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

Francisco Gurri García fgurri at ecosur.mx
Fri Feb 27 14:09:28 EST 2009

Another practical ideas "less dangerous to poor and middle-class victims of
what has transpired than illegal home occupancy", we could also suggest to
the new government that instead of giving billions of dollars directly to
the banks to bale them out, the Feds could pay off the mortgages of those
who loose their jobs and can't pay.  It may still be giving money to the
rich but at least it would benefit a lot of not so rich and many poor...
Ahh.. if only our institutions were lead by rational maximizers.

Francisco D. Gurri Ph.D.,
Investigador Titular B.
Antropología Ecológica,
Departamento de Población y Ambiente,
El Colegio de la Frontera Sur-Unidad Campeche.

-----Mensaje original-----
De: urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu [mailto:urbanth-l-bounces at lists.ysu.edu]
En nombre de Stephen C. Maack
Enviado el: jueves, 19 de febrero de 2009 06:52 p.m.
Para: urbanth-l at lists.ysu.edu; 'Angela Jancius'
Asunto: 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 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

Neighbors Helping Neighbors -- to Break Into Vacant Houses

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.

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