If We Can't Destroy the Village, it Won't Be Saved

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From UPI:

RIVIERA BEACH, Fla., Oct. 4 (UPI)—Officials of a poor, predominantly black Florida town plan to relocate about 6,000 residents to make room for a billion-dollar yachting and housing complex.

The coastal community of Rivera Beach in Palm Beach County may use eminent domain, if necessary, to claim 400 acres of land for the project, The Washington Times reported Monday.

"This is a community that's in dire need of jobs, which has a median income of less than $19,000 a year," Mayor Michael Brown said. "If we don't use this power, cities will die."

Link via Jeff Goldstein.

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  1. Mayor Michael Brown?

    Jesus, they’re twins and they’re BOTH evil!

  2. 6,000 living residents is more of a “city” than a yachting complex, isn’t it?
    At least that’s what Bill Bennett told me.

  3. The town located just a few miles north of me (pronounced “ra-VEE-ra beach” by the locals) is certainly no glamorous Riviera, but I wonder how knocking down their houses to create jobs cleaning yacht toilets will improve their lives.

  4. ed: Rich shit is good for you. Being exposed to it will improve their lives.

  5. Sickening, but expected.

  6. The town appears to be surrounded by a bajillion other towns – are there no jobs in those other towns?

  7. Sure the other towns have jobs, Rhywun, but the officials of Rivera Beach can’t tax those jobs! Don’t forget what’s important, man!

  8. I just found Hakluyt, Ralphus, TJ and Kahn. They’re still arguing on the wall between church and state thread. Talk about your Everready Bunnies.

  9. I just found Hakluyt, Ralphus, TJ and Kahn. They’re still arguing on the wall between church and state thread. Talk about your Everready Bunnies.

    I think I need to avoid any thread related to religion. They always seem to devolve into slugfests between certain regulars.

  10. Nobody likes giant, 6000 person complexes. Soulless, dehydrated insta-neighborhoods. Blech. You get better street design, and some actual local color, if you poke around and sqeeze discreet uses in and about. Leave plenty of old houses. Which fits in nicely with the concept of buying out that portion of the owners who want to sell, and leaving the people who care the most about staying in place.

    There are two reasons why cities don’t do this. First, developers can get more bang for their buck with a clean slate. Economies of scale. (Of course, it is this scale that trashes the streets’ character). Second – the cleansing of undesireables.

    I’m not going to trash this yet, without seeing the particulars, but it sure has my antenna up.

  11. And the term “relocate” can mean a lot of different things.

  12. Could 6000 households secede from the town?

  13. If enough city governemnts can “displace” enough housing units to create a permanent mobile population seeking to “relocate” elsewhere – and provide them with enough welfare and food stamps to keep them from starving or otherwise getting much media attention – could we essentially put all our blight and poverty on wheels to improve the urban landscape and artificially increase local (and national) statistical indicators reflecting our “quality of life”?

  14. This after something similar was done in nearby West Palm Beach. They condemned the properties to build an upscale, Disney-like insta-neighborhood called City Place. I’ve been there. One does not see many black faces in the crowd.

    http://www.newurbannews.com/EminentDomainSep05.html

  15. I heard the Mayor on the radio this morning, debating a resident who was not happy about this. He said they would build new houses inland. They would be better houses too. Of course this does nothing to address why these people have a median income of $19,000 annually.

  16. doin’ a heck of a job, brownie

  17. If they stay the site would be perfect for a garbage burning, I mean waste-to-energy plant. I know this to be true and I don’t even know where this place is. As long as they’re going to have an incinerator may as well toss in a wastewater treatment plant. What can we do? Our hands are tied.

  18. I wonder if they tried to negotiate with the residents first, or if they’ve simply copped out and used ED as a first resort. The article doesn’t cover it.

  19. Actually there’s a massive power plant in Riviera Beach. The stacks are lovely.

  20. Fence, fence, I’m thinking fence here. No, safety latticing! Come on, work with me, people, work with me.

  21. So, who among the racially sensitive, bleeding heart libertarians on this thread, outraged by the dislocation of a community, wants to see payments made when renters are displaced when their building’s owner sells his property to a developer?

  22. Rhywun-

    It’s even worse than you think. Einstein’s merits have been called into question on that thread!

  23. So, who among the racially sensitive, bleeding heart libertarians on this thread, outraged by the dislocation of a community, wants to see payments made when renters are displaced when their building’s owner sells his property to a developer?

    I’m not sure what you mean, joe. Does a developer have to honor these lease agreement by the previous owners, or can he evict from day one? If he can evict, he should be required to cover moving expenses.

  24. “….when their building’s owner sells his property to a developer?”

    Um, selling property voluntarily and stealing it are two entirely different concepts joe.

  25. “This is a community that’s in dire need of jobs, which has a median income of less than $19,000 a year,” Mayor Michael Brown said. “If we don’t use this power, cities will die.”

    IOW move these shiftless shonks off the coast, where we can build neat stuff, into the city where there are plenty of $19K jobs for them.

  26. Eminent Domain banks on the same stupidity as a woman who would be a mistress: if they can cheat someone for you, they can cheat you for someone else. Yacht’ers beware.

  27. I will;

    A lease is a contract between the owner of a thing and the renter. If the renter is guaranteed use of the property for a period of time by the contract, then the owner is obligated to meet that commitment. So, in theory, the owner could close the sale after the tenant’s lease runs out, or obligate the new owner to honor the contract, or to enter into negotiations with the renter to arrive at a deal that voids the existing contract.

    Now, if the contract has a clause allowing the seller to exit the deal at their discresion, the renter is SOL. I personally don’t recommend signing such agreements, but if one is desperate for housing, an escape clause might be worth a reduced rent. It depends on one’s circumstances and needs.

    Of course, this is all theoretical. From my memory, rental contracts tend to be heavily regulated by local governments, and I’m sure that this regualtion provides various parties with various privileges and oligations. I am wholly ignorant of what they might be.

    So, in answer to your question, Joe, if the sale and eviction violates the rental agreement, I will speak out against it. If not, I won’t. I don’t like to insert myself into other people’s business.

  28. OOPS, I deleted the statement, “If the owner can’t accomplish these things, he can’t sell the property.”

    Please insert that between the first multi-sentence paragraph and the second.

  29. David, if I remember correctly from property class, someone who purchases an apartment block cannot summarily evict the current leaseholders (subject to statute of frauds provisions governing leases). Basically, the lessor cannot convey an estate that he does not have, and by leasing out apartments, he has given up certain rights to those leaseholds for a period of time.

    But, since i’m still only a law student, any actual lawyers feel free to correct me. 😉

  30. I guess I’m cynical on this one, but the first thing I thought was that they are doing this to raise the quoted median income…by moving the poor people on the low end of the scale out of town.

    Ta da! Instant median income increase!

    And hey, maybe the people who don’t have jobs disproportionately live in those houses to be razed. Then they’ve just taken care of the unemployment problem, too! It’s like old mathemetician jokes: “I define THIS AREA as the town”.

  31. NCCUCJ,

    If that’s the case, then those evicted are in no different shape than I’d be in were my landlord decided not to renew my lease and it’s end. Except that they’d might have more advance notice. I can’t see requiring a payment in that case. Not that I would mind recieving one. :p

  32. Don’t beat around the bush, joe. You know damn well “Relocate” means “we pay you what we think you should take”. It’s never what the seller decides – then there wouldn’t be any need for ED in the first place.

  33. “Um, selling property voluntarily and stealing it are two entirely different concepts joe.”

    Gosh, you think his comments about racially sensitive libertarians might be been a wee little clue that he was being skeptical of y’all’s sudden display of love for the downtrodden poor black folk?

    it’s always funnier when you explain it

  34. Gosh, you think his comments about racially sensitive libertarians might be been a wee little clue that he was being skeptical of y’all’s sudden display of love for the downtrodden poor black folk?

    “Sudden?” I didn’t know this was the first-ever thread where regulars protested the use of ED to take property away from poor people and hand it over to a large corporation (or wealthy yacht club).

  35. I didn’t take anyone’s property. And I also resent having erectile dysfunction named after me.

  36. Jennifer, it’s M1EK. The most (only?) objectionable thing he can find in this whole matter of 6K people being moved to make way for a yacht club and condos is that some libertarians suggested that the local government may have targeted these people for being poor and black.

    What answer to that is necessary?

  37. MIEK,

    Let me try and spell it out for you: joe seemed to be trying to equate the the displacement of residents via emminent domain (theft) and the displacement of tenents in a rental property (not theft). As tarran described above, one cannot just throw tenets out if they have a signed lease (the exact details all depend on the lease agreement). Again, an individual selling his property voluntarily is completely different from having it taken from him via ED.

  38. “Give me your tired, your poor,
    Your huddled masses yearning to breathe free,
    The wretched refuse of your teeming shore.
    Send these, the homeless, tempest-tossed, to me:
    I lift my lamp beside the golden door…oh I almost forgot I want your property too.”

  39. Gosh, you think his comments about racially sensitive libertarians might be been a wee little clue that he was being skeptical of y’all’s sudden display of love for the downtrodden poor black folk?

    Uh, yeah, I think everyone, including those who responded to him, know exactly what he was saying. As matt pointed out, there was a legitimate distinction to me made. But thanks for the explanation. It’s always funnier when someone thinks they need to explain it…

    At any rate, it’s hardly a sudden love for the “downtrodden poor black folk” – it’s a love for the individual person and a desire for individual liberty whether the individuals be “poor downtrodden black folk” or otherwise. Only a view of people which denies their individuality and instead treats them as simple members of a group, either sufficiently aggrieved to merit sympathy or not, could result in skepticism of a libertarian’s principled response to this type of issue.

  40. Well said, Brian.

  41. “Um, yeah, we’ll give you assessed value for your house after we force you to hand it over.” So not only will we take your home, we’ll likely pay you less than FMV for it in the process.

    In my neighborhood, the county just re-assessed, and the newly assessed value is still only 85% of what I paid for the house 2 years ago. I’m not complaining when tax time comes, but if they try to take my house through ED, I’m raisin’ hell.

  42. Y’all have the sense of humor and self-awareness of the average skink.

    Once again, for the record, Joe appears to have found it funny how a crowd which normally hates even mentioning race and/or economic status can’t mention it quickly enough when it helps add emotional heft to their argument on THIS case. It makes you wonder how sincere y’all are. That’s all. As in when the Bush administration cites environmental benefits of some action they’re trying to take.

    Hint: I oppose this use of eminent domain, as well as Kelo; hell, I oppose almost all use of eminent domain, including most of the ones which really ARE public use.

  43. matt,

    Let me try to spell it out for YOU:

    If you profess to think that this ED action is horrible partly because the residents are poor and black and thus don’t have much power to stop it, or much ability to go somewhere else when it happens…

    then you ought to also be professing that this other private action (landlord evicting with little notice because he sold to same developer) is horrible. You see, either the eminent domain action is horrible REGARDLESS of the race+economic status of those removed, or the race+economic status helps MAKE it horrible.

    If the former, you ought to shut the hell up about it and oppose this ED action purely on principle. If the latter, you ought to be pretty darn mad at the landlord in the private case too.

  44. Eric the .5b,

    You’re a real ass, you know that? Did you learn that school of argument directly from Rush Limbaugh or what?

  45. “Um, selling property voluntarily and stealing it are two entirely different concepts joe.”

    That whoosh you just felt in your hair, matt? Don’t worry about it.

    As for the rest of you, thank you for turning into bloodless contract lawyers on command, and demonstrating the phoniness of your ginned up compassion for the poor. Hey, man, no deed? You’re SOL. Wait a minute, you OWN that apartment house? “We Shall O-ver-co-o-ome…”

    “At any rate, it’s hardly a sudden love for the “downtrodden poor black folk” – it’s a love for the individual person and a desire for individual liberty whether the individuals be “poor downtrodden black folk” or otherwise.” Yes, Brian, it is a property-liberty-blabbedy blah blah, and the race- and class-laden language is the most transparent of ploys.

  46. d

    Assessed value is not the same as appraised value. Most localities do not tax the value of the land you house sits on.

    The interesting thing is that most ED takings pay more than the property would get on the market. That is (in FL at least) the offer from the govt will be higher than any willing private buyer would likely offer*.

    The problem is, of course, for a transaction to occur there must also be a willing seller. Most owners place a much higher value on their property and “hold out” for other than economic reasons.

    *This adds the additional odious feature that the land land is then resold by the city to the developer at his price thereby making it a subsidy on top of a theft.

  47. Well, I think everyone is opposed to it regardless, M1EK. (Accept joe…there may be a legitimate reason to joe after he reads the particulars, apparently. Not to knock him, but he’s more ‘liberal’ about ED than most of us.)

    But because race/socio-economic status may be a part of it, why should we shut the hell up about it? A landlord evicting on short notice is not a problem if the contract states that he can. If the contract doesn’t state such, than I would be upset at the landlord, too. The only reason “us” libertarians bring up the race angle is because others seem to do it, too, in other circumstances. And if we didn’t, you’d probably take us to task for not realising that the folks are poor, down-trodden individuals because we’re all a bunch of selfish pricks.

  48. saw-what,

    Thanks for stopping the madness. 🙂

  49. Libertarians: This is horrible! This is racist! This is ethnic cleansing! They want to hand over this historic black neighborhood to developers and evict the people who’ve put down roots here, just so that some rich white developers can get rich by turning it into a wealthy white enclave!

    Developers: Hey, great news! We reached agreements with all the owners! We aren’t going to have to use any eminent domain at all to evict these lowlifes!

    Libertarians: Yahoo! Hey, beat it, Tyrone! (Pulls off mall-bought dashiki) Here, wrap your shit up in this, you’re standing in the way of progress.

    Remember, it’s about social, economic, and racial justice.

  50. “A landlord evicting on short notice is not a problem if the contract states that he can.”

    In the real world, getting booted from your month-to-month apartment (the one you stayed in because it’s the only one you could afford) is very much a problem for the people who have to upend their lives. Not that you care, obviously.

  51. “But because race/socio-economic status may be a part of it, why should we shut the hell up about it? A landlord evicting on short notice is not a problem if the contract states that he can.”

    And if it just so happens that all of those folks stuck in those crappy rental contracts are the same poor black people we just pretended to care about a moment ago, well, how inconvenient for us now, huh?

  52. God would forgive a person who stole yacht that was parked on property stolen from someone else. He works in mysterious ways.

  53. Actually,although it was mentioned in the original quote from UPI, no big deal was made of race/socio-economic status until joe brought it up.

  54. Of course not, Isaac. The race and class-laden language from the story was only cut and pasted to serve as the lede in the blog post. And the language about poor black people cleaning up yacht owners’ shit? That was totally me posting under other people’s names.

  55. And the language about poor black people cleaning up yacht owners’ shit?

    There you go again. 🙂

    I interpreted that as ed pointing out that the likely lack of improvement in anyone’s life (except the developers) as a result of this.

    To quote ed: “…but I wonder how knocking down their houses to create jobs cleaning yacht toilets will improve their lives.” Irony, anyone.

  56. joe, my man, you live in a country founded on (a) property rights and (b) voluntary interactions. These concepts seem strangely absent from your musings:

    As for the rest of you, thank you for turning into bloodless contract lawyers on command

    I don’t do it on command, I do it by reflex (and for damn good money, too). The law student above has it right. The sale of the apartment building does not affect any tenant’s right to stay in their apartment.

    So you whole hypothetical fails from the get-go.

    Hey, man, no deed? You’re SOL.

    Yeah, owners have more rights than tenants. There’s a shock. And why do they have more rights? Because they voluntarily acquired the full bundle of property rights, for big bucks. The tenants voluntarily paid far, far less (literally orders of magnitude) for much more restricted rights. I personally don’t see the injustice in giving people what they signed up for, and paid for.

  57. I stand by my statement. You were the one who chose to make this about race.

  58. joe,

    Only what you (and M1EK) are attributing to libertarians wasn’t said by anyone on this thread!! Our concern for people being forcibly evicted by e.d. is that they are human beings being forcibly evicted.

    Speaking only for myself, the fact that they are poor does make it even more sad, even if it does not affect the principle of that matter one iota.

  59. If my building owner were to suddenly kick me out of my apartment, I would expect a big fat check for at least $2,000 to cover the fees a real estate broker will charge to find another apartment. Oh, and a another few hundred for moving expenses. Otherwise, I’m OK with it. However, I don’t believe the owner could get away with it as the laws are quite renter-friendly here. At least, I’ve never heard of such a thing happening.

  60. The race and class-laden language from the story was only cut and pasted to serve as the lede in the blog post.

    Wow, yeah, man, that Matt Welch, what a race-baiter. How ’bout he just cut and pasted the first fucking paragraph of the story?

    “The race and class-laden language” was straight from UPI.

  61. “If the former, you ought to shut the hell up about it and oppose this ED action purely on principle.”

    Jesus Bloody Christ M1EK, I DO oppose it on principle. Did you read my previous post?

    “Hint: I oppose this use of eminent domain, as well as Kelo; hell, I oppose almost all use of eminent domain, including most of the ones which really ARE public use.”

    I’m honestly shocked, but glad to hear that.

    And for the record, I don’t think the developers or the local government doing the stealing are necessarily racist. These people just happened to be located on land that developers want and that “local officials” are apparently glad to give them.

  62. You’re a real ass, you know that? Did you learn that school of argument directly from Rush Limbaugh or what?

    Well, I am hopped up on drugs at the moment (had to take my antivert this morning). But thanks for making me giggle and affirming my poor opinion of you.

  63. As for the rest of you, thank you for turning into bloodless contract lawyers on command, and demonstrating the phoniness of your ginned up compassion for the poor.

    So, joe, you’ve said you support the concept of welfare. If anyone asked if you would commit muggings in order to give the proceeds to desperately poor people, would you turn into a bloodless constitutional lawyer and talk about the distinction between theft and taxation?

  64. So, who among the racially sensitive, bleeding heart libertarians on this thread, outraged by the dislocation of a community, wants to see payments made when renters are displaced when their building’s owner sells his property to a developer?

    Never. Not even if it was part of the rental agreement or if the landlord sold the property out from under them before a lease was up. At least not if the displaced folks were, you know, black. Or poor. Poor is almost as bad as black.

    “At any rate, it’s hardly a sudden love for the “downtrodden poor black folk” – it’s a love for the individual person and a desire for individual liberty whether the individuals be “poor downtrodden black folk” or otherwise.” Yes, Brian, it is a property-liberty-blabbedy blah blah, and the race- and class-laden language is the most transparent of ploys.

    Because, God knows, libertarians are racist bastards who cross their fingers whenever they hear about bad things being done to black people, in hopes that the government wasn’t involved so that they don’t have to pretend they mind.

  65. According to joe:

    Homeowner is to local government as tenant is to landlord.

    If you cannot wrap your mind around that idea, then you cannot understand joe’s POV.

  66. I don’t think that’s entirely accurate, but it does make me shudder.

  67. “joe, my man, you live in a country founded on (a) property rights and (b) voluntary interactions. These concepts seem strangely absent from your musings.” No, not absent. They’re just not the only factors that matter.

    “I don’t do it on command, I do it by reflex (and for damn good money, too).” Yes, I’m sure you do.

    “The law student above has it right. The sale of the apartment building does not affect any tenant’s right to stay in their apartment.” And of course, that’s all that matters, with any complaints about the race and class implications being so much camoflage.

    “So you whole hypothetical fails from the get-go” Uh, no, you just proved my point, actually.

    “And why do they have more rights? Because they voluntarily acquired the full bundle of property rights, for big bucks.” Hey, man, as long as the people with the big bucks are ok…

    “According to joe:

    Homeowner is to local government as tenant is to landlord.” No, obviously not.

    But a guy getting kicked out his home is a guy getting kicked out of his home.

  68. Eric, I don’t think libertarians are racist bastards. Most of ’em, anyway. I think the vast majority don’t care about race, or economic status, one way or the other.

    Which is why it comes off so phoney when you try to dress up as Martin Luther King.

  69. Yes, Isaac, “The race and class-laden language” was straight from UPI.’ Of the thousands of redevelopment plans involving eminent domain that make the papers each day, Reason picked the one that puts race and class issues front and center. What are the chances?

    They really need to start teaching media skills in the schools.

  70. “Second – the cleansing of undesireables.”

    joe,
    After we gentrifiers do some regular cleansing of undesirables, they won’t be so undesirable. They’ll smell sweet.

    Do you sense some city-planning potential in me?

    Seriously, can we all agree government is on the side of those paying for it, and they ain’t the “undesirables,” by definition, just like certain drugs are undesirable by definition.
    My own, personal answer to this conundrum is, you guessed it: anarchy.

  71. If the guy is a renter, then it’s not his — it’s the owner’s. Emotional baggage associated with the word “home” (vs. “house”, “apartment”, etc.) notwithstanding.

  72. Ruthless, “After we gentrifiers do some regular cleansing of undesirables, they won’t be so undesirable. They’ll smell sweet.

    Do you sense some city-planning potential in me?”

    Dude, you’ll never get a planning degree with an attitude like that. Well, maybe in Texas…

    Lazlo, isn’t “emotional baggage” that people have for their property pretty much the only thing that makes the payment of fair market value insufficient in estimating the value of a property taken through eminent domain? Isn’t that what Isaac means by “Most owners place a much higher value on their property and “hold out” for other than economic reasons?”

  73. Or as my mother used to put it when I was little and carried some toy around a store hoping she would buy it when she saw what a sweet little tableau I was acting out… “Don’t get too attached to that; it doesn’t belong to you and you’re going to have to give it back.”

  74. This is one bizarre thread.

  75. Joe, the issue-at least for me-is that I support restrictions on government largely because I expect government malfeasance to screw over the poor and poorly-connected (as well as the innovators and revolutionaries, but that is, for the most part, a different and disjoint set). When the government screws over rich, well-connected heirs, or the upper management of large, inflexible companies, or something, I’m annoyed but not grossly offended; but for some reason I can’t quite put my finger on, that doesn’t seem to happen too often. If the government decided to use Eminent Domain to buy out all the steel-processing plants I’d be upset, but if you don’t count the precedent-setting effects, then I suspect that would be a net benefit to the country (we wouldn’t have to worry about subsidizing them or imposing tariffs for them, among other things). But that’s not what happens. So in some sense, I’d see this case as paradigmatic: it exemplifies the pitfalls of granting governments large amounts of discretionary power over their citizens.

    And I do see a major difference between this case and the case of the landlord/tenant: I think it would be horrible for tenants if we required landlords to pay all evicted tenants. Presumably if you rent an apartment under a lease that allows your landlord to kick you out with little-to-no notice (as several other posters pointed out, these probably aren’t the norm), it’s probably either because the lessened rent is worth it to you, or because you can’t get an apartment under other terms. The sets of people fitting that description are the ones who would be hurt by your hypothetical rule, and I bet very few of them are in the top quartile of the income distribution.

    On the other hand, I suspect you know, or at least have considered, this; and your point about typical prejudices is a good one. Still, I think our prejudices are largely right; and “it’s their property, damnit” is often a shorthand for all the negative consequences of social rules which make “it” not “their property.”

  76. Of the thousands of redevelopment plans involving eminent domain that make the papers each day

    Oh yeah…and how many of these get picked up by an International news organzation, and thus are easy to point to?

    Yeah joe, it pisses me off when government runs amock. It pisses me off even more when it runs amock over relatively defenseless people. The issue is a matter of force over free will. If I’m rich, then I can maybe put up a fight against the force of goverment. What the government is doing is still wrong, but at least the victim has some ability for self-defence. Someone who is poor has little or no ability, so the exercise of force is even more tragic.

    If a poor person gets evicted by their landlord, then yes, I have some sympathy for their plight. But if they entered into the lease under their own free will, then even if it may be disheartening, and even if I think that it is proper to be charitable to help them out, it is not a violation of my principles of cooperation within a free society. However, the improper exercise of force is a violation of this principles, and is a tragedy of justice.

    If you want to keep being a race baiter, go ahead. If you want to remain blind to the fact that the most likely reason this story made an international news feed was BECAUSE of the liberal media focus on issues that have any inkling of race, go ahead. But if you want to keep slandering us without cause, then piss off.

  77. Jadagul, obviously, payments to tenants by landlords is unworkable. The impacts on the supply of rental housing would be severe. I just brought it up as an intellectual exercize.

    However, on further reflection, I’ve never seen the “I hate to see defenseless people get screwed over by the government,” bleeding heart libertarians suggest that renters should be compensated when the building they occupy are taken by eminent domain. A guy who buys an apartment house for $100,000, and has it taken four years later for “only” $200,000 – that works libertarians heartstrings. The poor people who live in that building? Fuck em. All the threads about eminent domain and the poor, and believe me, I’ve read them all, not a single bleeding heart libertarian has ever brought that up.

    So you can see why the Woodie Guthrie act gets a little grating.

  78. “No, obviously not.

    But a guy getting kicked out his home is a guy getting kicked out of his home.”-joe

    No, it is not obvious. For the situations to be morally comparable, one must consider that the tenant renting his place has an equal right to his home as the person who owns his home outright, and that the government has an equal claim on the homeowner’s property as the landlord does on his rental. Without stipulating that the landlord is violating his contractual obligations, a tenant does not have a similar claim to his home as an owner. Therefore, the tenant losing his home does not provoke similar outrage to homeowner being forced to vacate his property, nor should it.

    No, it is not obvious, at all.

  79. “So you can see why the Woodie Guthrie act gets a little grating.”

    So, it’s the libertarians who are putting on the Woodie Guthrie act on here? Ok.

    That is really an unfortunate thing for you to say in front of anyone with a brain.

  80. “I’ve never seen the “I hate to see defenseless people get screwed over by the government,” bleeding heart libertarians suggest that renters should be compensated when the building they occupy are taken by eminent domain.”-joe

    Who is supposed to be paying the tenants in this situation? If it is the government, I personally don’t have much of a problem with that in principle and within reason. If you are suggesting that the landlord pay this out of what he received from his forced sale, then I suggest that is adding insult to injury, as he was unable to meet his contractual obligations to his renters through no fault of own.

  81. Joe: what speedwell’s mom said. Someone losing their home can be a sad thing, but there’s an huge difference having something you own taken away from you and having something taken away that you knew was never really yours in the first place.

  82. I really need to lean how to type faster.

  83. Eric, I don’t think libertarians are racist bastards. Most of ’em, anyway. I think the vast majority don’t care about race, or economic status, one way or the other.

    Which is why it comes off so phoney when you try to dress up as Martin Luther King.

    So, if people don’t loudly adopt something like your ideas on race relations, disadvantaged groups and how to improve the lots of both, at best they don’t care. If they venture such an uncontrovercial premise as poor members of a minority group are the easiest people for a government to screw, they’re putting on a show.

    Either way, they can’t win with you. Thank goodness that’s not a priority.

  84. However, on further reflection, I’ve never seen the “I hate to see defenseless people get screwed over by the government,” bleeding heart libertarians suggest that renters should be compensated when the building they occupy are taken by eminent domain.

    I’ve also not seen much in the way of angst about subcontractors painters losing money on work they wanted to do on houses that got taken. Or plumbers and electricians, for that matter. Or all the consumers who lose out because a store they frequented got taken. Or the kids who can’t play in the vacant lot that was taken. Or…

    Or a million other things. I certainly haven’t seen any angst on your part about either renters or any of the other people I mentioned.

  85. To put it more bluntly, I do hate seeing defenseless people getting screwed by the government.

    Don’t believe me?

    Take a flying leap.

  86. joe, like you, I do get bothered by the idea of people suddenly and precipitously having to find shelter, especially when poverty severely restricts their options.

    However, I feel that you are to ready to turn to violence to soothe your troubles.

    You have stated that the renter is losing “their” home. Taken literally, this is a false statement since the renter, by definition, does not own the home. However, I think what you are really trying to state is that the renter is losing access to shelter, and you are quite correct in finding this objectionable.

    If homes were a widely avaliable resource, I expect that this scenario would not bother you. For example, nobody frets about a convenience store suddenly refusing to stock milk. Milk is relatively plentiful, and if one supply suddenly dries up, generally another one is available that is as easy to access.

    Housing, though, is not like milk – the major difference being that the supply is less elastic and less plentiful.

    I too live in the Boston area, and I am directly affected by the shortage of shelter here. However, the answer to this problem is to deal with the root cause, the factors preventing production of new houses to meet the demand, not to violently force owners to provide others access to their property.

    Our housing shortage is simply the product of laws and regulations that inhibit the construction of new units. Since few new units can enter the market, production of housing is not permitted to meet the demand. Thus, as in any shortage, prices go up until the number of those willing to pay for the good equals the number of units available.

    In my town, a developer’s attempts to convert land zoned for single family homes into condominiums and rental properties that would provide housing for more people has been held up for years by legal impediments by people afraid of change. There are serious restrictions to building houses on land where there was no housing before. Much of the unused land in the vicinity of cities in Massachusetts, and there are literally thousands of acres within 10 miles of the Boston city limits, is owned by the state, which is another way of saying is owned by no one, and will never be made available for development.

    This problem is the creation of government interference in the right of people to use their property as they see fit. The solution is not more government interference, but to loosen control, to allow people to build on their property, to decide how to use it. I recognize that there will be some degree of state interference throughout my lifetime; the state monopolies on most utilities alone require it.

    But under the current regulatory climate, those that control the state have made it perfectly clear that they value “property values”, “nature preserves”, “the culture of the town” over allowing people to find shelter.

    And, as usual, the people with the fewest resources to buy influence with state officials get the shaft.

  87. There’s a nice symmetry between this and the new Scripps research campus going up 15 minutes to the west. That one is a case of the governor engineering a deal to pay an agribusiness owner well above market value for the land and hand it over to Scripps and its allied developers for peanuts plus big tax abatements.

    Why that project couldn’t have been put in some high-rise office buildings (or repurposed abandoned K-Marts and Winn-Dixies) someplace like Riviera Beach, which has relatively cheap real estate, plenty of infrastructure in place, and all that, is beyond me. As part of the West Palm metro area, it’s a pretty quick commute from a wide variety of housing, from downtown apartments and the existing suburban sprawl to the semi-rustic, horsy areas a little ways out. It’s along the FEC freight rail corridor, which will inevitably get commuter rail on it, connecting all the downtowns from Jupiter to Miami.

    But that wouldn’t provide an excuse to open a dozen or so square miles of greenfields to new sprawl development, something that benefits the governor’s developer cronies and further interferes with efforts to repair the Everglades, which had damned well better get fixed if anyone is serious about shielding all this sprawl from serious drought.

  88. “In the real world, getting booted from your month-to-month apartment (the one you stayed in because it’s the only one you could afford) is very much a problem for the people who have to upend their lives. Not that you care, obviously.”

    Also joe, in the real world, people who don’t get fancy government and big corporation pension plans often rely upon real estate investment for their retirement income. Having a tenant who doesn’t pay his rent means no retirement income. In the real world, that is.

  89. Yeah, Joe, I don’t know how much we substantively disagree on here-although I suspect I’m painting ED with a slightly broader brush than you would. But I’ll refer you back to my original comment that our pro-property prejudices either are or should be a shorthand for all the obvious negative consequences of governments that go around swiping people’s property. My imediate reaction to the situation you describe would be to complain about the violation of the landlord’s property, it’s true. But your scenario actually demonstrates why ED is bad, even assuming that ED-ing the guy’s property has no impact on housing markets, and that the landlord is rich enough and/or gets a good enough price that he doesn’t mind.

    The system of private property works because of a web of contracts; one of the key libertarian insights, which I believe Hayek points out in Road to Serfdom, is that knocking out a few elements of this web can substantially weaken other parts of the web. The renters wouldn’t be in the situation you describe if we hadn’t seized the landlord’s property: because of the lease contracts he’s signed, he (presumably) can’t just up and evict all his tenants for no reason. Should he sell the property to another landlord, the new landlord is still bound by the lease agreements. But when the government seizes the building, it places itself under no such restriction. One possible solution is to require the government to provide compensation to the tenants, or to keep the apartment running until leases run out, or some other such nonsense. My solution would be just to ban ED under all but the most egregious circumstances, and thus prevent the undermining of the contractual web in the first place.

  90. “jdog”,

    Interesting that wWcaused to renters when they’re booted with 30 days notice under a month-to-month lease arrangement, you assume they’re being booted for failure to pay rent. Actually, Joe’s just talking about landlords booting people with 30 days’ notice because that’s the minimal notice they need to provide under the contract, and the heck with tenants.

    Here in lovely Florida, in fact, standard rental law is now even worse: a landlord can still evict a month-to-month tenant with 30 days’ notice, but a tenant who wants her/his security deposit back (or the portion thereof that the landlord is willing to turn over) has to give the landlord 60 days’ notice.

  91. Lazlo, don’t type faster. The extra time comes through in making yor point better.

    “Joe: what speedwell’s mom said. Someone losing their home can be a sad thing, but there’s an huge difference having something you own taken away from you and having something taken away that you knew was never really yours in the first place.”

    I agree that there is a difference, but it would seem to be a difference in degree, rather than in kind. I’ve seen libertarian wail about on this site about takings, such as the taking of commercial properties owned by investors, that are much less personally disruptive than being booted from your apartment when you’ve got limited opportunities to begin with.

  92. Big, fat, huge, crazy, mad props to tarran – the first libertarian, in the five-odd years that I’ve been reading this site, to come forward with a criticism of the single greatest government interference with the housing market, snob zoning.

    You are absolutely right about the root cause here. However, I take exception to your characterization that “those that control the state have made it perfectly clear that they value “property values”, “nature preserves”, “the culture of the town” over allowing people to find shelter.” These towns are now weighing those concerns agains the housing needs of the non-rich, and settling at an unwise balance. They are actively hostile to the concept that they have a responsibility to the housing needs of the non-rich. It would be entirely possible to protect property values, provide sufficient open space, and preserve community character, while still allowing for adequate housing construction. They aren’t trying to do this and failing – they are actively working to keep “those people” out of their towns, and succeeding.

  93. Also, tarran, the Commonwealth is making large amounts of its land available for development, and insisting that it be used to provide the sort of naturally-affordable housing that is being shut out by the suburbs. And, I gotta hand it to him, it is Republican Mitt Romney who is taking the lead in this.

  94. Big, fat, huge, crazy, mad props to tarran – the first libertarian, in the five-odd years that I’ve been reading this site, to come forward with a criticism of the single greatest government interference with the housing market, snob zoning.

    I told you I was against it, and I believe others did too. But to make more of a noise about it than other types of zoning would fulfill your charge that we’re pretending to be on the side of the poor when in fact we’re on the side of the property owner, whatever his station in life.

  95. You don’t make more noise about it, fyodor. You make far, far less.

    But yes, it is true, inside threads about everything except the biggest elephant in the room, I have been able to squeeze some of you into admitting that snob zoning is bad.

    This is just the first time one I’ve seen one of your bring it up unbidden.

  96. joe

    Zoning (period) is one of the many restrictions that libertarians in general oppose. Just as we do not bring up drug legalization in an ED thread or non-interventionist foreign policy in a discussion on Social Security we don’t bring up zoning unless the thread is about zoning.

  97. Perhaps, Joe, some of us just have less background knowledge than you do? It certainly wouldn’t be shocking.

    I find snob zoning terribly offensive, but it’s not necessarily on my radar any more than a whole bunch of other things I’m offended by but only peripherally aware of are. I honestly don’t know much about the specifics of zoning regulations, and have no clue how much snob zoning actually occurs. I’m perfectly willing to believe that it happens a lot-you certainly should know what you’re talking about, and it fits my priors that government interference tends to screw over the poorly connected rather than the rich and influential. I don’t usually make a big stink about it because I don’t know much about it (indeed, almost all of what I know about it comes from reading your comments here. For all I know, you could be feeding me complete nonsense), and so can’t comment nearly as effectively as I can, say, on farm subsidies or minimum wage laws. And since it’s not my area of expertise, it’s not one of the first things that occurrs to me when I’m looking for stuff to complain about.

    On the other hand, weird, objectionable zoning practices are on my mental list of “Explanations of why there are really dumb real estate shortages in a lot of situations.” I just can’t defend it as an explanation too vigorously, because I really don’t know that much.

  98. Joe, that’s a fair point (that you can trace anything back to anything if you try hard enough). On the other hand, I think that it’s generally accurate that getting the government involved makes things worse-I could be wrong, but I haven’t seen anything terribly convincing yet. Well, there are certain circumstances where I think the goverment should be involved, but I’ve seen nothing to dissuade me from my base judgment that getting the government involved is usually, on the whole, a bad idea, especially for those with little influence, and thus advocates of government intervention have a high burden of proof.

    And would you agree with me that if the renters have a contract granting them rights to the apartment for a year, and the landlord can’t violate this contract and therefore can’t generally kick them out, then preventing the government from seizing the building is a solution, even if it isn’t necessarily the best?

  99. Isaac,

    There has never been a snob zoning thread on Hit & Run. Not one, and I remember when the Reason website started this blog.

    There have been many, many attacks on planning and zoning, including dozens on reform movements concerned with the impact of snob zoning, but there has never been a post devoted to the biggest regulatory distortion in the American housing market.

    Which might explain why Jad, and so many other libertarians, don’t find it on their radar.

  100. Jadagul,

    Good post @ 12:03.

    joe,

    Once again, if the Reason staff is ignoring something they should be paying attention to, then I shrug my shoulders over why and say they’re wrong to ignore it. As Jadagul says, I have no one but you to verify that that’s the case, so I don’t know whether to agree with you or not, so I’m left to saying, if you’re right then you’re right. I just have no way of knowing. But either way, for you to impugn the motives of libertarians en masse, as you seem to be doing, on this account, is ridiculous.

  101. joe

    If there was a thread on snob zoning we’d all end up agreeing and telling each other what fine upstanding folks we are.

    You wouldn’t be able to tell us what uncaring racist bushbots we are and we wouldn’t be able to call you a fucking commie stalinist pinko.

    Where would the fun be in that?

  102. Isaac: made me laugh out loud. Although I think you’re wrong: past experience dictates that we’d find some way to get onto a topic that would allow us to call joe a commie stalinist pinko. Or we could wait for certain people to return, in which case we wouldn’t even need a topic 🙂

    Joe: are you sure that snob zoning is a bigger distortion than mortgage and credit subsidies? You could well be right, but I suspect you’re wrong. Of course, I really have no idea; I probably think you’re wrong just because credit subsidies are something I do know about, and something of an interest of mine. Interesting question, either way; and either way, you’re right that snob zoning is awful.

  103. “Joe: are you sure that snob zoning is a bigger distortion than mortgage and credit subsidies?”

    It’s tough to be “sure” about something like that, but snob zoning effects every resident, owner and renter, in most metropolitan areas of the country.

  104. fyodor, I don’t know if the term “en masse” can be applied to libertarians. ;-P

    But there is another factor that raises my suspicions here – in addition to never posting about snob zoning, while often posting about the movements that have sprung up in opposition to snob zoning, Reason writers and commenters also regularly make statements in sympathy with the ideology behind snob zoning – the horrible city people, the glories of geographic isolation, the wonders of the auto-dependent community form, the evils of multifamily housing and the greater degree of shared space it implies. The geographies – I hesitate to call them either “places” or “communities” created by snob zoning are constantly idealized as the “natural” expression of “the market.” Several regulars have even defended these regulations on the grounds that the dominance of the single family home in the existing market functions as revealed preference – an argument they certainly don’t make about, say, the broad support enjoyed by Social Security.

    And I have my suspicions why this is so. Snob zoning and sprawl dovetail quite nicely with the uber-individualist ideology that pervuades libertarianism – just read the description of Roarke’s vacation resort in “The Fountainhead.”

  105. There has never been a snob zoning thread on Hit & Run. Not one, and I remember when the Reason website started this blog.

    There have been many, many attacks on planning and zoning, including dozens on reform movements concerned with the impact of snob zoning, but there has never been a post devoted to the biggest regulatory distortion in the American housing market.

    Libertarians generally oppose the practice of zoning, which includes snob zoning.

    You support the practice of zoning, IIRC, which includes snob zoning.

    I’m not seeing your moral high ground.

  106. Though, to be fair, if you’d go into some examples of “snob zoning” that differ from the sort of zoning complaints seen here, that might make things clearer.

  107. “You support the practice of zoning, IIRC, which includes snob zoning.”

    Please, Eric. Does supporting the existance of a military “include” supporting the Vietnam War? Does supporting the practice of having public roads mean supporting those new bridges in Alaska?

    Snob zoning is defined as the use of zoning to prevent the economic, and often racial, integration of a community by outlawing the construction of housing that the non-rich can afford. It’s often applied to suburbs that zone all of their residential land for large lot single family homes, making it impossible to build rental housing, townhouses, or even more-affordable small single family homes.

    This is quite different from zoning that allows dense housing near downtown and transit, or even that restricts housing styles to those that are compatible with the established building pattern within an already-built district.

  108. Does supporting the existance of a military “include” supporting the Vietnam War?

    No, but it helps! 1/2 🙂

    I think Eric’s point is that if you support the concept of zoning, that makes snob zoning possible, regardless of whether that’s how you personally would favor using it.

    Since libertarians oppose all zoning on principle, it’s a lot clearer that our position contradicts the use of snob zoning.

    And regarding your suspicions, well suspect all you like, all I can say is that it’s strange how you seem like the beating your head against the wall that getting “us” to see how evil we really are amounts to. I know I’ll never convince you of the errors of your ways, but at least if I’m talking about issues and about what you actually say, as opposed to what your hidden and never spoken agenda is, there at least barely seems to be a point to it all.

  109. Snob zoning is defined as the use of zoning to prevent the economic, and often racial, integration of a community by outlawing the construction of housing that the non-rich can afford. It’s often applied to suburbs that zone all of their residential land for large lot single family homes, making it impossible to build rental housing, townhouses, or even more-affordable small single family homes.

    Having some slight experience with the more boring workings of city government, that sounds like the very sort of thing that makes me against zoning, period. I know you can’t wrap your head around the idea “Give the government powers it shouldn’t have, and it will not merely use them to take care of nice things that I think the market should do instead, but will actively do bad things, so don’t give it those powers!”, but at least have the decency to acknowledge that some people can.

  110. “You support the practice of zoning, IIRC, which includes snob zoning.”

    Does supporting the practice of having public roads mean supporting those new bridges in Alaska?

    Your military / war metaphor was sloppy – this one actually matched what I said….

    No, supporting one does not necessarily include supporting the other… But one does include the other. Public roads include those bridges in Alaska. You may oppose those bridges, but you don’t have any moral high ground to say “Aha! You people who oppose all public roads and bridges haven’t made enough complaints about those bridges to impress me, so I think you secretly love Alaskan bridges, unlike me.”

    It’s just posturing.

  111. fyodor, “Since libertarians oppose all zoning on principle, it’s a lot clearer that our position contradicts the use of snob zoning.” Oh, that’s right. You support “snob covenants” enforced by private homeowners’ associations, which are like snob zoning, except they’re a lot harder to overturn, because they are not subject cannot be overturned through the democratic process or the protections of the Constitution.

    OK, some of you don’t actually support such covenants, but as you say, “if you support the concept of (covenants), that makes snob (covenants) possible, regardless of whether that’s how you personally would favor using it.”

    And Eric? Those of you who oppose the existance of public roads have been very loud and proud in your condemnation of the Alaska pork bridges – a pretty sharp contrast to snob zoning, but a telling analysis of the metaphor.

  112. OK, some of you don’t actually support such covenants, but as you say, “if you support the concept of (covenants), that makes snob (covenants) possible, regardless of whether that’s how you personally would favor using it.”

    Yep. I would not accuse someone of being pro-snob covenents if he were opposed to all covenants.

    And Eric? Those of you who oppose the existance of public roads have been very loud and proud in your condemnation of the Alaska pork bridges – a pretty sharp contrast to snob zoning, but a telling analysis of the metaphor.

    Hell, joe, like I said, the stuff you describe just sounds like “reasons I oppose all zoning”. If it makes you feel better to think that we don’t really mind zoning if it keeps all the poor people awat, who am I to harsh your buzz?

  113. You support “snob covenants” enforced by private homeowners’ associations, which are like snob zoning, except…

    Except that they’re arrived at by voluntary contractual arrangement. Which makes all the difference to us, crazy assholes that we are. I may not personally like snob covenants, but I respect the right of anyone to make voluntary contractual arrangements whatever they are, just as I support the right of free speech whether or not I like what’s being said.

    That said, I’ve been involved in a debate about the legitimacy of covenants as voluntary contracts since they’re a little odd compared to what we normally think of as contracts, but I think I’ve been convinced that they are indeed legitimate, contrary to what I thought at first.

    Oh and BTW, FYI, Anne Rand’s views and libertarianism, while overlapping a great deal, are NOT one and the same.

  114. If tenants have a right to the homes they inhabit based on social justice, why would people build houses that they wouldn’t inhabit in the first place? If you are thinking of building a home and renting it out, the possibility that “social justice” could be invoked to keep you from selling it might be a good reason not to build anything in the first place.

  115. Eric, “Yep. I would not accuse someone of being pro-snob covenents if he were opposed to all covenants.” What if they supported covenants, and didn’t want the big, bad gub’mint limiting what could be in those covenants? That’s the default libertarian position, and it is one that “allows” snob covenants just as much, or more, than support for zoning “allows” snob zoning. Nice try, but you haven’t dodged this issue.

    fyodor, “Except that they’re arrived at by voluntary contractual arrangement.” Doesn’t this strike you as a little too procedural? A government that chooses to do nothing to prevent black people from being segregated out of town by private covenant, and a government that passes segregation laws, both end up keeping black people out of town. I don’t think the Pontius Pilate act really gets your hands clean.

  116. “Joe: are you sure that snob zoning is a bigger distortion than mortgage and credit subsidies?”

    He isn’t sure, because he isn’t interested in figuring out if it’s the case. He doesn’t like suburbs, and will say whatever he can to try to get you to hate them too. In the past there have been plenty of threads where I and others have exploded the idea that there aren’t a very large number of people who prefer suburbs, by pointing out the economics of the situation.

    Further, there is plenty to show that the sum of market interference by the government goes the other way in many (if not most) areas, funneling money from the suburbs into the cities, subsidizing urban growth.

    I don’t have the time today to get into the protracted argument this always becomes, which is unfortunate, because with this:

    “You support “snob covenants” enforced by private homeowners’ associations, which are like snob zoning, except they’re a lot harder to overturn, because they are not subject cannot be overturned through the democratic process or the protections of the Constitution.”

    joe has completely revealed himself and his interests to be anathema to libertarian ideas, and also, that he knows it.

    “For all I know, you could be feeding me complete nonsense”

    rppi.org is a good place to start looking for information on development issues that doesn’t come from disingenuous, lefty, smart-growth idealogues.

  117. Despite the fact that I’m sure this thread is completely dead by now, I’m going to respond anyway.

    First of all, JDM, joe didn’t have to “try to get me to hate” suburbs. I already loathe suburbs. One of my goals is to move to someplace where I never have to get into a car and I can walk everywhere. Dense, crowded cities, with lots of stuff of different sorts withing walking distance (or mass transit, if absolutely necessary). And my question for him wasn’t whether snob zoning is an issue. It’s obviously bad. I just think that the mortgage and credit market interferences probably affect housing choices even more (incidentally, they’d add to the pressure for own-your-own-large-house-in-the-middle-of-nowhere). But I don’t know whether I’m more interested in credit markets because they’re more important, or whether I think they’re more important because I was already interested in them.

    And joe: the reason we (or I, at least) perform the Pontius Pilate act so scrupulously is that I don’t want the government judging what a ‘good’ way to lay out residential areas is. If they have to make a judgment, I’d prefer for them to encourage dense urban mixed growth and discourage suburban sprawl, for much the same reason that if they have to make large intra-middle-class tranfer payments, I’d prefer to be the recipient. But the procedural case is important because we want to limit the government such that it doesn’t make those judgments at all. A government that can say (factually correctly) “communities that segregate out blacks are bad, so we won’t let you build that kind of community,” can also say “communities that mix residential and commercial property are bad, so we won’t let you build that kind of community.” I’d prefer just not to give the government that kind of power; and when a bunch of moronic assholes decide to exile decent, productive people from their community in exchange for less decent, lazy people because the decent, productive people happen to have darker-than-average skin, I’ll take that trade. They can get the lazy white guys, and I’ll go live in the town with all the productive black guys.

  118. Fair enough, none-the-less, joe’s the wrong guy to ask about it. There are of course, all kinds of government pressures limiting the growth of suburban development, countered by pressures supporting it. I’d be happy with removing all of the pressures in either direction, whatever the outcome would be.

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