Wednesday, May 19, 2010

Poacher's Paradise

One of the most colorful characters in Madison’s past, Eddie Ben Elsen, announced his run for D-A in the nude, on the stage at the long-gone Dangle Lounge (a downtown strip club / bar), proclaiming that he would enforce “only the good laws”. Ah, the 60's.

Eddie’s spirit is alive and well in our fair city.

In what other city in America would you have a uniformed police officer and a plain-clothes police captain stand across the street and watch, while people who have unlawfully entered a home take it over in the name of “affordable housing”?

The “Operation Welcome Home” people are back this week, and their latest target is an unoccupied duplex on Turbot Drive, just a few blocks off Fish Hatchery Road. They entered the vacant home through what they claim was an “unlocked back door” (yeah, for sure) and took over the home, in a stunt similar to the one Z! and his pals pulled off on Tucson Trail last week.

Having duly notified the local media that they were doing it again, in front of the TV cameras they set up a PA system and proclaimed that the duplex, which was in foreclosure, was “owned” by Freddie Mac (the popular nickname for the Federal Home Loan Mortgage Corporation), and hence is “owned by the people”, and they were taking over the duplex in the name of the people, for affordable housing.

Squatting in a home you broke into is, apparently, “affordable housing”.

The police told the assembled media they can’t do anything until the “owner of the home” makes a complaint. As of this morning, there’s a “no trespassing” sign tacked onto the front door.

Breaking and entering is apparently a “bad law”, not to be enforced in Madison if it pertains to people operating on behalf of “affordable housing”.

One speaker said something like “don’t ask about payment, because we’ve already paid for this home through federal bailouts and by the sweat off our backs from the years of underpaid labor this country was built on”. That’s not an exact quote, but I think it captures the spirit of what I heard.

A man claiming to be a realtor called into Mitch Henck’s talk show yesterday morning and said he and other realtors were getting e-mails from lenders saying they’d rather have the people who defaulted on their mortgage remain living in the home, rather than being evicted, even after sheriff’s sale, so the property didn’t become the latest target for the poachers and squatters.

I asked a realtor friend if she’d gotten such an e-mail, and she said she hadn’t.

The realtor representing the vacant duplex on Turbot Drive says she has an offer on the place.

Should be interesting to see how this one plays out. Maybe the addition of the “no trespassing” sign will discourage the squatters. Last week, the squatters were removed from the Tucson Trail home after the dispossessed owner made a formal complaint to police.

And, I think I’ll develop a list of “bad laws” to discuss with Scott Gregory, our Township Police Chief. I’m sure he’ll be delighted to find out which laws I’d rather not have him enforce.


  1. Legal squatting is an alien concept to those of us steeped in the traditional approach to property rights. That said, I'd posit there's a certain peril in underestimating "Operation Welcome Home" and the force of change they are hoping to build. When a cleverly contrived case catches the public's sympathetic attention, its effectiveness can be startling. Evicting the encroachers becomes markedly more difficult if they are allowed to establish themselves in a building.

    Squatting is a growing problem in New York City, especially on Manhattan's Lower East Side, where the property usurpers portray themselves as "homesteaders" warding off the blight of empty buildings. There's just enough demonstrable fact to that DIY urban renewal claim to make it resonate in a city where landlords are widely regarded with the disdain usually reserved for the crud under the refrigerator.

    The activity (let's not concede "movement" status just yet) is imported from the Netherlands, where squatting has achieved a level of legal protection. Here's an examination of the phenomenon:

  2. which laws I’d rather not have him enforce

    Something to do with glass-packs off headers on a '65 Vette?