How We Squatted A House

Hous­ing is a basic right for every­body. Hous­es should not be emp­ty while there are peo­ple with­out homes to live in.

Squat­ting is the action of occu­py­ing an aban­doned or unoc­cu­pied area of land–or a build­ing, usu­al­ly res­i­den­tial – that the squat­ter does not own, rent or oth­er­wise have law­ful per­mis­sion to use.”

In our case, we just want­ed to have a home where we can live for a longer peri­od with­out hav­ing to pay rent for it. Olga con­nect­ed with me via Couch Surf­ing and invit­ed me to join her squat in Tener­ife. She told me that she was trav­el­ing alone for a cou­ple of months and that she found a emp­ty house to stay at. She was look­ing for some­body to join her in order not to be alone in this I have to say pret­ty creepy place :-)))

Some dif­fer­ent peo­ple stayed for a while with her in the squat. As I was trav­el­ing alone and it was in the begin­ning of my trip, I didn’t want to be alone and I also was very curi­ous how she is liv­ing there, so I agreed on join­ing her in the emp­ty house.

It was def­i­nite­ly a good deci­sion to do so! Like this I got to know Olga and also Taavi, two amaz­ing young and inter­est­ing peo­ple and had for the first time the oppor­tu­ni­ty to live in a squat. Before to do so I nev­er real­ly con­cerned about house squat­ting, though I’ve heard about it. Stay­ing there for some days made me think about the whole issue and why it is a great pos­si­bil­i­ty to live — and for some peo­ple the only one. Due to the actu­al hap­pen­ings and the many refugees hav­ing no homes, I think it is very impor­tant to be aware of this because there is an urgent need for hous­ing, espe­cial­ly with the increased demand from migrants. Read some inter­est­ing arti­cles about this top­ic here, here and here — think about it!

Of course squat­ting occurs whether it is declared legal or ille­gal, and we only have to look around the world to see huge num­bers of peo­ple liv­ing in infor­mal set­tle­ments.”

I arrived there in the mid­dle of the night and had no idea where it is — Olga and Taavi, a friend who joined her explained me how to get there but I didn’t man­age to find the house in the dark. It was pret­ty scary to walk there, look­ing for a emp­ty house. Luck­i­ly Taavi picked me up in the city (where I had to walk back) because I had no chance to find it.

The house had no elec­tric­i­ty or run­ning water but some can­dles and water bot­tles you bring from some water tap near­by will do the work — of course not everybody’s case. But I think it’s a nice expe­ri­ence for a short peri­od.

WHY SQUAT?

Squat­ting by neces­si­ty is in itself a polit­i­cal issue, there­fore also a “state­ment” or rather a ‘response’ to the polit­i­cal sys­tem caus­ing it. Dur­ing the peri­od of glob­al reces­sion and increased hous­ing fore­clo­sures in the 2000s, squat­ting became far more preva­lent in West­ern, devel­oped nations. In some cas­es, need-based and polit­i­cal­ly moti­vat­ed squat­ting go hand in hand.

Squat­ting is a mat­ter of civ­il law, not a crime. You might be a sin­gle per­son with­out the cap­i­tal for pri­vate rent­ing. You might be a fam­i­ly declared “inten­tion­al­ly home­less” or oth­er­wise exclud­ed from pub­lic hous­ing. You might be a des­ti­tute asy­lum seek­er. Or per­haps you’ve moved to find work. Squat­ting is hard work and has its prob­lems, but it’s bet­ter than the alter­na­tives. Some peo­ple find that the close­ness and team­work involved, the laughs as well as the crises, open up a whole new world and change their lives.

WHO OWNS THE EMPTY HOUSES?

Gov­ern­ment depart­ments own emp­ty hous­es, due to mis-man­age­ment and bureau­crat­ic delays many hous­es can remain emp­ty for many years.
Pri­vate devel­op­ers keep hous­es emp­ty so that they can make a fast buck, or main­tain the ‘mar­ket rent’ by lim­it­ing the avail­able hous­ing. Greedy indi­vid­u­als own hous­es that are left emp­ty because they don’t need them to live in.

ONCE YOUVE FOUND IT:

Find­ing emp­ty hous­es is gen­er­al­ly pret­ty easy, an unkempt look, tons of mails com­ing out of the mail­box, over­grown gar­den, bro­ken win­dows and doors etc. You should always knock on the door before enter­ing or when check­ing out a house. Some­times old peo­ple are liv­ing in their home with­out elec­tric­i­ty in run­down states.
Take a clos­er look inside and out, is there thick dust inside? No obvi­ous signs of occu­pa­tion? Check the over­all struc­ture of the place, are the gas and elec­tric­i­ty meters still there? You need to know what to bring back to secure the house and fix it up if nec­es­sary.

Find out as much as you can about the house. Get­ting in is gen­er­al­ly quite easy, often bro­ken win­dows or doors pre­vi­ous­ly forced by oth­er vis­i­tors pro­vide access. Remem­ber, squat­ters nev­er do crim­i­nal dam­age; local kids do that, and squat­ters just come along the next day and take advan­tage of it.

It’s best not to squat on your own: get togeth­er with a few oth­ers. A squat is only a squat while there’s some­one on the premis­es. If nobody’s in, there’s noth­ing to stop the own­er break­ing in and repos­sess­ing the place. How­ev­er, if any­body — includ­ing the own­er — tries to gain entry when some­one opposed to their doing so is in, it’s a crim­i­nal offence. So, you need enough peo­ple to make sure some­one is always at home — at least for the first few weeks.
It can some­times take quite some­time for own­ers to real­ize that any­one is occu­py­ing the house, any­thing from a few hours to a day to a few weeks even. This time should be used for get­ting the house togeth­er, fix­ing things up, check­ing the wiring and water etc. It’s a good idea to get ser­vices such as elec­tric­i­ty and gas on as quick­ly as pos­si­ble, so you can cook and main­tain a life at your new home.

Try to keep the house occu­pied con­stant­ly for the first few days and weeks or until you come to some agree­ment over remain­ing there with the own­er. Get sup­port from oth­er squat­ters, friends and oth­ers in the local area. If after a few weeks you’re still there and have heard noth­ing from the own­ers you can start to get a bit more com­fort­able, it is hard­er to evict well estab­lished house­holds than peo­ple who appear to be just using the place to crash in. First thing to do is change the locks and secure the house.

In our case the own­er came after some time, pre­pared with the house plans and the doc­u­ments for sell­ing the home. We were very sur­prised that he came by, like the house is lit­er­al­ly in the mid­dle of nowhere, only some banana plan­ta­tions near­by… Any­way he was a nice guy, he asked us if we want to buy the land with the house but we explained that we are stu­dents look­ing for a place to stay and that we have no mon­ey for buy­ing it (damn, we for­got to ask how much it costs … after we heard that prices in Tener­ife are very low for lands). He had a look around and explained us that he has no prob­lem with us stay­ing there, he just want­ed to see if every­thing is fine because some years before he had prob­lems with squat­ters who grew Mar­i­jua­na there. We assured him that we won’t do any­thing bad with the place, we rather take care of it! He seemed to like us and wished us all the best before leav­ing — very fun­ny to actu­al­ly meet him!

Before we left this house Olga left a mes­sage with her con­tact for peo­ple who will come after us and also a mes­sage for the own­er ask­ing how much the house costs … let’s see if she gets a response! 🙂

Read some legal and prac­ti­cal advice on squat­ting here.

More use­ful links for squat­ting:

Squat hous­es around the globe 

Alter­na­tive autonomous host­ing groups

Squat­ters News­pa­per SLAP 

News on squat­ting 

 

 

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