Housing crisis? Really?


More and more in the news about the feculent mess our mortgage system
is in. Housing is too costly & too scarce. Empty houses are hanging
very heavy on bankers’ hands. Office buildings stand vacant for years.
Oh dear.

Hmm.. How about making those vacant spaces available to the homeless?
In return for a little maintenance & hygeine, plus paying for whatever
water & electricity they use, you could have a huge impact on the most
vulnerable poor. Think of all the women, kids, even men who could get
enough peace, safety and stability to get back on their feet & back
into the economic life.

You could also keep empty homes from turning into eyesores. I know
quite a few squatters in organized squats, some of them there with the
owners’ knowledge, and they have had a significant effect on one or
two rotting neighborhoods because they simply won’t let their squat
rot, and they won’t let the real trash take over. It definitely keeps
the tone from getting worse & it keeps the drugs & violence down. I
guess squatters can be kinda scary — they are sure protective of
their squats.

When the place becomes rented or sold, they have to move, but should
get 30 days’ notice. Seems fair in return for how much money & trouble
they’ve saved!

A landowning friend of mine said squatters moved in, crapped on the
new carpet, tore up the repainted walls, and so forth. In my ideal
world, those squatters would be blacklisted & left to homeless
shelters. Squatters who decide to use your space should have basic
standards, and if they have some living-security in exchange,
should be ready & willing to take basic care of the place. Not that
you won’t want to bring in cleaners afterwards, but that costs
much less than re-refitting the whole interior!

In Egypt, they had boabs (two syllables: bo-ab) who lived in building
sites or abandoned residences to keep things from falling apart & keep
thieves and scavengers away. They weren’t paid much but they got free
rent. (Had some living across the street in a half-demolished house
that was tied up in litigation; nice neighbors, helped me with my
Arabic.) Since they were one step away from being on the streets, they
knew the underground and would let the neighbors know if there were
thieves in the neighborhood, if rabies had shown up in the area, or if
the Army was going to come around shooting loose dogs (their idea of
rabies control.)

Makes a lot of sense to me. So the rich neighborhood had a blue-collar
family in their midst — they made us all a little more comfortable,
overall. I’d love to have a “boab community” here!

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