“These people are beautiful and deserve to exist. They deserve to have a place to live.” So explains a member of this squatter tribe in Paris, as interviewed by VICE.
The COVID-19 pandemic has exacerbated the issue of homelessness around the world, and Paris is no exception. Though it is the world’s most expensive city, 15% of its buildings remain unoccupied, many for not being up to safety code. But when you can’t afford to pay rent, lack of a fire exit is preferable to living on the street. By taking precautions, staying calm, and learning their rights, bands of squatters have learned how to quietly take over unused buildings, and avoid eviction for as long as they can. “We’re lucky because for the most part, we’re white and young, but they certainly don’t take this into consideration when it comes to throwing migrants out,” one of them explains, calling attention to the particular discrimination faced by homeless immigrants.
France has recently implemented new anti-squatter laws that remove the 48-hour window within which owners are required to report squatters, making it easier to process evictions no matter how long a building has been illegally inhabited. But as long as real estate prices and wage inequalities continue to rise, there will be empty buildings, and people trying to repurpose them for truly necessary use.