[URBANTH-L]NEWS: Neighbors Helping Neighbors - to Break intoVacantHouses

Alan Smart asmart at ucalgary.ca
Mon Feb 23 12:48:56 EST 2009

This has been an interesting string of discussion.  I've published a couple
of articles dealing with governmental toleration of illegal housing;
surprisingly there is relatively little known in general about toleration of
illegality despite its frequency of occurrence.  References:
Smart, Alan "Impeded self-help: toleration and the proscription of housing
consolidation in Hong Kong's squatter areas."  Habitat International
27:205-225 (2003).

Smart, Alan "Unruly places: Urban governance and the persistence of
illegality in Hong Kong's urban squatter areas."  American Anthropologist
103(1):30-44 (2001).

And for a broader perspective:  Heyman, Josiah and Alan Smart "States and
illegal practices:  An overview."  In Heyman (ed.)  States and Illegal
Practices.", pp. 1-24.  Oxford:  Berg, 1999.

Alan Smart
U of Calgary

-----Original Message-----
From: urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu
[mailto:urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu] On Behalf Of Rik Pinxten
Sent: February-20-09 3:05 AM
To: smaack at earthlink.net; urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu; 'Angela Jancius'
Subject: Re: [URBANTH-L]NEWS: Neighbors Helping Neighbors - to Break

dear colleagues,
In Ghent and other cities in Belgium (and the netherlands) we have a 
tradition of at least a decade  where the Mayor and his services get in 
contact with illegal occupants and make a deal with them.When the houses or 
appartments are demolished or sold it in not uncomon that the Elderman or 
mayor orders to find a new home for the occupants.
Rik pinxten
----- Original Message ----- 
From: "Stephen C. Maack" <smaack at earthlink.net>
To: <urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu>; "'Angela Jancius'" <jancius3022 at comcast.net>
Sent: Friday, February 20, 2009 1:51 AM
Subject: RE: [URBANTH-L]NEWS: Neighbors Helping Neighbors - to Break 

> Comparative anthropology -- while I don't have precise references, I know
> that in Europe (e.g., France, Germany) there has been a movement going on
> for several years to take over vacant apartment buildings.  This is due to

> a
> lack of affordable housing and homelessness problems.  I think that
> occupying vacant apartment buildings has also happened in some of the 
> larger
> U.S. cities (perhaps in NYC -- parts of Manhattan, Brooklyn or the 
> Bronx?).
> Anyone have details on those movements?  Is taking over vacant single 
> family
> homes a variation on the theme?  I've lived in Minneapolis or St. Paul for
> nine winters and don't blame anyone trying to get out of the cold, or at
> least the wind, in mid-February!!  Breaking into vacant houses is, of
> course, completely illegal.
> In relatively warm Southern California there are many, many vacant,
> foreclosed homes that are virtually new in San Bernardino and Riverside
> Counties in particular (until recently two of the fastest growing counties
> in the United States).
> If this deep recession is going to last for some time, which is what is
> expected, homelessness is only going to get worse and worse.  Someone has 
> to
> start thinking of innovative solutions beyond mortgage bailouts of current
> homeowners, and I can't think of a better group than those of us on the
> Urbananth list.
> Here's an idea for consideration.  What if instead of just reacting,
> observing, going "tsk, tsk" or talking about neoliberalism, some applied
> urban anthropologists started becoming proactive with solutions less
> dangerous to poor and middle-class victims of what has transpired than
> illegal home occupancy?  For example, one idea might be to talk to banks 
> and
> social service agencies about setting up a program to turn at least some 
> of
> the vacant properties into at least temporary shelter for families who 
> have
> lost their homes due to no particular fault of their own (e.g., lost a job
> in the economic downturn, or lost a home due to a bank-encouraged bad
> mortgage decisions).  Having so many homes on the market at the same time
> will only further depress prices.  More and more homes are being put up 
> for
> lease near where I live (in a very good neighborhood), and not being 
> leased
> due to too high lease/rental prices (so that may eventually force down
> prices).  So homes aren't going to turn over quickly anyway, as owned or
> leased properties.  If banks with large stocks of foreclosed homes let 
> them
> out at very low rents for say six months or a year they would have 
> occupied
> properties less likely to be trashed or used for illegal activities
> (shooting up drugs comes to mind...), might at least cover the cost of
> utilities (electricity, heat, water) -- especially important in cold
> climates to avoid damage to pipes and such -- and would certainly produce
> "good will" in the community.  The banks could phase the program and apply
> it to only some of their properties or certain neighborhoods.  Applied
> anthropologists, social service agencies, neighborhood groups, and banks
> could work together to redefine "risk" and what constitutes an "acceptable
> tenant."  What do you think?  Could it work?  Or am I just too much of an
> idealist, not enough of a revolutionary, or too logical?  Why
> wouldn't/couldn't this work?  Enlighten me....
> Best Regards,
> Steve
> Steve Maack
> smaack at earthlink.net
> Telephone:  310-384-9717
> -----Original Message-----
> From: urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu
> [mailto:urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu] On Behalf Of Angela Jancius
> Sent: Wednesday, February 18, 2009 10:03 AM
> To: urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu
> Subject: [URBANTH-L]NEWS: Neighbors Helping Neighbors - to Break into
> VacantHouses
> Neighbors Helping Neighbors -- to Break Into Vacant Houses
> http://www.commondreams.org/headline/2009/02/18-7
> Wednesday, February 18, 2009
> Twin Cities Daily Planet
> (Minneapolis - St. Paul, Minnesota)
> by Madeleine Baran
> Poverty rights activists broke into at least a dozen vacant Minneapolis
> buildings this week and helped homeless families move in.
> "This is the modern underground railroad," said Cheri Honkala, National
> Organizer for the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign, the group
> organizing the "takeovers."
> This week's actions are part of a growing national movement to illegally
> open up thousands of vacant, foreclosed homes to provide housing for the
> growing number of homeless people. Over 3,000 Minneapolis homes went into
> foreclosure in 2008. Advocates estimate that over 7,000 Minnesotans are
> homeless. Most Twin Cities' homeless shelters have been filled to capacity
> for months.
> ...
> /snip/
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