Squat to Own

Two social ills come together in Miami for a positive outcome, at least on a small scale.
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Two social ills come together in Miami for a positive outcome, at least on a small scale.

When life hands you lemons, make lemonade — and hope that life hands you some sugar, too. When life hands you foreclosed houses, make them homes. That was the point of Pam Kelley's recent Miller-McCune.com article on Habitat for Humanity buying some fixer-uppers on the ultra-cheap and turning them into affordable housing for low-income working people.

In Miami, notes Miller-McCune.com contributor Kirk Nielsen, they're cutting out the middleman and allowing homeless people just to squat in foreclosed homes vacated by their erstwhile buyers but not yet spiffed and resold by their genuine owners, i.e. whoever actually holds the mortgage note.

Writing in Poder 360, Nielsen acknowledges the action of a small group of people dubbed Take Back The Land that's colonizing these empty homes in the Miamitr satellites of Liberty City and Little Haiti. According to the group's director, the number of evictions and the number of homeless were roughly equal at one point last year, allowing him to do some Reese's Peanut Butter Cup mathematics.

Squatters must have the power and water hooked up in their name and, in general, are expected to keep the place looking nice — something which doesn't happen when houses sit empty for months on end and not-nice people take notice.

Miami's not the only place this is happening — David Rosenfeld mentioned Take Back The Land and San Francisco's Homes Not Jails in the same breath earlier this year with groups that try to keep evictees in their homes rather than creating both a vacancy and a homeless family simultaneously. One thing that does mark the Miami program has been law enforcement's laissez faire attitude — so far.

Nielsen, though, proposes a refinement, which he's dubbed "squat to own." He suggests a squatter make a monthly payment —less than the mortgage payment for the loan they couldn't get but greater than zero (and greater than the loss an abandoned home starts generating).

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