What Can Cities Do About 'Property Outlaws'?

More homeless people are squatting in abandoned suburban housing. Eduardo M. Peñalver, co-author of the forthcoming book "Property Outlaws" thinks cities should acquire these properties and allow the former owners to live in them as renters.
March 27, 2009, 9am PDT | Michael Dudley
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"As rising unemployment pushes more people out of their houses and apartments 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...As the current recession picks up speed, we are confronted with the ingredients for a squatting boom.

The difference between the 1970s and today is that the crisis last time was focused on the urban centers, while this time around the suburbs are the site of the greatest mismatch between people without homes and homes without occupants.

[A]n 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...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."

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Published on Thursday, March 26, 2009 in Slate.com
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