It’s easy to paint a picture of North Las Vegas in the mind of an outsider.
The city’s official website offers visitors an image of a city surrounded by majestic mountains and desert valleys.
But take a closer look, and it’s also a city plagued by the aftermath of a foreclosure epidemic that swept through Nevada post-2008, leaving many remaining homeowners underwater and struggling with their payments.
Jump ahead a few years post-2008, and it’s no surprise to attorneys like Abran Vigil with Ballard Spahr – who has been involved in the local eminent domain issue – that this desert city is the next to consider the use of eminent domain to seize mortgage notes for the purpose of restructuring them to help underwater homeowners.
But this desert town, like others before it, is reacting – with controversy brewing from all sides. Some advocacy groups are supporting the provision, while Realtors, property owners and even some new members of the city council view it as a big-brother grab in a state known for protecting property rights.
The controversy sparked up when consultancy firm Mortgage Resolution Partners (MRP) came to town and gained the attention of city officials by proposing a plan that has already been brainstormed in areas such as San Bernardino County, Calif.
The plan is not in effect since it still requires city council approval, but the mere consideration of an eminent domain proposal to save underwater homeowners sent the real estate industry into advocacy mode.
"From our observation, there is no overwhelming support for it," Vigil said. The big problem, he adds, is that it’s unclear how the plan would actually work or how it would be funded.
"They would have to gain access to some money from somewhere in order to exercise this power of eminent domain and give just compensation to the mortgage holder," he told HousingWire. "Where the money comes from is really up in the air."
Vigil says the materials released thus far suggest no taxpayer money would be used – only private funding – but the details of how the financing would be obtained is unclear to him at this point.
What is clear is just how much controversy is tied to the idea of using eminent domain in this way.