I plan to finish researching and writing a book about how historical land struggles and housing justice movements in the United States have shaped property law today, and how contemporary property law dictates the processes and the outcomes of modern American property struggles.
Throughout the book I intend to argue that the law is malleable, as demonstrated by the changing property laws of the nineteenth and twentieth centuries in response to masses of Americans resisting speculation and unjust land legislature. Further, I will argue that the law should recall its own pliability when outmoded legislature comes to work against justice today.
A pivotal example of this trend in selective justice is found in the debris of the economic crisis that began in 2007. The real-estate bubble-burst left 15 percent of housing units empty by the end of 2008, yet homelessness persisted. (Two years later, the statistic is virtually unchanged at 14 percent.) So increasing numbers of Americans are resorting to squatting—the all-but-forgotten American institution of self-help housing—to survive.
Beginning with the colonialist land grab that sentenced natives to centuries of poverty, through the little-known feudalistic era of Upstate New York, through Western homesteading, through the East Coast squatter resurgence in the 1980s, and finally to the foreclosure squats of recent years, I will bolster my argument for normalizing an effective and sensible modern-day land distribution system. I will assert that there is no housing crisis, in the sense that there is no shortage of housing; rather, it is an instance of perverted distribution.
In these times, this research is invaluable to Americans looking for answers to the economic crisis, which has accorded nationwide urgency to the issue of housing. It is important for homeowners, renters, foreclosure victims, and the homeless alike to know that resisters have preceded them and that solutions are currently all around.
I don’t hope to passively report on this trend of self-help housing, but I hope instead to educate, inspire, and empower Americans exploited by a rampaging capitalist model. I want to prompt readers with the question “How can we move away from housing as commodity and toward housing as survival right?”
Your donation will fund research travel to targeted locations including Maine, Boston, New York City, Philadelphia, Baltimore, Buffalo, Ohio, Detroit, New Orleans, and San Francisco.
- (45 days)