and
- stopping by the evening of the move-in with some pretty decent take-out food so the buyers could just relax and eat dinner after unpacking & moving all day.
It was a very interesting section. The biggest issue, repeated by every company, was making sure that everyone involved in the process (contractors, builders, overseers, lenders, etc.) all saw the buyers as people.
Speaking from personal experience at jobs I have been in, that only happens if management at the companies in question also see THEIR employees as PEOPLE.