Urban Homesteading Roundtable
The New School (66 West 12th St., Room A404, Manhattan)

From Urban Homesteading to a New Ecology of Housing

Today, the housing crisis manifests itself with a growing economic disparity and spatial segregation, housing unaffordability, foreclosures, and therefore increasing levels of structural vacancies and homelessness. The foundational ideology of the benefits of individual home ownership is under question. Clearly, this calls for alternative housing models.

A new ecology of housing can be envisioned with the mobilization of public power and knowledge geared towards just use of vacant public and private property. Public power, informed and armed with specific means and models to transform property ownership through alternative means, can re-ignite and erect a novel 21st century NYC Urban Homesteading Program for those truly in need.

Participants include:

Tom Angotti, Professor of Urban Affairs and Planning, Hunter College and the Graduate Center, City University of New York; Director of the Hunter College Center for Community Planning & Development

Dan DeSloover, Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB); tenant organizer

Brenda Stokely, AFSCME Local 215 NYC; Labor Party New York State & Labor Party National Council

Hannah Dobbz, writer, filmmaker, former squatter, author of Nine-Tenths of the Law

Brent Sharman, UHAB; tenant & community organizer

The urban homesteading program, effective from 1974 to 1991 in the United States, attempted to provide public grants and loans to tenants aiming to renovate existing city-owned vacant dwellings and simultaneously provide affordable housing to low-income families and individuals. Once homesteaders rehabilitated (foreclosed or tax-delinquent) dwelling fulfilling the requirements of HUD, they would receive title of the property. By 1983, 110 cities were participating in the program including New York City. This city, as many others, had also its own local programs, which rehabilitated far more housing units than did the federal program. During the decade of the urban homesteading in NYC over one thousand units were rehabilitated and inhabited by low-income citizens. However, federal, state and city support ceased and and local efforts gradually lost force.

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