Abstract

The holdout problem is commonly cited as the justification for eminent domain, but the nature of the problem is not well understood. This paper models the holdout problem in a bargaining framework, where a developer seeks to acquire several parcels of land for a large-scale development. We show that in the absence of eminent domain, holdouts are inevitable, threatening costly delay. However, if the developer has the power to use eminent domain to acquire the land from holdouts, all sellers will bargain, thus avoiding delay. An offsetting cost is that owners may negotiate prices below their true value, possibly resulting in excessive transfer of land to the developer.

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