Thursday, January 22, 2009
Hard Times Are So Much More Civilized in the UK
We still have so much to learn from the Brits. They've got the stiff upper lip, the afternoon tea, and they've got legal squatting.
According to the BBC, a bunch of art students have moved into a couple of vacant mansions at a fine address in London - Park Lane. They're holding open houses, exhibiting art and generally proving to be pretty good neighbors. Their "landlord" (are you a landlord if you don't get rent, or just a victim?) may be the Duke of Westminster, who apparently hasn't used the homes in years. They're valued at 15 million pounds. Each.
The new tenants are art students, 30 to 40 of them per building. Squatting is not illegal if you don't force your way in and you cause no criminal damage. The students say they're not crackheads, they're not wrecking the places, they're just enjoying the finest free student housing ever.
So let's consider this notion. We've got an awful lot of empty homes owned by banks that can't sell them. We have an awful lot of people who are having trouble paying their bills. The lines at soup kitchens are getting longer. Utility companies report a rising number of delinquencies...and bigger ones.
What if we started letting people live in those empty houses across the US legally? What if the banks signed a deal that required they keep the places up, didn't allow the pipes to freeze, basically acted as caretakers?
Am I missing something or could this make sense?