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In many of the world's poorer countries, there are extensive slums or shanty towns, typically built on the edges of major cities and consisting almost entirely of self-constructed housing built without the landowner's permission. While these settlements may, in time, grow to become both legalised and indistinguishable from normal residential neighbourhoods, they start off as squats with minimal basic infrastructure. Thus, there is no sewage system, drinking water must be bought from vendors or carried from a nearby tap, and if there is electricity, it is stolen from a passing cable.
There is an important distinction to be made between squatting by necessity and squatting as political statement. In this period of global recession and increased housing foreclosures, squatting has become far more prevalent in Western, developed nations. Obviously, in some cases, need-based and politically motivated squatting go hand in hand. According to Dr. Kesia Reeve, who specializes in housing research, "in the context of adverse housing circumstances, limited housing opportunity and frustrated expectations, squatters effectively remove themselves from and defy the norms of traditional channels of housing consumption and tenure power relations, bypassing the 'rules' of welfare provision." In effect, beleaguered citizens living in a welfare state that cannot provide them with adequate resources take action into their own hands and squat.
In many countries, squatting is in itself a crime; in others, it is only seen as a civil conflict between the owner and the occupants. "Squatters are usually portrayed as worthless scroungers hell-bent on disrupting society." Property law and the state have traditionally favored the property owner. However, in many cases where squatters had de facto ownership, laws have been changed to legitimize their status. Squatters often claim rights over the spaces they have squatted by virtue of occupation, rather than ownership; in this sense, squatting is similar to (and potentially a necessary condition of) adverse possession, by which a possessor of real property without title may eventually gain legal title to the real property.
Anarchist Colin Ward comments: "Squatting is the oldest mode of tenure in the world, and we are all descended from squatters. This is as true of the Queen [of the United Kingdom] with her 176,000 acres (710 km2) as it is of the 54 per cent of householders in Britain who are owner-occupiers. They are all the ultimate recipients of stolen land, for to regard our planet as a commodity offends every conceivable principle of natural rights." "The country is riddled with empty houses and there are thousands of homeless people. When squatters logically put the two together the result can be electrifying, amazing and occasionally disastrous."
Besides being residences, some squats are used as social centres or host give-away shops, pirate radio stations or cafs. In Spanish-speaking countries, squatters receive several names, such as okupas in Spain or Argentina (from the verb ocupar meaning "to occupy"), or paracaidistas in Mexico (meaning "paratroopers", because they "parachute" themselves at unoccupied land).
There are large squatter communities in Kenya, such as Kibera in Nairobi. A BBC News report described it as follows: "The first thing that hits you here is this rich stench of almost 1 million people living in this ditch - in mud huts, with no sewage pipes, no roads, no water, no toilet, in fact, with no services of any kind."
In South Africa, squatters tend to live in informal settlements or squatter camps on the outskirts of the larger cities, often but not always near townships. In 1994, when Nelson Mandela was elected President, it was estimated that of South Africa's 44 million inhabitants, 7.7 million lived in these settlements. The number has grown rapidly in the post-apartheid era. Many buildings, particularly in the inner city of Johannesburg have also been occupied by squatters. Property owners or government authorities can usually evict squatters after following certain legal procedures including requesting a court order. In Durban, the city council routinely evicts without a court order in defiance of the law, and there has been sustained conflict between the city council and a shack dwellers' movement known as Abahlali baseMjondolo. There has been a number of similar conflicts between shack dwellers, some linked with the Western Cape Anti-Eviction Campaign, and the city council in Cape Town. One of the most high-profile cases was the brutal evictions of squatters in the N2 Gateway homes in the suburb of Delft, where over 20 residents were shot, including a three-year-old child. There have been numerous complaints about the legality of the government's actions and, in particular, whether the ruling of the judge was unfair given his party affiliations and the highly politicized nature of the case. Many of the families are now squatting on Symphony Way, a main road in the township of Delft. The City of Cape Town has been threatening them with eviction since February 2008.
In Mumbai, there are an estimated 10 to 12 million inhabitants, and six million of them are squatters. The squatters live in a variety of ways. Some possess two- or three-story homes built out of brick and concrete which they have inhabited for years. Geeta Nagar is a squatter village based beside the Indian Navy compound at Colaba. Squatter Colony in Malad East has existed since 1962, and now, people living there pay a rent to the city council of 100 rupees a month. Dharavi is a community of one million squatters. The stores and factories situated there are mainly illegal and so are unregulated, but it is suggested that they do over $1 million in business every day.
Other squatters live in shacks, situated literally on a pavement next to the road, with very few possessions.
Activists such as Jockin Arputham are working for better living conditions for slum dwellers.
Many of Malaysia's squatters live on land owned by Keretapi Tanah Melayu as well as at construction sites.
In Metro Manila, squatting is a major issue in Filipino society, especially in industrialized areas of the society. Squatting was started after World War II, as people built makeshift houses called Barong-Barong in abandoned private-property plots.
The government tried to transfer those squatters to low-cost housing projects, especially in Tondo (in the former Smokey Mountain landfill), Taguig (BLISS Housing Project), and Rodriguez (formerly Montalban), Rizal.
In the 19th century, a squatter was a person who occupied a large tract of Crown land in order to graze livestock. At first, this was done illegally, and later under license. From the 1820s they were part of the establishment, hence the term Squattocracy. This type of squatting is covered in greater detail at Squatting (pastoral).
In more recent times, there have been squats in the major cities. It would be possible for squatters to be charged with criminal trespass under the Enclosed Lands Protection Act, but mainly, squatters are simply evicted when they are discovered. As in the United Kingdom, there is the law of adverse possession, but it is seldom used.
In Sydney, streets of terraced houses in areas such as the Rocks and Potts Point were squatted to prevent their demolition in the 1970s. The Glebe estate in Glebe, New South Wales was squatted in the 1960s and 1970s, and had an extensive influx of squatters in the 1980s. Also during the 1970s and 1980s, extensive parts of Woolloomooloo and Darlinghurst were also squatted, along corridors of houses bought to make way for new road works. Examples of these include "The Compound" in Darlinghurst and along Palmer Street in Woolloomooloo. Punks, political activists, musicians and artists also started squatting in "The Gunnery", a former Navy warehouse and training facility, in Woolloomooloo, during the early-to-mid 1980s. This squat, a large warehouse with several unusual spaces able to be used as theatres or other venues (thanks to its former use by the Navy) became a critical site for the development of arts and music in Sydney in the mid to late 1980s, with independent musical and art events being held there regularly. It is now an arts centre.,
The artists squatting empty buildings on Broadway owned by South Sydney City Council were evicted in 2001, a few months after the 2000 Olympics.
The Midnight Star was a squatted theatre used as a social centre, hosting music events, a cafe, a library, a free internet space and a Food Not Bombs kitchen. It was evicted in December 2002 following its use as a convergence centre for protests against the November World Trade Organisation talks.
Throughout 1995-2009 in the capital of Queensland, Brisbane, a number of old buildings and dilapidated back alleys were used as squats within the vicinity of Brisbane City's Queen Street Mall. There are roughly 30-60 long-term homeless persons in the Brisbane CBD at any one time, who typically use squats as a means of shelter. Irregular intervals can bring 30-60+ short term displaced people.
A five-year-old squat was peacefully evicted in March 2008, when an office block in Balmain was demolished to make way for a park. The council voted to allow the squatters to stay in the building, which they called Iceland, until the plans for demolition were in place. One of the squatters said, "About 20 people have lived here over the years and it's been a place for band rehearsals, art projects, people practising dance routines, bike workshops. Squatting gives you a chance to think about things other than how you are going to pay the rent and ways to contribute to the world."
The Squatfest film festival began in the Broadway squats in 2001. It is both a celebration of squatting and a protest against the corporate capitalism of the Tropfest film festival. Every year, a site is occupied and films screened. The location is announced hours before screening begins.
In many European countries, there are squatted houses used as residences and also larger squatted projects where people pursue social and cultural activities. Examples of the latter include an old leper hospital outside Barcelona called Can Masdeu and a former military barracks called Metelkova in Slovenia. Squats can be run on anarchist or communist principles, for example, Fabrika Yfanet, Villa Amalia in Greece, Ernst-Kirchweger-Haus in Austria (has legal status) or Blitz in Norway (has legal status). Young people squat buildings to use as concert venues for alternative types of music such as punk and hardcore. The eviction of one such place, Ungdomshuset, in March 2007 received international news coverage. Others have been legalised.
In Italy, there is Bussana Vecchia, a ghost town in Liguria which was abandoned in 1887 following an earthquake and subsequently squatted in the 1960s. In France, there is Collectif la vieille Valette, a self-supporting squat village which has been active since 1991.
Christiania is an independent community of almost 900 people founded in 1971 on the site of an abandoned military zone. In Copenhagen, as in other European cities such as Berlin and Amsterdam, the squatter movement was large in the 1980s. It was a social movement, providing housing and alternative culture. A flashpoint came in 1986 with the Battle of Ryesgade. Another flashpoint came in 2007 when Ungdomshuset was evicted. While not technically a squat until 14 December 2006, it was a social center used by squatters and people involved in alternative culture more generally.
In the 1970s, squatting in West German cities led to "a self-confident urban counterculture with its own infrastructure of newspapers, self-managed collectives and housing cooperatives, feminist groups, and so on, which was prepared to intervene in local and broader politics". The Autonomen movement protected squats against eviction and participated in radical direct action.
After the German reunification, many buildings were vacated due to the demise of former state-run enterprises and migration to the western parts of Germany, some of which were then occupied by squatters. In Berlin, the now-legalised squats are in desirable areas such as Mitte and Prenzlauer Berg. Before the reunification, squats in Berlin were mostly located in former West Berlin's borough of Kreuzberg. The squats were mainly for residential and social use. Squatting became known by the term instandbesetzen, from instandsetzen ("renovating") and besetzen ("occupying").
Despite being illegal, squats exist in many of the larger cities. Examples are Au in Frankfurt and Hafenstrae and Rote Flora in Hamburg, though the last open squat of Berlin, Brunnenstrae183, was evicted in November 2009.
Greece has a long tradition of anarchist squats, the oldest one being Villa Amalias and Lelas Karagianni. Also squatted in Athens are Patision & Skaramaga, Zaimi, Anw Katw, Pikpa, Strouga and others. An example of a more modern squat is Prapopoulou squat, which is well known internationally. There are seven anarchist squatted buildings in Thessaloniki, notably Fabrika Yfanet. There are also squats in Chania, Volos, Heraklio, Ioannina, Mitilini and Patras. There are a lot of squats in university buildings.
Iceland on the other hand does not have a long tradition of squatting but homeless people have been occupying abandoned houses for the same reasons as in other countries. The number of homeless people in Iceland is not high so it has not received much attention since slums do not exist. The first political squat was done on Vatnsstigur 4 in Reykjavik on the 9th of April 2009, 6 months after a complete economic collapse due to bankers that bought all the banks 4 years earlier. This was done by a group of people stating that "capitalism allows banks to own a house and leave them intentionally empty so that they will rot on their own and be replaced with a shopping center, using money that didn't exist and left the debt to the people that many did not participate in the loan-spree advocated by the banks before depression." "We will not tolerate that the rich are getting richer and the society getting less cultural." In 5 days the house was shaped up, a free-store opened, paper and music publishing had started and all with support from the neighbours that were excited to get some "life in the street". The house was gutted by between 50-60 riot police officers 5 days later and arrested the 15 people after they had barricaded themselves inside and resisted for over 2 hours days[which?]. People associated with the independent media where also arrested. In the following weeks the free shop was reopened several times, the first time it was reopened was on the 6th of May, 2009 in solidarity with the Rozbrat squat in Poland.
The second squat was founded by a group of graffiti artists that put up an art-exhibition on the 7th of July, 2009.
A new squat is in progress in an abandoned house in Vesturgata 51 Reykjavik. There are plans underway to make the house an open social space. The squat is also a protest of the recent increase in evictions. As of yet there has not been a police response to the squat.
In Italy, squatting has no legal basis, but there are many squats used as social centres. The first occupations of abandoned buildings began in 1968 with the left-wing movements Lotta Continua and Potere Operaio. Out of the breakup of these two movements was born Autonomia Operaia. Autonomia Operaia was formed by a marxist-leninist and maoist wing and also an anarchist and more libertarian one. The communist squats have marxist-leninist (but also stalinist and maoist) ideals and come from the left wing of Autonomia. In these years born in these squats the last militants of the Italian armed struggle (the New Red Brigades). The disobedience squats (see Tute Bianche and Ya Basta Association), which are much more common in Italy than the other squats, refuse communist ideology and all its ideals (class war, anti-imperialism, anti-capitalism). They are simply inspired by the Zapatista Army of National Liberation and part of the ideology of taken the thoughts of Antonio Negri. Then there are antagonists squats which are inspired by the marxism-leninism of the seventies: the workerism and the autonomism. There are also anarchist squats. The Italian squats are known as C.S.O.A. (Centro Sociale Occupato Autogestito, "self-governing squatter social centers") and include: Leoncavallo, Cantiere, Cox 18, Orso, Cascina Torchiera, La Fucina, Vittoria and Garibaldi in Milan, Officina 99, SKA, Insurgencia and Terra Terra in Naples, Askatasuna, El Paso, Gabrio and Murazzi in Turin, Brancaleone, Corto Circuito, Forte Prenestino, La Strada, Acrobax, Spartaco, Torre Maura, Horus and Villaggio Globale in Rome, Buridda, Pinelli, Terra Di Nessuno, Aut Aut 357 and Zapata in Genoa, Rivolta in Mestre, Gramigna and Pedro in Padua, La Chimica in Verona, Bruno in Trento, Dordoni in Cremona, Magazzino 47 in Brescia, Pac Paciana in Bergamo, Barattolo in Pavia, Firenze Sud in Florence, Experia in Catania, Ex-Karcere in Palermo, Ex-Mattatoio in Perugia, Mario Lupo in Parma, Mezza Canaja in Senigallia, Kontatto in Ancona, TNT in Jesi, Godzilla in Livorno, Rebeldia and Newroz in Pisa, Teatro Polivalente, Lazzaretto, XM24, Livello 57 and Crash in Bologna, Cartella in Reggio Calabria, Rialzo in Cosenza, Fiumara in Catanzaro, Cloro Rosso in Taranto and many others.
Many famous Italian Oi!, ska, hardcore punk and rock bands, such as Los Fastidios, Klasse Kriminale, Banda Bassotti, Negazione, Wretched, Raw Power, Nabat, and Cripple Bastards, tour in the areas of these social centers. Recently, several far-right squats have also emerged, the most well-known being Casa Pound.
In the Netherlands, if a building is empty and not in use for twelve months, and the owner has no pressing need to use it (such as a rental contract starting in the next month), then it used to be legal to squat it. The only illegal aspect was forcing an entry, if that was necessary. When a building was squatted, it is normal to send the owner a letter and to invite the police to inspect the squat. The police check whether the place is indeed lived in by the squatter–in legal terms, this means there must be a bed, a chair, a table and a working lock on the door which the squatter can open and close. In 2010 a new law made to make squatting illegal in the Netherlands. Many mayors disagreed with this law and told in public not to comply to this new law. What these changes mean for squatters cannot be overseen yet.
In cities, there was often a kraakspreekuur (squatters' consultation hour), at which people planning to squat can get advice from experienced squatters. In Amsterdam, where the squatting community is large, there are four kraakspreekuur sessions in different areas of the city, and so-called "wild" squatting (squatting a building without the help of the local group) is not encouraged. Dutch squatters use the term krakers to refer to people who squat houses with the aim of living in them (as opposed to people who break into buildings for the purpose of vandalism or theft).
There are many residential squats in Dutch cities. There are also some squats in the countryside such as a squatted village called Ruigoord near Amsterdam and Fort Pannerden near Nijmegen. Fort Pannerden (a military fort built in 1869) was evicted on November 8, 2006, by a massive police operation which used military machinery and cost one million euros. The squatters then re-squatted the fort on November 26 and have since made a deal with the local council which owns the fort. The deal states that the squatters will receive a large piece of land near the fort to start a community in the rural area in between the city of Nijmegen and Arnhem. In exchange, the fort was handed over to local authorities, who will turn it into a museum, with help provided by the squatters that used to live in Fort Pannerden.
Sometimes squats can become legalised. This is the case with the Poortgebouw in Rotterdam, which was squatted in 1980. In 1982, the inhabitants agreed to pay rent to the city council, and they are still living there as of 2008. The oRKZ (Oude Rooms-Katholieke Ziekenhuis) in Groningen, squatted in 1979, is an old Roman Catholic Hospital, which was declared legal in the 1980s.
Well-known squats include the OT301, Vrankrijk and the Binnenpret in Amsterdam, Anarres in Dordrecht, Het Slaakhuis in Rotterdam and the Landbouwbelang and Villa Vendex in Maastricht. De Blauwe Aanslag in The Hague was evicted in 2003.
Squatting gained a legal basis in the Netherlands in 1971, when the Supreme Court ruled that the concept of domestic peace (huisvrede) (which means a house cannot be entered without the permission of the current user) also applied to squatters. Since then, the owner of the building must take the squatters to court (or take illegal action) in order to evict them. A law was passed in 1994 which made it illegal to squat a building which was empty for less than one year.
There have been moves to ban squatting. In 1978, the Council of Churches launched a protest which scotched the idea. In June 2006, two ministers from the Dutch government (Sybilla Dekker and Piet Hein Donner) proposed a plan to make squatting illegal. Other ministers, such as Alexander Pechtold, were not in favor of this plan. Representatives of the four largest Dutch cities wrote a letter stating that it would not be in their interest to ban squatting. Squatters nationwide made banners and hung them on their squats in protest.
As of June 1, 2010, the ban on squatting is accepted by both houses of parliament. Squatting in the Netherlands is now illegal and punishable.
Squatting became popular in Spain in the 1960s and 1970s as a result of the shortage of urban accommodation during the rural exodus. It was revived in the mid-1980s during the La Movida Madrilea, under the name of the okupa movement, when thousands of illegal squats were legalized. Influenced by the British Levellers, the movement's popularity rose again during the 1990s, once more due to a housing crisis, this time related to the 1992 Summer Olympics and the concomitant urban regeneration. Property speculation and house price inflation continue to catalyze okupa activism.
Related to the anarchist movement, okupas support the ideal of Autogestion and create social centers, such as Patio Maravillas in Madrid, which carry out various grassroots activities. The okupa movement represents a highly politicized form of squatting, so much so that participants often claim they live in squats as a form of political protest first and foremost. The movement is involved in various other social struggles, including the alter-globalization movement. In 1996, during Jos Mara Aznar's presidency, the first specific legislation against squatting was passed and became the prelude to many squat evictions. In the barrio of Lavapis in Madrid, the Eskalera Karakola was a feminist self-managed squat, which was active from 1996 to 2005 and participated in the nextGENDERation network. Other examples are the Escuela Popular de Prosperidad (La Prospe) o Minuesa.
As of 2007, there were approximately 200 occupied houses in Barcelona. At least 45 of these, as Infousurpa, a collective event calendar, mentions, are used as social and cultural centers–so- called "open houses". A number of popular rock groups have come out of this kind of venue, such as Sin Dios, Extremoduro, Kolumna Durruti, Refugio and Platero y Tu in Madrid and Ojos de Brujo and Gadjo in Barcelona.
The Basque Country is another area where a high number of houses are occupied. There are at least 46 squats, or gaztetxes ("youth's houses" in the Basque language). During the 1980s, a house was occupied by squatters in almost every town, and the booming punk movement used them to organize concert tours and expositions. During the last 10 years, at least 15 gaztetxes have closed down, often after protests and clashes with the police . The most well-known gaztetxe currently is from Gasteiz. Squatting has always been related with the Basque independence movement. In the French Basque Country, there are at least five other squat houses.
The RHINO ("Retour des Habitants dans les Immeubles Non-Occups"; in English, "Return of Inhabitants to Non-Occupied Buildings") was a 19-year-long squat in Geneva. It occupied two buildings on the Boulevard des Philosophes, a few blocks away from the main campus of the University of Geneva. The RHINO organisation often faced legal troubles, and Geneva police evicted the inhabitants on July 23, 2007.
In England and Wales, the term squatting usually refers to occupying an empty house in a city. The owner of the house must go through various legal proceedings before evicting squatters. Squatting is regarded in law as a civil, not a criminal, matter. However, if there is evidence of forced entry, then this is regarded as criminal damage, and the police have the powers to remove the occupants. If the squatter legally occupies the house, then the owner must prove in court that they have a right to live in the property and that the squatter does not, while the squatter has the opportunity to claim there is not sufficient proof or that the proper legal steps have not been taken. In order to occupy a house legally, a squatter must have exclusive access to that property, that is, be able to open and lock an entrance. The property should be secure in the same way as a normal residence, with no broken windows or locks.
In 2003, it was estimated that there were 15,000 squatters in England and Wales.
The legal process of eviction can take a month or longer, perhaps even years.
Local Authority Housing Departments, facing rising court costs when evicting squatters, often resort to taking out the plumbing and toilets in empty buildings to deter squatters. In the 1970s, some housing councils would attempt to deter squatters from entering their properties by "gutting" the houses. "Gutting" refers to the process by which empty houses are rendered uninhabitable by pouring concrete into toilets and sinks or smashing the ceilings and staircases.
To show that the occupier of the squatted building is in fact in physical possession of the property, squatters often put up a legal warning known as a "Section 6", a copy of which is often displayed on the front door. Doing so attempts to claim that there are people living there and they have a legal right to be there. It also claims that anyone –even the technical owner of the property–who tries to enter the building without permission is committing an offence. These claims are fallible following amendments to the law in 1994.
Some properties are still occupied by squatters who have resisted eviction for 20 years. Squatters have a right to claim ownership of a dwelling after 12 years of having lived there if no one else claims it, by adverse possession under common law. In practice, this can be difficult, since the squatter must prove in a court of law that he or she has lived in the building continuously for the whole 12 years. For example, St Agnes Place in London had been lived in for 30 years until November 29, 2005, when Lambeth Council evicted the entire street. The law of adverse possession has been fundamentally altered following the passing of the Land Registration Act 2002. In effect, after 10 years of actual physical possession, a squatter must apply to the Land Registry to have their title recognised as the owner in fee simple. The original owner of the property will receive notification from the Land Registry and will be able to defeat the application by simple objection. Obviously, this will seriously curtail the ability of squatters to claim adverse possession.
In London, a group called the Advisory Service for Squatters runs a volunteer service helping squatters. It publishes the Squatters' Handbook and has drafted a legal warning to be used by squatters. In the late 1960s, the Family Squatters Advisory Service (FSAS) was founded in London, England, to help defend the rights of squatters. However, in the 1973 case of McPhail vs. Persons Unknown, the Court of Appeals stated that a landowner could re-enter a squatted property and use reasonable force to evict those occupying the property, while remaining exempt from the Forcible Entry Act. Thus, as a result of this ruling, all power lay in the hands of the possessor of the property, rather than the occupants. This case sparked a division amongst those fighting for squatters' rights at the FSAS, for new-wave advocates thought that the FSAS did not do enough to protect the unlicensed squatters' rights. That division birthed a different organization called the All London Squatters (ALS). The ALS was geared more toward direct action and was open to licensed and unlicensed squatters. ALS was perceived as more militant. As tensions heightened in London, FSAS split even further. The division between those for and opposed to unlicensed squatters grew deeper, and by 1975, divisions within the group led to its dissolution. In its wake grew a new organization called the Advisory Service for Squatters (ASS).  Since the first copy was published in 1976, there have been thirteen subsequent editions, which can be purchased for a small fee from the Advisory Service. The Squatters' Handbook details guidelines on how to find property to squat in, what to do in confrontations with the police, how to maintain the property and set up temporary plumbing, and generally how to survive while squatting. According to the Advisory Service website, the Squatters' Handbook is in high demand, which speaks to the rising number of squatters in this current period of global recession.
Most empty homes in the UK are in Birmingham (17,490), Liverpool (15,692) and Manchester (14,017). North West England has the most empty homes (135,106), which is close to 5% of its housing. The fewest empty homes are in South East England and East Anglia, but there are currently thousands of empty homes in London, where house prices have traditionally been higher as a percentage of the average wage than elsewhere in the UK.
In 1649 at Saint George's Hill, Walton-on-Thames in Surrey, Gerrard Winstanley and others calling themselves The True Levellers occupied disused common land and cultivated it collectively in the hope that their actions would inspire other poor people to follow their lead. Gerrard Winstanley stated that "the poorest man hath as true a title and just right to the land as the richest man". While the True Levellers, later more commonly known as the Diggers, were perhaps not the first squatters in England, their story illustrates the heritage of squatting as a form of radical direct action.
More recently, there was a huge squatting movement involving ex-servicemen and their families following World War II. This involved thousands of people occupying sites as diverse as former military bases and luxury apartment blocks in west London.
The 1960s saw the development of the Family Squatting Movement, which sought to mobilise people to take control of empty properties and use them to house homeless families from the Council Housing Waiting List. This movement was originally based in London (where Ron Bailey and Jim Radford were instrumental in helping to establish family squatting campaigns in several London boroughs), and several local Family Squatting Associations signed agreements with borough councils to use empty properties under licence (although only after some lengthy and bitter campaigns had been fought–most particularly in the Boroughs of Redbridge and Southwark).
In the early 1970s, Ron Bailey and Jim Radford were closely involved in founding the Family Squatting Advisory Service, which promoted and provided information for Family Squatting Associations and direct-action Housing Campaigns. However, there was a growing conflict between the original activists of the Family Squatting Movement and a newer wave of squatters who simply rejected the right of landlords to charge rent and who believed (or claimed to) that seizing property and living rent-free was a revolutionary political act. These new-wave squatters (often young and single rather than homeless families) were a mixture of anarchists, Trotskyists–the International Marxist Group (IMG) being especially prominent–and self-proclaimed hippie dropouts, and they denounced the idea that squatters should seek to make agreements with local Councils to use empty property and that Squatting Associations should then become landlords (or Self Help Housing Associations as they were sometimes styled) in their own right and charge rent.
In 1979, there were estimated to be 50,000 squatters throughout Britain, with the majority (30,000) living in London. There was a London's Squatters' Union in which Piers Corbyn was involved. For eighteen months, it was housed at Huntley Street, where over 150 people lived in 52 flats. The union organised festivals and provided homes for the homeless.
Currently, there are a growing number of art squats in the United Kingdom. Many young artists cannot afford to rent studio or gallery space, and abandoned buildings provide them with both. One Bristol-based group called Artspace Lifespace has occupied an abandoned police station since 1992 and converted it into a community arts center, changing holding cells into gallery space. The founder of Artspace Lifespace stated of young artists in the recession, "I imagine they're quite disillusioned to have come out on this downturn. I think a lot of people are looking for alternatives," of which squatting is just one. Contemporary squatting in England is primarily a youth-based initiative, as artist Matthew Stone from the !WOWOW! collective in South London describes, "I was obsessed with the idea of it, but also with getting to London and being part of a dynamic group of young people doing things." 
Squatting is a criminal offence in Scotland, punishable by a fine or even imprisonment. The owner or lawful occupier of the property has the right to evict squatters without notice or applying to the court for an eviction order, although when evicting, they cannot do anything that would break the law, for example, use violence.
In 16th- and 17th-century Wales, an expansion in population as well as taxation policy led to a move of people into the Welsh countryside, where they squatted on common land. These squatters built their own property under the assumption of a fictional piece of folklore, leading to the developments of small holdings around a TÅ unnos, or "house in a night".
In Mexico, squatters are known as paracaidistas (that is, "paratroopers", because they "drop" themselves mostly at unoccupied lands), and it is a common practice in large cities. Since the most valuable real property is located near the downtowns of the cities, the paracaidistas usually establish slums at unoccupied lands at the outskirts of the cities. Since Mexican laws establish that an individual may take legal possession of a property after five years of peaceful occupation, many paracaidistas establish themselves with the hope that the legal owner will not discover them and expel them before five years. Large extensions of many Mexican cities were established originally as squats (for example, Nezahualcoyotl, in Mexico City). Squatting has also been used with political purposes, with more of one political parties promising existing squatters to legalize their situation if they support their candidates in the elections; or sometimes with the purpose to serve as human obstacles for another party, ocuping the space that was going to be used for constructing public buildings or parks.
In the United States, squatting laws vary from state to state and city to city. For the most part, it is rarely tolerated to any degree for long, particularly in cities. There have been a few exceptions, notably in 2002 when the New York City administration agreed to turn over 11 buildings in the Lower East Side, which had been squatted in, to an established non-profit, on the condition that the apartments would later be turned over to the tenants as low-income housing cooperatives.
Laws based on a contract-ownership interpretation of property make it easy for deed holders to evict squatters under loitering or trespassing laws. The situation is more complicated for legal residents who fail to make rent or mortgage payments, but the result is largely the same.
Most squatting in the US is dependent on law enforcement, and the person legally considered to be the owner of the property being unaware of the occupants. Often, the most important factors in the longevity of squats in the US are apathy of the owner and the likeliness of neighbors to call the police. This was not always the case, particularly in the era of Westward expansion, wherein the federal government specifically recognized the rights of squatters. For example, see the Preemption Act of 1841.
The United States Homestead Act legally recognized the concept of homesteading and distinguished it from squatting, since it gave homesteaders permission to occupy unclaimed lands. Additionally, US states that have a shortage of housing tend to tolerate squatters in property awaiting redevelopment until the developer is ready to begin work. However, at that point, the laws tend to be enforced. The Homestead Act of 1862 was signed by Abraham Lincoln on May 20 and sought to reallocate unsettled land in the West. The law applied to U.S. citizens and prospective citizens that had never borne arms against the U.S. government. It required a five-year commitment, during which time the homesteader had to build a twelve-by-fourteen foot dwelling, develop the 160-acre plot of land allocated, and generally better the condition of the unsettled property. After five years of positively contributing to the land, the homesteader could file for the deed to the property, which entailed sending paperwork to the General Land Office in Washington, D.C., and from there, "valid claims were granted patent free and clear". Moreover, there were loopholes to this law, including provisions made for those serving in the U.S. military. After the Civil War, Union veterans could deduct time served in the army from the five-year homesteader requirement.
In common law, through the legally recognized concept of adverse possession, a squatter can become a bona fide owner of property without compensation to the owner. Adverse possession is the process by which one acquires the title to a piece of land by occupying it for the number of years necessary, dictated differently in practice by each state's statute of limitation for an eviction action. A necessary component of this transfer of ownership requires that the landowner is aware of the land occupation and does nothing to put an end to it. If the land use by the new occupant goes unchecked for the said number of years, the new occupant can claim legal rights to the title of the land. The occupant must show that the "possession is actual, open, notorious, exclusive, hostile, under cover of claim or right, and continuous and uninterrupted for the statutory period." As Erin Wiegand notes, the most difficult part of claiming adverse possession on the part of squatters is the continuous part. Squatting is a very transient lifestyle and many are evicted on a frequent basis. In an article regarding recent foreclosures in the United States, a current squatter in Miami stated of her housing, "It's a beautiful castle and it's temporary for me, if I can be here twenty-four hours, I'm thankful." Thus, while adverse possession allows for the legality of a squatter's situation, it is not easy to win a case of adverse possession.
Squats used for living in can be divided into two types (although they are not absolutes): so-called "back-window squats" (the most common type, in which occupants sneak in and out of the building with the intent of hiding that they live there) and "front-door squats" (where the occupants make little or no effort to conceal their comings and goings). Many squats may start out as one or the other and then change over time. Frequently, squatters will move in and then later assess how open they can be about their activities before they approach the neighbors; others will not move into a place until they have first met and discussed the idea with the neighbors. The difference between the two types can be signs of vast differences in philosophies of squatting and its purpose, how long the occupants plan to be around, and on the atmosphere of the neighborhood, among many other factors.
Squatters can be young people living in punk houses or low-income or homeless people.
There are non-profit advocacy groups in existence in many cities throughout the U.S. These groups give organizational backing and political power to the plight of squatters. The nonprofits also assist the squatters to have the work on improving their apartments legitimized, or approved by the appropriate local authority. In New York City, the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board was at the forefront of a homesteading movement in the 1970s and 1980s, and more recently liaised with the city to legitimize the efforts of squatters in 11 buildings in the Lower East Side. Although the New York City government had previously forcibly removed many squatters in the 1990s, in 2002 it agreed to sell these 11 buildings for $1 each to UHAB. The buildings were to be brought up to code by the squatters (with UHAB's assistance) and then the apartments were bought for $250 each and the buildings converted to affordable cooperatives by the former squatters .
Take Back the Land is a Miami-based self-proclaimed housing liberation group that formed in 2006. They break into vacant, unused bank-owned foreclosed homes and move homeless people inside. Take Back the Land organized a shantytown called the Umoja Village to squat a vacant lot in 2006 and 2007.
A group called Homes Not Jails advocates squatting houses to end the problem of homelessness. It has opened "about 500 houses, 95% of which have lasted six months or less. In a few cases, [these] squats have lasted for two, three or even six years."
In Minnesota, a group known as the Poor People's Economic Human Rights Campaign has relocated families into thirteen empty properties, and one national organizer likened the advocacy and service work of her group to "a modern-day underground railroad".
In addition to these advocacy groups, there are a number of useful websites that provide squatters with information on how to go about setting up a squat.
Squat!net is an internationally contributed-to website that provides squatters with tips on how to squat and possible open properties on which to do it.
Additionally, some squatters use the internet as a safe space in which to share information. An Australian-based community of squatters, SquatSpace, developed a comprehensive website after being forced underground with the eviction of the Broadway Squats in South Sydney. The website features anonymous postings of squatter art exhibits and protests in the Sydney area and provides a virtual space for those without a physical community space. There are also numerous squatter blogs and blogs about how to squat, including one from author Robert Neuwirth.
In January 1848, two weeks after being ceded to the United States, gold was discovered in California resulting in a flood of fortune seekers gravitating to the state in the following months and years. Due to the ambiguity of existing laws regarding squatting on federal land, individual mining camps developed squatting laws to fill the legal void.
It is estimated that in the 1990s, there were between 500 and 1,000 squatters occupying 32 buildings on Manhattan's Lower East Side. The buildings had been abandoned as a result of speculation by owners or police raids as part of a crackdown on drug use. As the area became gentrified, the squats were evicted, Dos Blockos being one. Three buildings on 13th Street were evicted without notification following a prolonged legal battle in which the squatters argued through their lawyer Stanley Cohen that they were entitled to ownership of the buildings through adverse possession since they had lived there since 1983.
In 1995, a preliminary injunction had been granted against the eviction plans, but this was overturned by state appellate.
Despite squatting being illegal, artists had begun to squat buildings to live in and use as atelier space[clarification needed]. European squatters coming to New York brought ideas of cooperative living with them such as a bar, support between squats, and tool exchange.
In 2002, eleven squats out of the twelve remaining on the Lower East Side signed a deal with the city council brokered by the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board. In this project, UHAB bought the buildings for $1 each and agreed to assist the squatters to undertake essential renovation work, after which their apartments could be bought for $250 each. UHAB would also train them in running low-income limited-equity housing cooperatives. After prices peaked from the housing boom, several of the squatters told press that they wanted out of the contract so they could be allowed to sell their units at market rate prices. No such arrangements have been made, but some squatters are challenging the contract and believe adverse possession protects their ownership claim.
The first squat to completed co-op conversion in May 2009 is Bullet Space, an artists' gallery and residence at 292 E. 3rd St. Another is C-Squat; as well as social center ABC No Rio, which was founded in 1980.
The "lowercase collective" started out as an anarchist collective living in a rented 2-story flat in the Logan Square neighborhood of Chicago in November 2006. A year after they moved in, the landlord disappeared. The building has been squatted ever since, and it has hosted a variety or political projects and organizations, as well as benefits, skillshares, and educational events.
Around many South American cities there are shanty towns. Sometimes, the authorities tear the houses down, but often, the squatters simply rebuild again. The houses are built out of whatever material can be scavenged from the local area or bought cheaply. As time goes by, the squatters start to form communities and become more established. The houses are rebuilt piece by piece with more durable materials. In some cases, a deal is reached with the authorities and connections for sewage, drinking water, cable television and electricity are made.
In Peru, the name given to the squatter settlements is pueblos jvenes. In Venezuela, they are called barrios or invasiones (as in "invading a property", as it can be related to a building or an empty lot), in Argentina, the term used is villa miseria, and in Uruguay, cantegriles.
In Brazil, these squatter communities are called favelas, and a famous example is Rocinha in Rio de Janeiro, estimated to be home of 100,000 people. Favelas are home to the extremely poor of Brazil and usually lack much infrastructure and public services, but in some cases, already have reached the structure needed for a city. They are equivalent to slums or shanty towns. There are 25 million people living in favelas all over Brazil.
There are also rural squatter movements, such as the Landless Workers' Movement, which has an estimated 1.5 million members.
In Europe, it is common for buildings to be squatted to be used as social centres. Cafs, bars, libraries, free shops, swaps shops and gyms have all been created, with many squats also holding parties and concerts. Social centers are often a combination of many things that happen in one space with the aim of creating a space for people to meet in a non-commercial setting, whether it be for a party, political workshop, to see a film, have a drink or have breakfast. There are many squatted social centers around the world, but they exist mainly in countries where squatting is legal. Examples include Ernst-Kirchweger-Haus in Austria, the RampART Social Centre in England, OT301 in the Netherlands and Ungdomshuset in Denmark (evicted on March 1, 2007 and demolished four days later).
Urban homesteading is a form of self-help housing where abandoned private properties in urban areas are taken over by the building–s usually poor residents.
Sometimes this takes the form of squatting, which is not legal under many jurisdictions. Urban homesteading - in which residents rehabilitate the apartments through their own labor - may depart from squatting in some ways, especially philosophically.
While both groups may work initially with no permits, architectural plans or help from the government, self-help housing aims to manage the buildings cooperatively, and residents may work collaboratively with a non-profit organization or city government to legally obtain ownership of the building.
In some cases, urban homesteading is an organic phenomenon that evolves as a grassroots strategy of residents for dealing with a lack of affordable housing, or a sizable existence of abandoned, depressed, neglected or foreclosed housing stock. Some cities have used it as a solution to creating affordable housing.
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