In May, I finished my first year of law school and immediately began working for a local firm through the Sacramento County Bar Association’s diversity fellowship. What made this fellowship so special was that each week there was an educational legal event for the cohort of fellows to attend. Although all the events were inspiring, the session with the honorable Judge Ramirez was by far my favorite. As Judge Ramirez was sharing his upbringing and what shaped him, he mentioned a small detail that I could not stop thinking about; this detail being how through eminent domain his grandparent’s home was stripped from them to build the Dodgers stadium. I guarantee none of the other fellows were affected by that small detail of his story, but I was. I wondered what impact eminent domain had on my hometown of Sacramento.

Eminent domain is the right of the government to seize ownership over property when there is greater good that can be created for the general public. The Fifth Amendment of the United States Constitution requires just compensation for seizures of private property. Pursuant to an ABC 10 article, the last time eminent domain was used in Sacramento was in May 2019 when the “Sacramento City Council-members voted to acquire land from six property owners in the Pocket-Greenhaven neighborhood to complete the Sacramento River Parkway Project.” The article continues by mentioning other situations where the city has used eminent domain. A notable construction is the Golden 1 Center where the Sacramento Kings play.

I first learned of eminent domain in my first-year property course and immediately thought it was wrong. I felt this way because I was fixated on the cons. A major con of eminent domain being that just compensation can be subjective and not always just. For example, property owners are typically not compensated for moving costs or the personhood they have with their property.

I did not appreciate the power of eminent domain until I had a candid conversation with my property professor. My professor shared the public benefits that can result from the government’s seizure and how this governmental power prevents the ability of one or a few owners to blackmail the government into paying more for land than what is reasonable. With the pros in mind, I am still cognizant of the great impact eminent domain can have on lower income populations.

As I scanned my linkedin timeline, I was surprised to see an article posted about Sacramento being recently voted as one of the best and most affordable places to live on the west coast. My surprise was not from reading the words Sacramento and best place to live together, as I adore the place I was born and raised but instead was in regard to Sacramento being awarded one of the most affordable places to live on the west coast.

It had not even been a month since I turned to google to research my housing options for this next year, trying my best to eliminate the unpleasant hour commute to campus. As I surveyed the listings, eliminating the places that surpassed my budget and those that were still a commute, I was left with one that met my needs: on campus housing. As I reflected on the hours I spent searching for housing, I realized how fortunate I was to be a student who qualifies for housing. I thought about those whose incomes have not caught up with the booming housing market and those who were losing a place to live because of the astonishing increase in rent prices.

This scary trend was presented in a CapRadio article. The article shared how Sacramento County’s renters must now make twice the state’s minimum wage to afford the county’s average rent. Further, the article shares how many renters are experiencing uprooting due to landlords capitalizing on the hot real estate market by selling their units. The current direction of the housing market can and will have devastating impacts on many.

As the public handles the ebbs and flows of the housing market, this blog will be presenting the consequences, keeping in mind the intersectionality of property ownership with poverty and discrimination.