Squatting in the Recession
I’ve got a piece up over at Slate on squatting in the current economic downturn. Here’s a taste:
To survive, everyone needs to have a place to be and to sleep, eat, and, let’s face it, go to the bathroom. For most of us, that place is the home. As rising unemployment pushes more people out of their houses and apartments, however, and growing numbers of Americans cannot find a place to perform these essential functions legally, they will have little choice but to break the law. And so some of them are turning to a strategy that has cropped up repeatedly in American history—squatting. Governments are sometimes tempted to respond to a spike in this form of outlaw residency by simply forcing squatters out. The better strategy, however is to treat squatting as a symptom of a simultaneous failure of both the market and the government. Viewed in this light, an outbreak of squatting is a sign that governments should change their housing policies to make it easier for poor people to find the housing they need—as law-abiders instead of renegades.
UPDATE: The NY Times has just put up a piece on the spread of shanties in U.S. cities.