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When are squatters likely to be militant? The regulation of residential squatting in England and France Dr. Jane Ball Newcastle Law School, Newcastle University.

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Presentation on theme: "When are squatters likely to be militant? The regulation of residential squatting in England and France Dr. Jane Ball Newcastle Law School, Newcastle University."— Presentation transcript:

1 When are squatters likely to be militant? The regulation of residential squatting in England and France Dr. Jane Ball Newcastle Law School, Newcastle University 1

2 When are squatters militant? Studying outsiders in England and France There is a move from individual squats to larger collective, militant or overt squats Dealt with by public and criminal law responses rather than private law ones Why is that? Is that better or worse? Reviewing the law using possible evidence-based theories about outsiders: Foucault - power Lindbeck and Snower – economic power 2

3 This paper concerns housing squats: Bouillons typology Bouillon conducted interviews in squats in Marseille Squatters are extremely variable types of people She identifies two types of squat: The housing squat or squat of necessity and The squat of activities or squat of conviction The latter were less successful Collective housing squats are an established and conventional form in France although there are recent crackdowns 3

4 A squat of activities In Tarragona 4

5 Squatters as outsiders Foucault and the power relationship Squatters are generally agreed to be societal outsiders (Green, Becker, Reeve, Cohen, Cooper) folk devils Foucault can be used for evidence-based explanations of cause and effect (Hunter and Nixon) Foucault (1971) said that the position of outsider is the product of a power relationship The madman in a play is stigmatized and silent BUT There is a sudden switch when the madman is the only character on the stage telling the truth Collective squats today promote moral causes to create such a paradigm shift in perception. 5

6 Squatters as outsiders Insider outsider theory and economic power Insider outsider theory provides evidence of the processes of exclusion from housing : Lindbeck and Snower for employment, but applied to housing In housing this is the result of barriers to access to homes and barriers to eviction – transaction costs These barriers protects insiders – tenants and home owners If these barriers are too high, then outsiders cannot access a home, become increasingly stigmatized and deteriorate quickly Squatting is a response to this, often a cold hard choice of necessity This theory suggests that the stigmatization can be addressed by an awareness of how barriers work 6

7 Insiders and the response of outsiders France has suffered from insiderness in the housing market and from militant collective squats much longer than England (Ball, 2011) Insiderness describes: a dysfunctional housing market where there is a kind of sclerosis of the market, which adversely affects everyone conditions where there are too many barriers to access to housing but also too many barriers to exit from housing (i.e. difficulty evicting people) The homeless are the bellwether for the system as a whole Outsiderness, here describes the self-help responses to insiderness of squatters in collective squat. 7

8 The individual squat and the private law occupying space (1) The main (but limited) power for an individual squatter lies in: The difficulty of eviction (transaction costs) Getting on with neighbours and caring for the home An ancient law granting squatters title in England and France after a long apprenticeship has common roots in Roman law: Practical in the wilds of the Roman empire (usucapio). In France this is very difficult to obtain In England this is becoming difficult to obtain: High cost criminalization (widening discretion for police?) limiting of private –law remedies 8

9 The individual squat and the private law occupying space (2) This is a moral battle, because the State can make it easier or harder to get access or evict Traditional Justifications: Economic use of land/mitigating homelessness/ labour evidenced by repair The existence of squatters title creates public order in the long term (Savigny) This supports property owners because of the long-term difficulty in evidencing ownership the diabolical proof Low visibility, rewards getting on with neighbours, cheap to public authorities and high public order value It is the job of the state to act impartially between claimants 9

10 The collective squat and the public law (1): greater difficulty in eviction Why do squatters abandon the incentives of the private law? The collective squat increases public costs of their removal: 1.Groups are harder to evict than individuals (transaction costs are higher) and this is expensive 2.Groups allow continuity with less effort – they can work in shifts to continue occupation. 3.Continuity also ensured by advertising presence on the net. 4.Group squats propose moral purposes and provide useful squatted social centres, appealing over the heads of neighbours to an international audience. 5.A deliberate policy of confrontation rather than slipping away before eviction raises the public profile. 10

11 Turning full circle: Public law expensively doing the same as the private law The State tries to replicate what squatters do in seeking out empty properties In France a largely failed policy of spotting and requisitioning empty property since 1945 In England, the Empty Homes Agency Very high cost of evictions to displace collective squats, so evictees carry a sense of injustice around Europe Impartiality of State threatened by compensation to landowners who lose title (ECHR) incentivizing crackdown In very large squats in transitional economies, title bestowed on whole areas by public decree (de Soto) 11

12 Conclusion occupying space Limiting squatting involves the state in higher public costs than the old law, instead of impartially adjudicating on each claim on its merits It also creates social divisions and a fissile state of indignation Insider-outsider theory proposes that a level playing field will improve things: Effective, correct, and appropriately timed eviction after fair adjudication Improve access, reduce stigmatization and free up money to spend on homelessness If the private law of squatting did not exist, you would have to invent it. 12

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