Facts: DC Redevelopment Act Congress made a “legislative determination” that it shall
be the “policy of the US to protect and promote the welfare of the inhabitants of the seat
of the Government by eliminating all such injurious conditions by employing all means
necessary and appropriate for the purpose”. § 2 of the Act goes on to declare that
acquisition of property is necessary to eliminate these housing conditions. These ends
cannot be attained “by the ordinary operations of private enterprise alone without public
participation: and cannot be accomplished unless it is done in light of the comprehensive
and coordinated planning oft eh whole of the territory of DC and its environs” it hereby
declares the project area to be a public use. Section 6 of the Act allows the Commission o
designate land for public use, hold a public hearing and then transfer to public agencies
and also private companies any seized land, with preference given to private enterprise in
executing redevelopment plans. The first area seized was Area B, which was deemed by
the Director of Health as unfit for living. One property owner, P, who owned a
department store, objected to the appropriation of his property. It was commercial, not
residential property, it was not slum housing, and it would be put into the project under
the management of a private, not public agency and used for private, not public use. The
district court save the Act by construing it to mean that the Agency should condemn
property only for the reasonable necessities of slum clearance and prevent, its concept of
slum being the existence of conditions “injurious to the public health, safety, morals and
welfare.”
Holding: Affirmed. The rights of property owners are satisfied when they receive that
just compensation which the Fifth Amendment exacts as the price of the taking.
Rationale:
- The power of Congress of DC includes all the legislative powers with a state may
exercise over its affairs. This is known as a police power.
- When the legislature has spoken, the public interest has been declared in terms
well neigh conclusive. In such cases, it is the legislature, not the judiciary, that is
the main guardian of the public needs to be served by social legislation, whether it
be Congress legislating concerning DC or the States legislating local affairs.
- The role the judiciary is given in determining whether that power is being
exercised for a public purpose is an extremely narrow one. Public safety, health,
morality, peace and quiet, law and order, these are conspicuous examples of the
traditional application of the policy power over municipal affairs.
- Miserable housing is a cancer that suffocates the spirit of people and reduces them
to cattle
- The values of public welfare may be spiritual as well as physical, aesthetic and
monetary, and this is within the legislature’s determination. If those in DC decide
that the Nation’s Capital should be beautiful as well as sanitary, there is nothing
in the Fifth Amendment that stands in the way
- Once the object is within the authority of Congress, the means by which it will be
attained is also for Congress to determine. Here one of the means chosen is the
use of private enterprise for redevelopment of the area. The means of executing
the project are for Congress alone to determine, once the public purpose has been
established
- WE cannot say that the public ownership is the sole method of promoting the
public purposes of community redevelopment projects. What we have aid also
disposes of any contention concerning the fact that certain property owners in the
area may be permitted to repurchase their properties for redevelopment in
harmony with the over-all plan.
- Under this plan, it is not enough to remove existing buildings that were
unsanitary, it was important to redesign the whole area so as to eliminate the
conditions that cause slums. The entire area needed redesigning so that a
balanced, integrated plan could be developed for the region, including not only
new homes but schools….and shopping centers. A piecemeal approach, the
removal of individual structures that were offensive, would be only a palliative
- If owner after owner were permitted to resist redevelopment programs on the
grounds that his particular property was not being used against the public interest,
all development would suffer greatly.
- The Constitution does not require that once a question of public purpose has been
decided that redevelopment programs be based on a lot by lot, building by
building basis.