Friday, February 01, 2002

Eminent domain may be used to house needy in Newport

By Sarah Buehrle
Enquirer Contributor

        NEWPORT — In a 16-minute special meeting Thursday, the Newport Housing Authority approved using eminent domain to acquire private property so it can move residents out of low-income public housing along Fourth Street and into housing around the city.

        The authority's board of commissioners then closed the meeting to the public to consider “acquisition of property.”

        Eminent domain is a legal tool allowing municipalities to take private property for public use. The city wants to buy and refurbish properties for the low-income tenants across the city.

        No specific properties were mentioned as eminent-domain targets. The vote involves the city's HOPE VI project, a $28 million Department of Housing and Urban Development (HUD) grant program the city plans to use for the low-income units.

        Jan Rubin of Jan Rubin Associates, the Philadelphia group that handled the HUD grant application, said some of the properties around Corpus Christi, one of the intended Hope VI sites, are still in negotiation.

        “Most of the time it can be worked out,” said Mark Brown, executive director of the Newport Housing Authority. “Even if we have to file eminent domain, normally you can work out some agreement before you have to go to court.”

        Newport still has not acquired any property in which to put the residents from the Fourth Street Housing Complex, though it was approved for the $28 million HOPE VI grant in 2000.

        The grant money is not released until the city begins to obtain property.

        The board also discussed selling one of the two public housing buildings at 800 Monmouth St.


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