Out With the Old
Cranston, Rhode Island, was planning to condemn the homes of many elderly residents until the City ran out of money. Anyone reading about eminent domain abuse will wonder why so many of the situations and cases seem to involve elderly residents. There are two reasons. First, predatory cities and developers look for areas of older neighborhoods in good locations. Older neighborhoods are usually less expensive to condemn, and good locations make the retail, commercial and residential projects profitable. Such neighborhoods often have many elderly residents–people who bought their homes when prices were lower and stayed. Second, many cases involve elderly residents because they are often the ones who have no interest in selling. If they didn’t like their home, they would have moved 20 years ago, so they have no intention of moving now, especially not to make way for some other private residence or business.
Many of the situations in this report involve the condemnation or threat to condemn elderly homeowners. Bristol, Connecticut, condemned the homestead of the Bugryn family, four elderly siblings, because their houses and woods produced less tax revenue than the planned industrial park. Bremerton, Washington, condemned the house of Lovie Nichols, an elderly widow who had lived there for 55 years. The City condemned the property for a sewer plant extension. However, Nichols refused to move and stayed in her home until the City evicted her two years later in order to transfer her property to a local car dealer. One project in downtown Detroit removes a number of elderly homeowners, including several in their 80s who have lived there for 50 years or more. New London, Connecticut, is trying to remove Charles and Wilhelmina Dery, both in their 80s, from the house they have occupied together for more than 50 years; Wilhelmina was born there. Riviera Beach, Florida, is planning to remove thousands of residents, including many elderly homeowners.
Some elderly owners have managed to hold on to their homes. In 1998, a court told Vera Coking, who had lived in her Atlantic City house for more than 35 years, that a State agency could not take her home to give it to Donald Trump. Elderly residents of Ogden, Utah, convinced their City Council not to take their homes for upscale residential and commercial development, and officials in Eagan, Minnesota, decided not to condemn the home of a local great-grandmother for private business development after she invited them all to her home for a tour. And of course, elderly residents throughout the country still live under the threat of condemnation for private parties.
Sources: All of these cases appear in this report in the sections for their respective cities.