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Pennsylvania 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.

Pennsylvania Castle Coalition letter grade of

Pennsylvania Property Rights

In 2006, Senate Bill 881 was passed by the General Assembly in Pennsylvania. This bill, titled the “Property Rights Protection Act”, introduced a clearly tightened definition of the term “blight”. The bill prohibits the taking of private property for private enterprises, while also placing a timeline and limits on the use of the term blight.

In addition, this bill states that agricultural property cannot be deemed blight unless the Agricultural and Condemnation Approval Board determines that eminent domain is necessary to protect the health and safety of a community or neighborhood. However, the bill has some drawbacks concerning certain municipalities and counties in the state that have authority to condemn property that have already been deemed blighted under urban renewal laws (not to be confused with the power to deem a new property blighted). Just a few of the excluded cities are Philadelphia and Pittsburgh, and luckily this provision will expire within the next decade.

Summary

Since Kelo v. City of New London, the state of Pennsylvania has taken significant measures to help protect and uphold the right to own private property. Timelines, limitations and restrictions on condemning authorities have helped curb eminent domain abuse in the state, and will hopefully bring future legislative reform to the state of Pennsylvania.

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