Oregon Property Rights

Since the decision by the United States Supreme Court in Kelo v. City of New London many states across the country have taken measures to help protect the rights of private ownership.  The controversial Kelo decision held that a local government can take the private property of one person and give it to another private entity.  While the Court’s ruling was seen by many as a serious blow to citizen’s constitutionally protected rights of private property ownership, the decision prompted a number of states to initiate legislative reform to help curb eminent domain abuse.


The Castle Coalition has released a report, grading each of the states based on their efforts to protect private property owners and their rights based on changes in their respective state laws.  The Castle Coalition is the Institute for Justice’s nationwide grassroots property rights activism project that teaches home and small business owners how to protect themselves and stand up to abuse by governments and developers who seek to use eminent domain to take private property for their own gain.  Stated below is the letter grade, as given by the Castle Coalition, along with a description of the changes that have occurred since Kelo v. City of New London.

Oregon Castle Coalition letter grade of

Oregon Property Rights

The state of Oregon has seen a significant reform, all of which started with a citizen initiative in 2006. Measure 39 was put it onto the 2006 ballot, and was passed by the voters. Measure 39 effectively limits the government’s authority to use eminent domain for private benefits or private party transfers, and also prohibits the government from using eminent domain property where a fee title transfer would be used. Additionally, the initiative addresses the state’s definition of blight and how properties can be deemed blighted. Blighted properties must now be evaluated on a property by property basis, and the property must pose a health threat or a danger to the community to be deemed blighted.

Although this initiative proved significant reform, there is a downfall. The only concern with the initiative is the use of the word “intends” in regards to condemning authorities. The language creates a loophole because often times it is difficult to place intent on a governmental body or a condemning authority, meaning it is harder for property owners to prove that the government is condemning a property for private party benefits.


The state of Oregon has seen significant reform against eminent domain abuse. If the language concerning the public use definition was slightly tightened, and the state made the initiative into a constitutional amendment, citizens would be fully protected against eminent domain abuse. Click to read more about Measure 39.

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