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Project Homekey Might Use Eminent Domain to House Homeless


Project Homekey is an initiative to reduce homelessness across California during the coronavirus pandemic and beyond. The foundational concept of Project Homekey is allowing the state to purchase unused commercial living spaces like old hotels and turn them into housing for homeless people. Governor Gavin Newsom has stood behind Project Homekey since its inception and believes it is a crucial step in preventing the spread of COVID-19 in the state’s homeless populations.

However, Project Homekey is reportedly running out of money already. Not only is Newsom looking to get increased buying power approval for the initiative, but eminent domain has also been put on the table as an option to consider.

Eminent domain is the process in which a government entity essentially forces a property owner to sell their land to the government for a use that will benefit the public. It is not uncommon for eminent domain to be used when constructing a new park, school, or highway, for example. Given that housing the homeless would be a public and community benefit, using eminent domain for Project Homekey would not be out of the question. It would only be a slight departure from the Project’s typical operations, which have largely been focused on buying unused properties, rather than those currently in use or not being actively sold by property owners.

Will Project Homekey Eminent Domain Offers Be Fair?

The concept of eminent domain is based on getting a fair assessment of a property’s value and paying that amount to the property owner. Once the government decides that a piece of property must be purchased for the completion of a public project, the assessment will be handled by a contracted evaluator, but the property owner can also get an assessment from a third-party that they hire. There is usually some back-and-forth between the parties, as well as intervention from an eminent domain attorney to ensure that any final offers from the government are truly fair. Eminent domain has earned a reputation in California and other states for offering lowball amounts to property owners, though.

With that in mind, commercial property owners in California probably have some reason to worry if Project Homekey leads to them receiving a letter of eminent domain notice. Project Homekey’s limited funds can also add to this cause for worry, as it seems that the limited budget is already too small for the initiative. Any offers made in the future might be predictably smaller than they should be just because the budget is nearing or has reached its cap.

Hiring an Eminent Domain Attorney

If you are a commercial property owner in California who has been contacted by the government in regard to buying your land through eminent domain, then you should reach out to an eminent domain lawyer as soon as possible. Whether your property is slated for purchase through Project Homekey or another public works project, you will likely not be offered an amount that truly reflects what your property is worth to you and on a fair market. Allowing an attorney to represent you during interactions with the government entity can increase your chances of closing the case with a fair settlement amount.

To speak with a trusted California eminent domain attorney about your case, call (888) 998-2031 to connect with Allen, Semelsberger & Kaelin LLP. Our law firm is familiar with complex areas of law that can arise in an eminent domain case, such as business law, mobile home law, and real estate litigation. Schedule your consultation today.