(Toronto) Push on to uncover city’s potential squats


  (Toronto) Push on to uncover city’s potential squats


Push on to uncover city’s potential squats
BY NICOLE COHEN
eye – 08.29.02
http://www.eye.net/eye/issue/issue_08.29.02/news/squat.html

Dilapidated buildings have been sitting empty for years throughout Toronto, dumped by owners unwilling to finance their maintenance and repair.

Now, spurred by the success of the Pope Squat — in which the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) has been occupying an abandoned building at 1510 King W. in an attempt to turn it into affordable housing — the city has begun compiling a list of all the vacant properties in its south district, the area bounded by Eglinton, Victoria Park, Keele and the lake.

“This has always been an issue but it came to a head with 1510 King W.,” says Mike Leonard, the city’s district manager for municipal licensing and standards, south district. Leonard has asked his supervisors to cull a master list of abandoned properties from various computer databases that existed before amalgamation. He hopes to have a complete inventory in a couple of weeks.

“We want to know where all vacant buildings are and make sure they’re properly secured,” says Leonard. He says municipal licensing and standards officers will locate properties abandoned by their owners, list them and board up the windows with plywood and paint.

But, he says, the list is not intended to find buildings that could be turned into affordable housing. “That’s a planning issue. At my end of things we are just responsible for public safety. The use of the building is still up to the owner,” he says.

When researching the Pope Squat, OCAP uncovered a unique legal situation. The building at 1510 King W. has belonged to the province since 1994, when the corporation that held the title dissolved. Before breaking for the summer, city council indicated that it was interested in taking steps to turn the building into affordable housing.

Housing activists in New York City won a major coup recently when the Bloomberg administration turned over 11 abandoned Manhattan buildings to the Urban Homesteading Assistance Board (UHAB), a nonprofit organization that helps tenants take over and manage their buildings. It was a drastic shift in policy that ended two decades of routinely evicting squatters.

Negotiations began with the Giuliani administration in the summer of 1999 and were delayed by the events of Sept. 11. On Aug. 19 of this year, the city announced it would sell the Lower East Side buildings to UHAB for $1 each.

UHAB will renovate the buildings and turn them into limited-equity co-ops, which means the apartments will have a low maintenance of roughly US$500 per month and can’t be sold for profit. It’s a move that won’t cost the city anything and will provide 167 apartments that can house 263 people.

In Toronto, there are differing opinions about how many potential squats exist in the city. Officials in the city’s planning and real-estate departments contacted by eye say there aren’t a lot of abandoned buildings here. But OCAP says it has managed to find 35 unused properties in Parkdale alone, just by walking through the area street by street. “They’re not very hard to find,” says OCAP organizer John Clarke.

The group has also found it can get a good deal of background research done on its own. “Anybody can do a search at City Hall, this is publicly-available information,” explains OCAP organizer Sarah Vance. “You just have to do quite a lot of digging to find out what’s behind the company.”

David Hulchanski, director of the Centre for Urban and Community Studies at the University of Toronto, was surprised to learn that 1510 King W., a building with tremendous potential value, had been sitting empty for so long.

“Any piece of land, especially residential land, in the city is worth a lot,” he says. “Nobody knows how many [abandoned buildings] there are. OCAP did a lot of research and found something that put them in a good position.”

When searching for a building to squat, OCAP looks for property that will serve politically as well as functionally.

For the Pope Squat, the group says it required a classic example of poor-quality housing in an area hit hard by rent-control issues and housing standards. It also helped that 1510 King W. is in an area where many World Youth Day pilgrims stayed when they were here in July but wasn’t too close to disturb papal proceedings.

The Mission Press building at 53 Dundas E., which was squatted in March, was chosen for its location — the neighbouring parking lot for the Senator Steakhouse used to be a Salvation Army hostel — and its relation to the ongoing Yonge and Dundas redevelopment.

“[We] want a site where either ownership is murky or the owner politically is not in a good position to order an eviction,” says Clarke.

—–
Respond to this article: Use the form at http://www.eye.net/abouteye/lte/ to send a letter to the editor, or email it to letters [at] eye [dot] net

eye – 08.29.02


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2 Pope Squat appeals: City Council (Sept 12) and renovations.

 

  2 Pope Squat appeals: City Council (Sept 12) and renovations.

 


1. Help Put The Pope Squat At The Top Of City Council’s Agenda: Sept 12th

On Thursday, September 12, OCAP is going before the Community Services Committee of Toronto City Council to call for action in response to our Pope Squat initiative. We need all who support us to be there and for as many people as possible to speak before the Committee that day. We will be calling on the City to take over the building at 1510 King Street West and to enter into good faith negotiations with the squatters and their community partners over the creation of self managed social housing at the site.

‘Good faith’ dealings are what have been missing in this whole affair. City Council has passed a motion calling for ‘affordable housing’ at this location and asking the Province to transfer ownership. While the admission that the property must be housing is a step in the right direction, this motion is problematic in a couple of major ways. Firstly, a mere call for ‘affordable housing’ means little. Recent initiatives on this front have produced housing that only the highest third of income earners in the tenant population can afford and OCAP did not take this action to house better paid professionals. Secondly, the call for the Province to hand over the property has more to do with stalling tactics than with genuine efforts to resolve things. The Province will be reluctant to accept that it owns the building and may never do so. However, in December of 2000, the City sent out word to all with a financial interest in 1510 King West that it would seize the place within a year if back taxes weren^t paid. If it had that power then, it has it now and talk about going through Queen’s Park is simply evasion.

The City has also made the vacating of the site by the squatters a precondition for any housing project. We are more than ready to move but must have two simple guarantees. The ownership question must be settled and the games over whose in charge must stop. We also make the very reasonable stipulation that we won’t abandon the homeless squatters and that their housing needs must be met when we leave.

This appearance before the Community Services Committee will be an important chance to demonstrate the depth of support for the Pope Squat. We are urging trade union bodies, faith groups, community organizations, social activists and, especially, Parkdale residents who live close by the Pope Squat, to have their names added to the list of those who will make deputations that day. The Committee will not formally set its agenda until September 3 but we are quite sure they will feel that a discussion of the Pope Squat and possible solutions to the issues it raises are entirely relevant to their work. On that basis, we urge all allies and supporters to call Tony Leo at City Hall who is in charge of booking deputations. Simply inform him that you wish to speak to the matter of 1510 King Street West on September 12. Ask him to take your contact information and call you back to confirm your time to speak once the Committee’s agenda has been formally set. It would also be very important to call OCAP and let us know that you have approached the Committee so that we can keep track of who will be speaking and can make sure all who are interested have a place that day.

We thank all those who have done so much to make the Pope Squat the success it has been to date. On September 12, we’re going to bring this community solidarity to City Hall and move the struggle for housing in this City one big step forward.

ONTARIO COALITION AGAINST POVERTY (416) 925-6939

2. POPE SQUAT RENOVATIONS ARE UNDERWAY: AN URGENT APPEAL FOR HELP

The OCAP Pope Squat at 1510 King Street West has already been a huge step forward in the struggle for housing in Toronto. One month into the action, we have a large measure of community support and we are moving forward with our demand for self managed affordable housing at the site.

The City Council has already (with considerable reluctance) passed a motion agreeing in principle to ‘affordable housing’ at the location of the Pope Squat but it is clear that considerable pressure will have to be applied in order to make this as yet vague commitment into something real.

One of the best ways we have to apply pressure to the City is to proceed with the initial phases of renovating the building. What better way to show the possibilities that exist than to have 1510 King West take on an appearance that more and more resembles the decent housing it must become once governments are made to face up to their responsibilities? Already massive clean up and repair work has been undertaken. The roof has been fixed so as to remove a major fire hazard that threatened surrounding buildings as well. Those with skilled labour abilities and professional knowledge have come forward to help. We are soliciting donations in the form of building equipment and tools. Plans are underway to turn at least one of the units in the building into a ‘model suite’ that can offer a real vision of what the place can become.

We urgently need financial donations to support this work. We must also support and sustain the squatters and meet costs involved in outreach to the local community and beyond as we build political support for this whole struggle.

We are making an urgent appeal to all organizations and individuals who support this vital struggle to mail in their cheques to help us carry on and win. Please send all donations to:-

OCAP (Pope Squat Appeal),
234-517 College Street,
TORONTO, Ontario
M6G 4A2

ph: 416-925-6939
email: ocap [at] tao [dot] ca
http://www.ocap.ca

OCAP

 


 

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City inspectors visit the Pope Squat.

 

  City inspectors visit the Pope Squat.

 


On Friday August 17th and Monday August 19th City fire and health inspectors paid a visit to the ongoing occupation of the previously abandoned building at 1510 King St. W. known as the ?Pope Squat?. They inspected both the interior of 1510 King St. W. as well as the property lot and while they didn?t give us any certification papers one inspector named Mr. Pong said, ?There?s no problems here that I can see, everything looks fine to me.?

We are however concerned with the possibility that the City will continue to send inspectors to 1510 King St. W. as a form of political harassment. Clearly, it would be an unacceptable situation for people working and living at the squat to be continually harassed by City officials as we work to continue making the improvements that the City itself has refused to do on the building and live a normal life in our new home.

We would like to stress that the solution to the situation at 1510 King St. W. is a political one and not one that revolves around technicalities of City inspectors.

We call on the City to begin good-faith negotiations with the squatters, who are actively renovating the building, in order to bring a self-managed, social housing project on the property into existence.

We urge the City to not try and side step a beneficial political solution to the building by using inspectors as a pressure tactic against the squatters who have nowhere to go but the shelter system or the street. Which are notorious health hazards in themselves with people facing infection of lice and tuberculosis in overcrowded shelters or death by exposure on the street.

The fact that the city is sending inspectors to the Pope Squat while not engaging in good-faith negotiations with the squatters is disturbing for a number of reasons.

It is disturbing because of the fact that, along with the previous private owners, the City itself was responsible for allowing the building to fall into disrepair in the first place. A lot of the damage that we have been busy repairing obviously existed long before the City evicted the previous tenants in September 2000. Unfortunately, as we?ve seen time and time again, the City is unwilling to ensure that repairs are done on buildings owned by slumlords often choosing to evict people from the only place they can afford and leave empty buildings to rot instead.

It is disturbing because of the huge number of apartment buildings, rooming houses and other housing in Parkdale and across Toronto that are in dire need of city inspections and work orders being given to landlords who are getting rich off tenants living in deplorable conditions. Surely, the City?s resources for inspections would be better spent in a massive drive to inspect and order repairs on buildings where, unlike the Pope Squat, there aren?t already serious renovations underway and people are paying rent to landlords while being provided with substandard housing.

Finally, it is disturbing because it fits with a pattern that the squatting movement in Canada is becoming familiar with. That pattern, as evidenced by the evictions at both the Prefontaine Squat in Montreal in October 2001, and the ?7 Year Squat? in Ottawa in July 2002, is that City and fire inspections are often the first step in manufacturing a pretext for the City to throw people into the street. We sincerely hope that this is not the strategy that the City is engaging in with the recent visits by inspectors to the Pope Squat.

On the upside, renovations continue at the Pope Squat and we are well on our way to making the building safe, up-to-code, self-managed, social housing. Last weekend a volunteer work crew spent some long hours doing extensive renovations throughout the building filling a couple of industrial bins with old rotting drywall and insulation that will be replaced with new material shortly. Again, we would like to mention that the work of the squatters and volunteers in fixing the leak in the roof has been credited for ending a major risk of fire not only to 1510 King St. but also to the surrounding apartment buildings. In three short weeks, on a shoestring budget and volunteer labour, we have accomplished significant physical improvements on the building. Certainly more improvements than the City ever did in the years that it allowed 1510 King St. W. to sit in legal limbo, rot and pose a fire hazard (now fixed) to our neighbors.

Signed,

The occupants of the Pope Squat
1510 King Street West
Toronto, Ontario Canada
M6K 1J5

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
517 College Street, Suite 234
Toronto, Ontario, Canada
M6G 2A4
Ph: 416-925-6939
Email: ocap [at] tao [dot] ca
Website: http://www.ocap.ca

OCAP

 


 

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NEW: Pope Squat Update & Events

 

  NEW: Pope Squat Update & Events

 


At the last meeting before summer break, City Council passed a motion suggesting it was interested in taking the steps to see 1510 King St. W. turned into affordable housing. However a number of conditions were attached to the motion, namely that the province formally declare ownership and transfer the building and that the current occupants (ie: OCAP and squatters) vacate the premises.

OCAP’s immediate response was to maintain that we would be staying at the building until two demands were met: (1) That those homeless people who had been involved in opening the place and winning new affordable housing in this City be housed; (2) That we would not leave until ownership was determined. This means that we would not tolerate a situation where legal wrangling between the City and Province could go on for years while the building sat empty and fell into greater disrepair.

We made several good faith attempts to meet with Chris Korwin Kuczynski as the Councillor who introduced the motion, the councillor for the ward and the one who is charged with overseeing the transformation of 1510 into affordable housing. However he apparently could not find the time to make himself available to us. His reluctance to meet as well as public threats and ultimatums about cancelling all affordable housing plans unless the site was vacated immediately were clear indications of bad faith dealings on the part of the City.

Since then, our research has lead us to unearth legal documents from December of 2000 which the City sent to all those who had a financial interest in the property. The document gives notice that unless all outstanding taxes are paid within 12 months, the City will seize the property. For whatever reason it seems the City never took the step of seizing the building, but the point is: In December 2000, the City believed it had the legal authority to take action with respect to the property – regardless of any provincial involvement. Surely what the City could do in December 2000, it could do in August 2002.

John Harstone, manager of the New Housing Initiatives for the Co-op Housing Federation of Toronto points out that no staff, (nor any monies) are set aside for the practical development of the motion. “The motion does not authorize staff to take any action. It is very unlikely that this motion will result in the transfer of the property from the province to the city and the residents (of the Pope Squat) need to think about seeking alternate avenues to resolve this situation.”

Toronto has the housing experts and local agencies who, with the squatters could develop a truly dynamic and progressive form of self-managed social housing.

The City has no business standing in the way of such a project – nor should foot dragging or pass the buck tactics be tolerated on an issue so vital as housing.

In the meantime, Pope squatters, OCAP and allies have been busy on the cleaning/renovating side of things as well. A work crew which re-shingled parts of the roof has been credited with fixing what was a major fire hazard, not just for 1510 King St W, but for the surrounding buildings and homes as well. We intend to continue with these renovations and will be focusing much attention inside as well. Following is a list of the most needed supplies for this work:
dry wall
tape
mud
strapping
poly vapour barrier
R12 & R20 insulation

We ask that people make these things available to us as we have the volunteer labour and technical know-how to make this place a truly great place to live in relatively short order. (We will also be unveiling a Pope Squat model suite shortly – watch for details!)

* * * * * * * *
Upcoming Events
* * * * * * * *

* Saturday, August 24th – 5:00 PM – Outreach, BBQ & One Month Anniversary!
The CAW flying squads have initiated a mass leaflet/outreach to the neighbourhood. The CUPE 3903 flying squad as well as OCAP members will be joining them and we encourage everyone to come out and participate. Following the leafletting will be a B-B-Q to celebrate the One Month Anniversary of the Pope Squat!

* Monday, September 2nd – Labour Day
OCAP Allies are organizing a Pope Squat contingent to be part of the Labour Day March as well as an evening event at 1510 King St. W. If people are interested they should contact David McNally at: dmcnally [at] yorku [dot] ca

* Saturday, September 7th – 4:00 PM – Community BBQ
Big Community B-B-Q (with fresh duck and other meats from the Mohawks of the Bay of Quinte), official naming of the Pope Squat as ‘Norm’s House’ – the intended name for 1510 King W as the fight continues to transform the building into social housing.

‘Norm’s House’ refers to Norm Feltes, a highly respected and deeply missed OCAP member who passed away in the early hours of June 16th 2000. The name, chosen by both family and squatters will put his mark on a political victory we know he would have loved.

Also… OCAP and community speakers will lay out the political campaign to get 1510 King St. W past the point of Council motions and into the real work of opening up housing.

* Thursday, September 12th – Meeting of the Community Services Committee
OCAP and Allies intend to organize mass deputations to ensure a positive response from the committee and a prominent place on the agenda at the first City Council meeting after the summer break. To register as a deputant please call Tony Leo at (416)392-5226.

* Tuesday, September 17th – City Council Meeting
OCAP will be organizing maximum attendance for this meeting to ensure the Pope Squat’s transformation into social housing be addressed.

* * * *
Appeal * * * *

Given that it seems the Pope Squat is in for the long haul, we are incurring ongoing costs to keep the place running. We are asking for support in a few different ways. Obviously straight financial donations are needed to cover costs like the sound system, renovation bins and supplies. We are also asking for individuals or groups to prepare meals according to a regular schedule. We are looking for meals to be prepared three times a week, Tuesday and Thursday evenings for between 20 to 30 people and Saturday evenings for between 50 to 60 people. Please call the OCAP office if you can help.

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
517 College Street, Suite 234 Toronto, Ontario M5G 4A2
416-925-6939 ocap [at] tao [dot] ca www.ocap.ca

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty

 


 

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New York City Sells 11 Buildings to Squatters for $11

NYC Gives 11 Buildings to Squatters
U.S. National – AP | Tuesday August 20th, 2002

NEW YORK (AP) – The city has sold 11 apartment buildings on the Lower East Side for $1 a piece to a nonprofit developer, which will turn them over to squatters, many of whom have lived there illegally for years. [Read More]

Auckland occupation : capitalism?…no thanks, burn you loser john banks

 

  auckland occupation : capitalism?…no thanks, burn you loser john banks

 


Several members of Auckland’s Class War Youth Anarchist Organisation were involved in the planning and execution of the successful open occupation of 33-59 Beresford Street (a block of empty pensioner flats) on Feb 27-28. The following is text from the leaflet of which several thousand were distributed:

open occupation

Giving John Banks the message33 & 59 Beresford Street, Ex-pensioner houses, Open Occupation. Auckland is under a housing crisis, but the housing crisis is not something that affects the well to do, but affects students, the unemployed and pensioners. John Banks has no solution to this crisis, in fact he is hellbent on privatising low-income homes or simply bulldozing them and replacing them with apartments for the upper crust of Auckland. Banks and his Council don’t seem to give a damn about either tenants or ratepayers (owners of public assets) and what we want done with these houses. Banks is happy to sell these homes off to investors or to simply have it turned into yuppie apartments so the poor of Auckland are forced to move further from the central city making it more viable for the rich. This is why we, the working class citizens of Auckland are taking direct action to let Banks and his minority upper class support know that we have had enough of being able to start our own homes. PLEASE SUPPORT THE OCCUPATION.

The occupation hardcore was made up of commies, C.W.Y.A.O. and local Iwi and residents. The occupation ended the next day and most participants ended up at the second meeting of the John Banks council. Which was subsequently cancelled due to unforeseen direct democracy eg: the council chambers were filled with pissed off people protesting by holding placards. The issues involved were: no aerial spraying; against censorship of Ike Finau; against water privatisation; pensioner housing; and against privatisation of public assets. As a reaction against Banksian despotism, moderates (together with some radicals) have launched a coalition & lobby group with the patronising name “Wake Up Auckland”.The only known photo of the elusive Te Aro Biotic Baking Brigade This is mainly made up of GE FREE NZ members, well known for their “confrontational” slogans like “keep it in the labs” (sic!), although it also contains some more radical groups like Water Pressure and the Council Housing Action Group. Wake Up Auckland are mostly liberals whose concept of protest equates to a slap in the face of the capitalist class with a soggy popularist media savvy. The next council meeting however saw the moderates take a back seat and the radicals stand up. After interjections and several awkward questions to Mayor 18% Banks, members of Water Pressure, C.W.Y.A.O. and a S.W.O. member were assaulted by security guards and handed over to the police. No charges were made, and the 17 were held for a couple of hours and released. We are now pursuing police complaints but since we are “complaining” to the same state organ that did the injustice to us in the first place we don’t hold out any illusion that justice will be done. Banks has now reinstated the submission section of the council meetings and also catered for the large crowds that now attend meetings. We don’t accept this as anything but token gestures as the council still holds most of their meetings in secret because of “commercial sensitivity!” In the time Banks has been in power he has complained of being constantly seig hailed on the street, receiving hate mail and being sexually assaulted in a public toilet, all of which he blames on protestors!

– Anthony (taken from http://free.freespeech.org/thrall/)

 


 

Canada, Montreal, Media: Eight squatters arrested after reak-in at abandoned Montreal building

 

  Canada, Montreal, Media: Eight squatters arrested after reak-in at abandoned Montreal building

 


MONTREAL August 11, 2002 – (CP) – Eight squatters – with no place to live- were arrested Friday as they attempted to re-occupy an abandoned east-end building to protest a lack of affordable housing in Montreal. The city-owned Prefontaine Centre was the site of a similar protest last year, when a group of squatters was first invited and then thrown out by former mayor Pierre Bourque.

Montreal police arrested the latest group of protesters Friday evening, soon after the eight individuals jumped over a fence and climbed onto the roof of the building.

Several-dozen supporters cheered the squatters on from outside the fence.

The suspects face charges of breaking and entering, said Montreal police spokesman Yannick Ouimet.

“It appears there was some damage to the exterior of the building,” said Ouimet.

“We’re talking about a broken window and a broken-in door.

“They could be facing more charges but the investigation is still ongoing right now.”

Several-dozen squatters occupied the same building last summer with the consent of city officials.

They were evicted a month later after fire officials determined the brick structure was no longer safe because barricades blocking off an unstable section of the building had been dismantled.

Seven people were arrested for allegedly obstructing justice.

Affordable housing has become a hot-button issue in Montreal over the past 18 months.

The city’s rental vacancy rate is approaching zero and activists have pressed officials to set aside more apartments for low-income residents.

Jaggi Singh <jaggi [at] tao [dot] ca

 


 

Canada, Media, The Hope Squat.

 

  Canada, Media, The Hope Squat.

 


With the Pope Squat – The ongoing occupation of an abandoned rooming house at 1510 King St. W. – the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty has done more than just give a handful of Toronto?s homeless new digs, if only temporarily. With this phenomenally successful occupation (success, of course being measured by days activists delay being tear-gassed by fed-up politicians, multiplied by the amount of media stories run by Big Media) OCAP?s direct action in Parkdale is slowly gaining momentum like few of the Coalition?s strategies before.

Remarkably 1510 King St. is the longest OCAP squat in the organization?s twelve-year history.

They chose Parkdale because as organizer Sarah Vance said, the neighborhood is notorious for derelict rooming houses that are cut adrift by the municipality, and only revisited to evict tenants when a buyer comes sniffing.

Such was the case with 1510 King St. in October 2000 when the City and 459105 Ontario Ltd. A Mississauga firm with title to the building booted everyone out. Almost two years later 1510 was empty and the City still has over $15,000 in liens against the firm and close to $40,000 is owed in back taxes.

OCAP?s success in Parkdale is due to the meticulous research conducted by the group prior to occupation. This preparation has exposed the indifference of ostensibly pro-housing authorities who prefer to yell about the dearth of affordable housing while ignoring – or not even being aware of – prime properties that sit empty.

For years OCAP?s disruptions haven?t made them many government friends. And the usual cast was out for the Pope Squat, dismissing the action as yet another pain-in-the-ass OCAP protest. Parkdale-High Park Chris Korwin-Kuczynski called OCAP ?a violent organization that tries to do things the wrong way? as he put the motion forward to council asking the province for ownership of the building so it could be turned into affordable housing.

Despite the group?s bad reputation, the only nastiness during the march to the Pope Squat from Masaryk-Cowan Community Centre on July 25 came from a police officer. The fresh-faced cadet used his mountain bike to cut off an OCAP supporter on a low rider. The girl was knocked down hard and the cop – - looking to impress his superiors – cycled away with a smug grin.

It?s pretty difficult not to side with OCAP?s Pope Squat, be you politically apathetic, or Parkdale new money, just waiting for a Starbucks at Queen and Sorauren.

Through the beautifully simple art of street protest and relentless investigation the Pope Squat demonstrates that municipal and provincial posturing about a new deal for Toronto is little more than hot air unless it?s supported with tangible action. And you can?t get more tangible than listening to the grateful tenants at 1510 as they mull about looking forward to not sleeping 15 to a room at the shelter.

And OCAP isn?t finished. In a July 29 letter to Mayor Lastman, OCAP said they are ?currently investigating the legal situations of other dormant properties in the neighborhood.? They also call upon Mayor Mel to ?do the same and enter negotiations regarding all properties in a similar situation.?

When and where the next squat opens up is unclear. But when it does, you can all but guarantee a bigger turnout for the march – by activists and politico-backed police alike.

Mick <mickblack47 [at] yahoo [dot] com>

 


 

Athens (Greece): Lelas Karayanni 37 Squat under repression

 

  ATHENS – LELAS KARAYANNI 37 SQUAT UNDER REPRESSION

 


Since the end of July, the squat of L.K. 37 is confronted with a repressive project that, not accidentally, is taking place in the middle of the summer and within a period of intensified state terrorism and guided “anti”terrorist hysteria cultivated by the media. The chancellors’ council of the university, commissioned instruments of state policies, decided to cut off the water supply in the occupied building, while they gave same orders for the electricity. The aim of this cheap action is to render intolerable our living in the squat, so that we will abandon it, besieged by thirst, and in case we refuse they threaten with a police operation of violent eviction. This is happening in the name of utilizing the building for the speculative business enterprise which is called “Olympic Games 2004″.

The building of L. Karayanni 37 was bequeathed to the University, the Polytechnic and the Beaux-Arts Schools of Athens, with the inviolable condition to make it house for homeless and poor students. Despite that, it was abandoned since 1960, until April of 1988, when it was occupied by a collective of young students, workers and jobless, who transformed it into a place for housing and self-organizing, in a city suffocating by the blackmail of survival and alienation. From then on, more than an answer to the unbearable economic and social status that turns housing into merchandise, the squat became a collective self-managed space that works in the base of comradeship and solidarity, against the dominant model of property relations and isolated private lives in the apartment-cages, against the slogan of authority “everyone for himself”. Far from restricting ourselves in organizing life inside the squat, L.K. 37, through open assemblies, publications and social interventions became a workshop and base for radical criticism against the housing issue that thousands of people have to deal with, but also against all aspects of social and class oppression. As an antiauthoritarian and anti-institutional project it was found in the sight of state repression, in 1994 and 1995, resulting in cops’ invasions in the house and arrests of the squatters.

L. Karayanni squat may be the most recent but it’s not the only social space that is threatened by the storm of the Olympic Games; by this operation to upgrade capitalist exploitation and state control, and to construct a sultry land-planning and social environment that affects every aspect of our life. So, let’s talk about these Games that represent the new “national idea”. – About this skilful state propaganda that presents them as a social property, in order to extract the consent of those who are only going to pay for and suffer them, while the only ones profiting will be the multinationals, contractors, advertising and construction corporations, state officials who will manage the subsidies, the traders of any useless consuming product and of course those who trade security equipment… – About cementing everything, about the “huge construction works” and the foreign and local workers who continue to die there, in so-called “working accidents”, when the bridges collapse or due to insufficient security measures in the worksite of the olympic village, expendable people who are sacrificed in the name of spectacular capitalist achievement. About their colleagues go on strike after every such “accident” and then they get back to work again, under the same lousy working conditions, because nobody is allowed to demand, to strike and revolt, otherwise the “national goal” will fail. – About transforming the city into a sterilized and dead place. About police “sweeping” operations against immigrants and the overall expulsion from the center of every spontaneous, uncontrolled element of life. About the permanent occupation police army in every central street and installing new surveillance cameras everywhere in the name of law and order. – About the entire speculative market with all the appropriations and subsidies that will be absorbed by the public sector, in the name of covering the needs of 2004 Olympics. About the case of the Students’ House in Ilisia suburb that the rectors’ council demand all students should leave in order to use it for the journalists’ accommodation in the Olympics, and about the struggle of the students who have refused and occupied the premises for more than two months. – About the “anti”terrorist crusade and emergency laws, the criminalization of every social and class struggle and the well-designed cleansing operation against any space of resistance, in the name of realizing the grand “national idea”.

We, the squatters of L.K. 37, having created for years such a space of resistance against the exploitation of our housing and other social needs, which is now under repression, we have every reason to defend it, categorically rejecting the vile blackmail and the speculative pursuit of the university authorities. This choice of struggle is not only about defending the squat itself as a living attempt of self-organization and direct action, it’s also because through this fight we want to contribute to an attempt to expand and intensify every form of resisting to the overall attack of the state against society within the project of the 2004 Olympics.

HANDS OFF THE SQUAT OF LELAS KARAYANNI 37

SOLIDARITY WITH THE TWO OCCUPIED STUDENTS’ HOUSES AND WITH ALL SQUATS

RESIST THE OLYMPIC GAMES OF PROFIT, CONTROL AND REPRESSION

NO PASARAN!

Comrades from the occupied grounds of L.K.37

 


 

Canada, Toronto, MEDIA, Squatters clean, repair building

 

  Canada, Toronto, MEDIA, Squatters clean, repair building

 


Squatters clean, repair building Poverty activists won’t end protest until city takes over By Kerry Gillespie

A group of anti-poverty activists – long vilified by politicians and police for its attention-grabbing antics – is working overtime to turn the occupation of an abandoned Parkdale building into more than that. Using donated materials, supporters of the Ontario Coalition Against Poverty (OCAP) are cleaning and repairing floors, walls, ceilings and everything in between in their bid to turn 1510 King St. W. into affordable housing. But the group hopes professionals, with government money, will soon take over.

Dubbed the Pope Squat, OCAP occupied the building while Pope John Paul II was in town two weeks ago, to draw attention to the city’s housing crisis. Yesterday, the squatters laid down the terms under which they would leave: The province must turn the building over to the city, so it can make good on its promise to use it for affordable housing; and four people who have been living in the building since July 25 must be found homes. But the councillor for the area has other ideas. “The longer they stay, the bigger risk they take that there won’t be any social housing there at all,” said Chris Korwin-Kuczynski (Ward 14, Parkdale-High Park).

He is determined not to let occupation of abandoned buildings become a trend – OCAP has already identified 35 others in his Parkdale ward. That’s why he crafted the motion, overwhelmingly approved by council last week, to ask the province for ownership of the building to turn it into affordable housing only if the anti-poverty group leaves immediately.

“If they think they’ll leave it and we’ll double cross them, that is not the case,” Korwin-Kuczynski said.

But he warned if they stay and are eventually forced out by the police, and the building still falls into city hands, it won’t be used for affordable housing. “We’ll sell it.

“You have to make a stand,” he explained. “This can’t become a trend; anarchy can’t decide the future of anything.” As far as Toronto police are concerned, the squatters can stay until the building’s owner asks for them to be thrown out under the Trespass to Property Act.

“Until the owner comes forward and says, `I don’t want them there’ … there’s nothing we can do,” said Sergeant Robb Knapper. The owner appears to be the province, according to Brendan Crawley of the attorney-general’s office.

The building was defaulted to the crown when the owner disappeared and didn’t pay his mortgages or debts.

But there are “numerous issues that muddy the title of the property,” Crawley added. And until those are dealt with – including the numerous mortgages and liens on the property – the province isn’t prepared to comment on what it will do with the property.

“We’re working to clarify this as quickly as we can,” he said. If it is converted to affordable housing, the building could hold up to 26 people.

“This is the perfect opportunity for (Premier Ernie) Eves and his cabinet to show that they are somehow different from the Mike Harris government (that) did all this social destruction,” said NDP housing critic Michael Prue, during OCAP’s news conference yesterday at Queen’s Park.

“The purpose of this is to call on Mr. Eves to react, to do something, to show that he is different from Mr. Harris, to show that he cares about the plight of the homeless in Toronto. It is a simple act.”

When asked whether letting OCAP win this showdown would encourage activists to take over more buildings, Prue said the confusion over ownership makes this building different.

“You’re not going to see hundreds of buildings being occupied,” he said. But OCAP spokesperson Sue Collis admitted the group is planning future occupations.

“We’re in the process of identifying other buildings,” she said. In the Parkdale neighbourhood alone, OCAP has identified 35 abandoned buildings.

Collis said they are doing title searches to see if any are government owned and therefore potential sites for future occupations.

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Canada, Toronto, Pope Squat Update, Wednesday. August 7th, 2002.

 

  Canada, Toronto, Pope Squat Update, Wednesday. August 7th, 2002.

 


Pope Squat Update, Wednesday, August 7th, 2002.

On Tuesday August 6th, Squatters from the “Pope Squat” at 1510 King Street West, The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty and many allies made a strong showing of the wide support that the ongoing housing occupation enjoys.

Over 100 people rallied at city hall for an update on the situation around the squat and a delegation of squatters and allies, including trade union leaders, was prepared to meet with city councilors and officials and open the negotiation process to convert 1510 King St. W. into self-managed social housing.

However, one councilor that the delegation wanted to secure a meeting with, local councilor Chris Korwin-Kuczynski, was not in his office.

As a meeting at city hall was not forthcoming on this day the demonstration marched to the Provincial Land Registry office at Bay St. and Wellesley.

Police and security immediately blocked the main entrance to the building but were unable to stop the resourceful and determined crowd. Some squatters and activists gained entrance to the building through other doors before being blocked by security and police right at the inside office responsible for the title of 1510 King West.

The Province is currently a major obstacle on the road to converting 1510 King St W. into self-managed social housing. The Province has every legal right to acknowledge ownership of the property and transfer it to the city, or the squatters, for conversion into self-managed social housing.

There will be a press conference at the Queens Park media room today (Wednesday, August 7th) at 11am. NDP Housing Critic Michael Prue; John Cartwright, President of the Toronto and York District Labour Council; Steve Watson, National Representative of the Canadian Auto Workers Union; Street Nurse Cathy Crowe; and Squatters will speak to the desperate need for provincial action to cut through the red tape and turn 1510 King St. West into self-managed social housing.

OCAP and squatters will continue to pressure both the municipal and provincial levels of government and pay visits to the appropriate offices. Stay alert for emergency calls to action.

Another exciting development at the squat was the decision to name the long-term, self-managed, social housing project after Norman Feltes as a memorial. Norm was a long-time OCAP member whose fight ended on June 15th, 2000. Both his warmth towards us who had the honor of knowing him and his tenacity towards those we struggled against live on at 1510 King St. West.

Norm’s son Nick, who happens to be experienced in converting and renovating social housing, was at the squat Tuesday going through the building and making assessments and made the suggestion of naming the building after his father. Nick also re-told the well known story of Norm’s final request being that Nick attend the OCAP demonstration at Queens Park on June 15th, 2000 in his place. Nick proudly did so and the solidarity of the Feltes continues with his assistance at the Pope Squat.

As it stands, the squatters and OCAP are maintaining our position that:

1) The province has not yet claimed ownership of 1510 King St W. In order to avoid bureaucratic foot-dragging we will not leave 1510 King St. W. until it is determined that the Province of Ontario or the City of Toronto hold title of the property.

2) There are individuals living at 1510 King St. W. who are homeless and have nowhere else to go. OCAP will not walk away from these individuals and leave them in the street.

3) While it is a sad state of affairs when it takes a local organization like OCAP and homeless people to physically open an empty building to get the City of Toronto to act– they have finally but reluctantly done the right thing by stating their intention to convert the building into affordable housing. However, there are many empty buildings throughout Toronto similar to 1510 King St. W. If the City fails to act on these as well, OCAP most certainly will.

The Ontario Coalition Against Poverty
“Kicking the ass of the ruling class since 1990″
517 College St. Suite 234
Toronto Ontario
M6G 4A2
Phone: 416-925-6939
email: ocap [at] tao [dot] ca
Web: http://www.ocap.ca

Ontario Coalition Against Poverty <ocap [at] tao [dot] ca>

 


 

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Brazil: Homeless squat land in Osasco

Around 400 families squatted, in the early morning of 27th July, a plot of land near the neighbourhood of Cidade de Deus in Osasco, Sao Paulo. The number of families has already increased to 4000 in barely a week of occupation. The land, encompassing around 600.000 m2, was be being used to dismantle stolen cars and to bury the bodies of murdered people, several piles of bones have been found in the area, and as an unauthorised rubbish dump. [Read More]