If Living is a Luxury, Squatting is a Right


2nd June 2023

Over the past couple of months, the campaign against squatters has stepped up in Spain. Opportunistic right-wing parties, seeing a potential vote winner, are stirring up anti-squatter sentiment. Desokupa, a glorified fascist gang dedicated to illegally and forcibly evicting people from their homes, is taking more emboldened action against the occupation movement with each passing day. But the movement isn’t going anywhere, it isn’t backing down. It continues to fight for the right to accessible housing, even as the forces of evil – dedicated to preserving their twisted notion of property – are back on the rise. Here we present our translation of a statement by Barcelona’s many housing collectives and Occupied Social Centres, who respond to the disinformation and fear-mongering of the far-right and its goons. ¡Okupa y Resiste!

The saying “if living is a luxury, squatting is a right” doesn’t come from nowhere. In our city, for many years, the housing situation has been exclusively market-driven: Barcelona is being made into a city to be admired, to be inhabited only by hyper-qualified digital nomads and for tourists to be able to visit what increasingly resembles a theme park. In the meantime, there are evictions each day in every neighbourhood, often executed by massive police deployments.

Within this raw reality, for more than 30 years, many collectives have used occupation as a tool of direct action to guarantee access to housing and to alternative culture for an immeasurable number of people, addressing these needs that every passing government has failed to satisfy. It has given shelter to those who could not access it by any other means and has allowed the creation of spaces that, through self-management, offer alternatives to capitalist leisure, as well as places for meeting, organising and political struggle.

If squatting has been demonised, it’s because it constitutes a direct attack against private property and against the impunity with which it keeps houses empty in the middle of a housing crisis. Squatting is known as a crime of usurpation, but whenever it is discussed, it is deliberately confused with the crime of home invasion, even though these two things are entirely different, as stipulated in the Penal Code (we recall the paradigmatic and almost mythological story of an old woman that goes out to buy bread and, when she returns, someone has taken her house). The reality is that the media and certain political parties have generated a social alarm about squatting, as if it were one of the most serious problems affecting society. But if we check the data of the National Statistics Institute (INE), we can see that there are 26 million houses in Spain and that only 4,300 charges of squatting were registered with the state: that is to say, only 0.07%. And according to the data of the Barcelona City Council, squatting in the city decreased by 18% during 2021. Meanwhile, 300,000 evictions have already taken place in the Catalan Countries since 2013, without being given the same preferential treatment. Once again it’s evident how the media has manipulated information, minimising and hiding the real problems with housing.

Another often ignored factor is the amount of empty houses that belong to big businesses, vulture funds and banks. They go unused, while the price per square metre keeps rising, making access to something as basic as having a roof over your head even more difficult. Precisely, the campaign against squatting is shifting the focus of public opinion away from rent-seekers and vulture funds, which already have a lot of laws in their favour and all the power to continue suffocating tenants, raising prices and expelling us from our homes with complete ease.

The homes of those who live off rent, in contrast to those who pay rent, are the ones that accumulate more income in the city – and this is not due to any work or personal merit on their part, but due to speculation and the housing market bubble which make rent-seekers accumulate more and more off the backs of other people’s work. The reality is that, even if you work, if you aren’t able to pay for a room in a shared flat, your only options left are to live on the street or to squat an empty house that nobody uses and that, to top it off, belongs to a big business. The decision is very clear, isn’t it?

And, all in all, it’s clear that everyone would like to have access to housing in a regulated manner. The life of a squatter is an unstable one: it is a hard and precarious situation, which many families and people have to resort to when they see that they can’t get through to the end of the month, or that, because of institutional and real estate racism, don’t have access to housing. And the situation is not improving. Despite the small improvements that have been brought by the new Housing Law, there are still great shortcomings: let’s not forget that the prices of housing have reached an all-time high, while salaries have stayed the same and runaway inflation has exacerbated inequality. The law doesn’t even forbid the eviction of vulnerable families without housing alternatives.

Because of this, when life is not guaranteed, the only option left is to organise, to participate in our neighbourhood unions, to get involved in self-managed spaces and fight for the right to housing. Because squatting is the fight against real estate abuse, against the lack of affordable housing and against capitalism.


Housing collectives:

Occupied Social Centres:


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