U.S. 135, 41 S.Ct. 458, 65 L.Ed. 865 ( 1921)
In 1919 Congress attempted to cope with a housing emergency in the District of Columbia by enacting a statute that created a commission with power to fix fair and reasonable rents where the owner failed to do so. The act provided that a tenant could retain possession after termination of his lease by continuing to pay rent and meeting other conditions, and that a tenant's right of occupancy could be terminated by the owner only after 30 days' notice and for the purpose of personal or family occupancy. Hirsh purchased the building in which Block was a tenant and gave less than 30 days' notice of termination. Block refused to vacate. The Court of Appeals of the District of Columbia held that the act was invalid. Block brought the case to the Supreme Court on a writ of error.
MR. JUSTICE HOLMES delivered the opinion of the court. . . .
. . . The question is whether the statute is constitutional, or, as held by the Court of Appeals, an attempt to authorize the taking of property not for public use and without due process of law, and for this and other reasons void. . . .
. . . The statute embodies a scheme or code which it is needless to set forth, but it should be stated that it ends with the declaration in §122 that the provisions of Title II are made necessary by emergencies growing out of the war, resulting in rental conditions in the District dangerous to the public health and burdensome to public officers, employees and accessories, and thereby embarrassing the Federal Government in the transaction of the public business. As emergency legislation the Title is to end in two years unless sooner repealed.
No doubt it is true that a legislative declaration of facts that are material only as the ground for enacting a rule of law, for instance, that a certain use is a public one, may not be held conclusive by the Courts. . . . But a declaration by a legislature concerning public conditions that by necessity and duty it must know, is entitled at least to great respect. In this instance Congress stated a publicly notorious and almost worldwide fact. That the emergency declared by the statute did exist must be assumed, and the question is whether Congress was incompetent to meet it in the way in which it has been met by most of the civilized countries of the world.
The general proposition to be maintained is that circumstances have clothed the letting of buildings in the District of Columbia with a public interest so great as to justify regulation by law. Plainly circumstances may so change in time or so differ in space as to clothe with such an interest what at other times or in other places would be a matter of purely private concern. It is enough to refer to the decisions as to insurance, in German Alliance In-