U are Su Fructed


According to an L.A. Times article, officials working on rebuilding New Orleans are considering an Eminent Domainish policy called "usufruct," which would allow government to take over damaged homes—by force, possibly—clean 'em up, rent 'em out to government workers with subsidized housing allowances, take over the mortgage payments … and then maybe allow the original owners to come back in a few years, but only if they repay the government for its hard work. Connosieurs of coercion-bias in newspapers will enjoy the wording of this front-pager:

Officials and community advocates are quietly planting the seeds for an enterprising program that could give the government temporary control over thousands of privately owned homes damaged by Hurricane Katrina.

An increasing number of Louisiana housing authorities believe the proposal, based on an arcane legal concept called "usufruct," could be a key to determining whether New Orleans will again be a seminal American city or whether it will stagnate with a population, like it has now, equal to that of Duluth, Minn., and Fort Smith, Ark. […]

The proposal would require deft legal maneuvering and could be controversial, largely because the Constitution severely restricts the government's ability to control private property.