Comment on Carpenter and Ross (2009) Eminent Domain and Equity

In an October 2009 Urban Studies article, Dick Carpenter and John Ross present new research on eminent domain in the US. The authors study areas where local governments plan to acquire property via eminent domain and convey that property to other private owners. They show that area residents are disproportionately members of “less politically powerful populations” and situate their findings within critical urban theory. This response argues that, although Carpenter and Ross do make a useful empirical contribution to the literature, there is an unacknowledged dissonance between their theoretical and normative frameworks and those of most critical urban theorists. The latter understand redevelopment within the broader context of neo-liberalism and structural inequality, and advocate equitable and community-controlled redevelopment. While Carpenter and Ross’ position on neo-liberalism and community control is unclear, they are affiliated with an organisation that prioritises individual property rights rather than equity.