[URBANTH-L]NEWS: Neighbors Helping Neighbors - to Break into VacantHouses

Ana Hsu ana-hsu at starpower.net
Thu Feb 26 13:25:09 EST 2009

In Paris, there have been a number of interesting, and highly  
organized, initiatives to take over vacant buildings by organizations  
such as Jeudi-Noir, Macaq, and DAL (Droit au Logement).

Here are some links...

Jeudi-Noir:  http://www.jeudi-noir.org/

DAL:  http://www.droitaulogement.org/

There was also a highly publicized mass camp-out along the Canal Saint- 
Martin, during the winter of 2006, by Les Enfants de Don Quichotte  
(The Children of Don Quixote) to draw attention to the homelessness  
problem in France.

Best regards,
Ana Hsu
Ph.D. candidate
Department of Anthropology
The American University
Washington, DC  20016

On Feb 22, 2009, at 10:18 AM, celia barrantes wrote:

> In Barcelona, there is a movement called OKUPA that takes over vacant
> buildings...
> http://okupesbcn.net/en/index.html
> 2009/2/19 Stephen C. Maack <smaack at earthlink.net>
>> 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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> -- 
> Celia Barrantes Jiménez
> Antropóloga Social
> Cel. 8821-5045
> Alajuela, Costa Rica
> _______________________________________________
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