471 U.S. 858 (1985)

Justice Stevens delivered the opinion of the Court. 

The question presented is whether 18 U.S.C. S 844(i) applies to a two-unit apartment building that is used as rental property. 

Petitioner owns an apartment building located at 4530 South Union, Chicago, Illinois. He earned rental income from it and treated it as business property for tax purposes. In early 1983, he made an unsuccessful attemptto set fire to the building and was consequently indicted for violating S 844(i). 

Following a bench trial, petitioner was convicted and sentenced to 10 yearsimprisonment. The District Court and the Court of Appeals both rejected his contention that the building was not commercial or business property, and therefore was not capable of being the subject of an offense under S 844(i).

Section 844(i) used broad language to define the offense. It provides:

Whoever maliciously damages or destroys, or attempts to damage or destroy, by means of fire or an explosive, any building, vehicle, or other real or personal property used in interstate or foreign commerce or in any activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce shall be imprisoned for not more than ten years or fined not more than $10,000, or both. . . . 

The reference to "any building . . . used . . . in any activity affecting interstate or foreign commerce" expresses an intent by Congress to exercise its full power under the Commerce Clause. 

The legislative history indicates that Congress intended to exercise its full power to protect "business property." Moreover, after considering whether the bill as originally introduced would cover bombings of police stations or churches, the bill was revised to eliminate the words "for business purposes" from the description of covered property. Even after that change, however, the final Report on the bill emphasized the "very broad" coverage of "substantially all business property." In the floor debates on the final bill, although it was recognized that the coverage of the bill was extremely broad, the Committee Chairman, Representative Celler, expressed the opinion that "the mere bombing of a private home even under this bill would not be covered because of the question whether the Congress would have the authority under the Constitution." In sum, the legislative history suggests that Congress at least intended to protect all business property, as well as some additional property that might not fit that description, but perhaps not every private home. 

By its terms, however, the statute only applies to property that is "used" in an "activity" that affects commerce. The rental of real estate is unquestionably such an activity. We need not rely on the connection between the market for residential units and "the interstate movement of people," to recognize that the local rental of an apartment unit is merely an element of a much broader commercial market in rental properties. The congressional power to regulate the class of activities that constitute the rental market for real estate includes the power to regulate individual activity within that class. 

Petitioner was renting his apartment building to tenants at the time he attempted to destroy it by fire. The property was therefore being used in an activity affecting commerce within the meaning of 5 844(i). 

The judgment of the Court of Appeals is affirmed.