In South America the slums are attached to the outskirts of mega-cities such as Caracas and Mexico City like wasps’ nests on a cliff face. In a hilly island city like Hong Kong, however, living space is limited. Here you only see the laboriously constructed huts made of corrugated iron and planks of wood in which the poorest of the poor live if you look upwards – they occupy, to put it in cynical terms, a penthouse location.
Actually, I don’t fully understand why they are called squatters if they pay rent and are authorized to live there. But the photos are cool.
Nearly a century old, and looking every day of it, Yoshida-ryo is very likely the last remaining example of the once common Japanese wooden university dormitory. This building was built in 1913. Organized from the very beginning to be self-administering through a dormitory association (????), the students themselves have been responsible for selecting new applicants for residency. This autonomy, however, came under full-scale assault in 1971, when the Ministry of Education began a policy of regulating or closing dormitories, which were seen as “hotbeds for various kinds of conflict.” University authorities first tried to close Yoshida-ryo completely in 1979, and after failing to overcome opposition over the next 10 years finally closed the Western Yoshida-ryo across the street.
With the death of Japan’s violent student activism, the campaign to close the dormitory subsided for a time, but in the aftermath of the 1995 Great Hanshin Earthquake there were new calls to replace the poorly aged building, which had already seen its maintenance neglected for decades by a university that had wanted to demolish it.
At present, the future of the dormitory is unclear.
Instead of boarding up an unoccupied luxury condo in Crown Heights and letting it fall into disrepair, the owner has done the unthinkable: arranged to let homeless people live there. […]
The city is paying about $2,700 a month for each apartment, which also covers social services like job counseling. Shriki says, “At least we still own the building and we are paying our mortgage, so that’s good. The outcome is not as bad as some people I know who had to surrender the whole building to the bank.”
Sabah Electricity Sdn Bhd (SESB) has stepped up efforts to curb Non-Revenue Electricity (NRE) by dismantling illegal connections from squatter colonies here.
Its enforcement unit saw hundreds of metres of illegal wires being seized during a three-day operation from Tuesday.
If the point is to get people to pay, to turn non-revenue into revenue, then why not work with the squatters to create a solution. It’s such a simple thing, really. Just a slight change in mindset. The South African group Abahlali baseMjondolo has demonstrated in a series of reports that ripping out electrical lines in shantytowns causes deaths, as people return to using candles and lighting fires. There’s a cost in lost revenue and a cost in human lives.
Ms. Omega, 48, is one of the beneficiaries of the foreclosure crisis. Through a small advocacy group of local volunteers called Take Back the Land, she moved from a friend’s couch into a newly empty house that sold just a few years ago for more than $400,000.
Michael Stoops, executive director of the National Coalition for the Homeless, said about a dozen advocacy groups around the country were actively moving homeless people into vacant homes — some working in secret, others, like Take Back the Land, operating openly.
In addition to squatting, some advocacy groups have organized civil disobedience actions in which borrowers or renters refuse to leave homes after foreclosure.
The groups say that they have sometimes received support from neighbors and that beleaguered police departments have not aggressively gone after squatters.
On the supply side, local governments should penalize owners who stockpile vacant housing, perhaps by imposing increased property tax rates on properties left vacant, and by moving aggressively to seize vacant properties when the owners fall behind on paying those taxes. On the demand side, governments should expand homesteading programs that permit and help low-income people to take over vacant housing—but only after it finds its way into city hands.
To be sure, these programs were only marginally successful in the 1970s, in part because of lack of funding, but also because of the difficulty of restoring abandoned urban properties to habitable condition. The housing that is becoming vacant during the current downturn, by contrast, is relatively new and should be easier for homesteaders to repair. The federal government should also move quickly to protect those in financial trouble from foreclosure and eviction by requiring foreclosing banks (many of which are themselves receiving taxpayer bailouts) to rent out foreclosed homes to their former owners at fair market value. In fact, as this letter to the editor in the New York Times Magazine on Sunday correctly observed, allowing owners to remain as renters in their foreclosed homes helps safeguard the value of the houses—which is good for the occupants, good for the banks, and good for the housing market as a whole.
The sudden increase in squatting shows that the housing market that is out of kilter. The solution is not to chase squatters off, but to bring the market back into balance by helping them find a place to call home.
The New York Post reports that Ecuadoran immigrant Omar Torrez has been living in a cave in Inwood Hill Park. He’s been hiding so well that “a Parks Department worker leading 20 children on a tour through the caves yesterday never noticed Torrez’s possessions in the 15-foot-deep tunnel.” As facisnating as this is, I question the Post’s coverage of this story. Isn’t this going to lead the Park Department to find and evict Torrez? Link (via New World Disorder).