Mumpower v. Housing Authority

Decision Date26 November 1940
Docket NumberRecord No. 2345.
Citation176 Va. 426
CourtVirginia Supreme Court
PartiesW. R. MUMPOWER v. HOUSING AUTHORITY OF THE CITY OF BRISTOL AND CITY OF BRISTOL.

Present, Campbell, C.J., and Holt, Hudgins, Gregory, Eggleston and Spratley, JJ.

1. JUDICIAL NOTICE — Matters of Common Knowledge — That Slum Areas Breed Crime and Disease. — It is a matter of common knowledge that slum areas are the places where is bred, nurtured, and brought to fruition the greater percentage of crime and moral degeneracy; likewise that such are the breeding places from which disease is spread.

2. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW — The Police Power — Subjects for Its Exercise — Eradication of Slum Areas. — The eradication of slum areas in cities is a matter of vital concern to the public and to the State, and is a subject for the exercise of the police power.

3. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW — The Police Power — Creation of Housing Authority — Case at Bar. The instant case was a suit by a citizen of the city of Bristol assailing the organization of the housing authority of that city. Complainant contended that the housing authorities law, sections 3145(1)-3145(24) of the 1940 supplement to the Code of 1936, was unconstitutional and that the legislature did not have power to create the authority.

Held: That the authority, to the extent that it was established for the purpose of eliminating slum areas, could be created under the police power of the State.

4. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW — The Police Power — State Not Precluded from Entering into Business to Effectuate Proper Result. — There is nothing in the nature of the police power which precludes the idea that a state or a political subdivision thereof under authority from the State may, if necessary, enter into a business in order to effectuate a result properly coming within the scope of such sovereign power.

5. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW — The Police Power — Extent of Power. — The police power includes everything essential to the public safety, health and morals and justifies the destruction and abatement of whatever may be regarded as a public nuisance. Beyond this, however, the State may interfere whenever the public interest demands.

6. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW — The Police Power — Extent of Power. — The police power is elastic and expands automatically to protect the public against the improper use of private property to the injury of the public interest.

7. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW — Powers of Legislature — Presumption in Favor of Validity of Statute. — A large discretion is vested in the Legislature to determine what the interests of the public require, and also as to what is necessary for the protection of such interests and every possible presumption is to be indulged in favor of the validity of a statute.

8. HOUSING — Housing Authorities Law — Validity — Case at Bar. The instant case was a suit by a citizen of the city of Bristol assailing the organization of the housing authority of that city. Complainant contended that the housing authorities law, sections 3145(1)-3145(24) of the 1940 supplement to the Code of 1936, was unconstitutional and that the Legislature did not have power to create the authority.

Held: That since the legislative enactment was not arbitrary or unreasonable, but had a substantial relation to the public health, safety, morals and general welfare, it must be sustained.

9. HOUSING — Housing Authorities Law — Wisdom of Enactment Matter for LegislatureCase at Bar. The instant case was a suit by a citizen of the city of Bristol assailing the organization of the housing authority of that city. Complainant contended that the housing authorities law, sections 3145(1)-3145(24) of the 1940 supplement to the Code of 1936, was unconstitutional and that the Legislature did not have power to create the authority.

Held: That the wisdom of the enactment was a matter for the Legislature and not for the court.

10. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW — Construction of Constitutions — State Constitution Limitation and Restriction of Powers. — The Constitution of Virginia is a limitation and restriction of powers rather than a grant of powers.

11. HOUSING — Housing Authorities Law — Nothing in Constitution Limiting Power of Legislature to Create Housing Authority — Case at Bar. The instant case was a suit by a citizen of the city of Bristol assailing the organization of the housing authority of that city. Complainant contended that the housing authorities law, sections 3145(1)-3145(24) of the 1940 supplement to the Code of 1936, was unconstitutional and that the Legislature did not have power to create the authority.

Held: That there is nothing in the Constitution which limits or restricts the power to create a State agency such as a housing authority and designate it as a political subdivision of the Commonwealth.

12. HOUSING — Housing Authorities Law — Section 63 of the Constitution Basis for Establishment of Authority — Case at Bar. The instant case was a suit by a citizen of the city of Bristol assailing the organization of the housing authority of that city. Complainant contended that the housing authorities law, sections 3145(1)-3145(24) of the 1940 supplement to the Code of 1936, was unconstitutional and that the Legislature did not have power to create the authority.

Held: That section 63 of the Constitution, providing that "the authority of the General Assembly shall extend to all subjects of legislation not herein forbidden or restricted" was a sufficient base for the establishment of the housing authority.

13. HOUSING — Housing Authorities Law — Power to Create Authority under Section 147 of the ConstitutionCase at Bar. The instant case was a suit by a citizen of the city of Bristol assailing the organization of the housing authority of that city. Complainant contended that the housing authorities law, sections 3145(1)-3145(24) of the 1940 supplement to the Code of 1936, was unconstitutional and that the Legislature did not have power to create the authority.

Held: That, since the purposes of the housing authority were charitable, sanitary and benevolent, its creation could be based on section 147 of the Constitution which expressly grants the Legislature the authority to establish such institutions.

14. HOUSING — Housing Authorities Law — Delegation to Municipality of Authority to Determine When Authority Should ActCase at Bar. The instant case was an attack by a citizen of the city of Bristol on the establishment and organization of a housing authority in that city. Complainant contended that the housing authorities law, sections 3145(1)-3145(24) of the 1940 supplement to the Code of 1936, was unconstitutional, drawing in issue the right to delegate to the city the authority to determine when the housing authority created for that locality should become operative, the authority of the mayor to appoint its commissioners, and the legality of the organization of the Bristol authority.

Held: That the delegation to the local governing body of the authority to determine when the housing authority should act was a valid delegation of legislative authority.

15. CONSTITUTIONAL LAW — The Police Power — Delegation to Municipal Corporations. — It is competent for the Legislature to confer its policy power upon municipal corporations in such measure as it deems expedient. It cannot bestow greater power than the State itself possesses, and it must keep within the organic law. Subject to these restraints, it is within the province of the Legislature to invest such corporations with the police power of the State in whole or in part.

16. HOUSING — Eminent Domain — Declaration in Act that Purposes Were Public Uses Not Conclusive — Case at Bar. The instant case was an attack upon the organization of the housing authority of the city of Bristol, pursuant to sections 3145(1)-3145(24) of the 1940 supplement to the Code of 1936. Complainant contended that the purpose of the authority was not a public purpose and the taking of property by it was for a private use.

Held: That, while the act declares that its purposes are "public uses and purposes for which public money may be spent and private property acquired," and section 58 of the Virginia Constitution provides that the term "public uses" is to be defined by the General Assembly, the power to define is not the power to declare, and the declaration was not conclusive.

17. EMINENT DOMAIN — Public Use — Judicial Question. — Whether a condemnation is for a public or a private use is a judicial question and is subject to the review of the courts.

18. EMINENT DOMAIN — Public Use — Essential Elements. — A use to be public must be fixed and definite. It must be one in which the public, as such, has an interest, and the terms and manner of its enjoyment must be within the control of the State, independent of the rights of the private owner of the property appropriated to the use. The use of property cannot be said to be public if it can be gainsaid, denied or withdrawn by the owner. The public interest must dominate the private gain.

19. HOUSING — Eminent Domain — Use of Property by Housing Authority a Public Use — Case at Bar. The instant case was an attack upon the organization of the housing authority of the city of Bristol, pursuant to sections 3145(1)-3145(24) of the 1940 supplement to the Code of 1936. Complainant contended that the purpose of the authority was not a public purpose and the taking of property by it was for a private use.

Held: That, in view of the purpose of the housing authority with reference to the eradication of slums and the providing of decent homes, the use of the property was a public one, and the fact that the project might primarily benefit only a class did not take away the character of a public use.

20. HOUSING — Eminent Domain — Competition with Privately Owned Property — Case at Bar. The instant case was an attack by a citizen and property owner of the city of Bristol upon the organization...

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