Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Act (1970)
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The federal government's response to eminent domain issues
A series of provisions codified in 1971 to ensure fair treatment of those displaced by federally funded programs, federally assisted programs or state and local agencies receiving federal funds, the Uniform Relocation Assistance and Real Property Acquisition Act of 1970 (or "URA") is intended to make federal efforts to compensate these persons subjected to federal eminent domain efforts standard and uniform. The Act has since been amended at least three times.
On the Housing and Urban Development's (which may fund some of these displacement projects) website, the Act's essential objectives are listed, and they are as follows:
(1) to provide uniform, fair and equitable treatment of persons whose real property is acquired or who are displaced in connection with federally funded projects; (2) to ensure relocation assistance is provided to displaced persons to lessen the emotional and financial impact of displacement; (3) to ensure that no individual or family is displaced unless decent, safe and sanitary housing is available within the displaced person's financial means; (4) to help improve the housing conditions of displaced persons living in substandard housing; and (5) to encourage and expedite acquisition by agreement and without coercion.
To be an eligible "displaced person," the Act sets forth factors for qualification:
If one moves from real property, or moves personal property from their real property as a result of a written notice of intent to acquire, the initiation of negotiations for, or the acquisition of, the real property, in whole or in part, due to a federally funded program or one with federal assistance; or on which such person is a residential tenant or conducts a small business, farm operation, or a business as a direct result of rehabilitation, demolition, or other displacing activity, as the lead agency may prescribe, under a program or project undertaken by a federal agency or with federal financial assistance in any case in which the head of the displacing agency determines that the displacement is permanent.
Once found to be eligible under the URA, such a displaced person can receive a myriad of benefits, or compensation types. Importantly, instead of merely "market value," many property owners can obtain "replacement value" for their original property. Arguably, this goes above and beyond the Supreme Court's general standard that, under the Fifth Amendment's Just Compensation Clause, an owner need only be paid "fair market value" for their property.
The URA endeavors to achieve this replacement value through providing the displacees with actual moving expenses, including mortgage and closing costs. Businesses even get $10,000.00 in reestablishment expenses. Displacees (not just owners, but lessees too) can also receive replacement advisory services to provide guidance in finding a new residence or business location. Not only that, but if such replacement housing is not readily available, the displacing body is authorized to do what is necessary to get such housing—including excess payments and even purchasing, rehabbing, or building a new dwelling for the dislocated owner.
Subsidizing displacees under the URA can be very beneficial in some cases, to the extent that the Act will provide an owner with an improved living situation. There are provisions under the URA that may mandate furnishing a larger residence to the displacee. Further, stipends are supposed to max out at $22,500.00 for a homeowner to put toward buying a new home, yet there is evidence that more funds will be dispensed if necessary.
The HUD website details all of the general requirements under the URA, including notice prerequisites, pre-negotiation appraisals, offers, payments prior to possession, etc.
The states' response to the URA
Most states have enacted similar legislation and require very similar relocation compensation for displacement by state-level activities. Typically, the language of their statutes mirror that of the URA, though of late, some states have raised the amounts of compensation for dislocated businesses, with both goodwill and business value as traits of respective statutes. Connecticut's parallel version of the URA is one that attempts to compensate goodwill to non-chain businesses by allowing one to claim up to $10,000.00 of one's annual net income due to loss of a "substantial part of their patronage." Interestingly, Connecticut provides that a state agency can choose to utilize the compensation levels under the Federal URA in lieu of the state's act. Its own relocation compensation requirements are lower than the URA's.
It is important to note that the Federal URA addresses interaction with the states regarding funding of projects and compensation of owners. Any state agency receiving funding from a federal counterpart must demonstrate similar compensation efforts as that of the Act (albeit there is no indication that the state's benefits must be the same or higher), and that federal agency is prohibited from supplying the monies unless it has received the appropriate assurances from the state that fair and reasonable compensation is made for an owner's relocation.
- 42 U.S.C. § 4601, et seq and implemented through 49 C.F.R. Part 24
- See http://www.fhwa.dot.gov/realestate/uafnl99.htm
- See 42 U.S.C. § 4601(6)(A)(i)(I), et seq.; also see 27 Am. Jur. 2d Eminent Domain §862
- See Nicole Stelle Garnett,  The Neglected Political Economy of Eminent Domain, 105 Mich. L. Rev. 101, 121 (2006).
- United States v. 564.54 Acres of Land, 441 U.S. 506 (1979).
- Id. and 42 U.S.C. §§ 4622, 4625
- See Garnett, Neglected at 122 (citing to 42 U.S.C. § 4626 and 49 C.F.R. § 24.2, et seq.).
- See http://www.hud.gov/offices/cpd/library/relocation/
- See Garnett, Neglected at 123-24.
- See CGS §§ 267, et seq.
- See http://www.cga.ct.gov/2004/rpt/2004-R-0383.htm.
- 42 U.S.C. §§ 4627, 4630.