Housing is not a crime

Madrid’s post-crisis squatters’ movement tell our story through activist research

Keywords: squatting, housing, Madrid, social movements, evictions, activist research

Since the financial crisis the rate of squatting in Madrid has increased eightfold, a structural response to waves of evictions affecting upwards of 75 000 households in the region and the proliferation of vacant housing. But – predictably – squatters have been criminalised and persecuted by local and national authorities, the courts, the media and the banks who own the vast majority of their homes. Since 2015, Laura Barrio and Tom Youngman have co-ordinated a movement research project by and for the Coordinadora de Vivienda de Madrid, the assembly bringing together Madrid’s thirty or so neighbourhood housing mutual aid groups. Centred around a book published in 2017 and follow up interviews carried out in 2019, the project tells the story of Madrid’s post-crisis squatting in the first person plural as another tool in the squatters’ struggle for their right to housing. We tell the story through four lenses: speculation, poverty, criminalisation and legalisation. In this article we share the conclusions of our five year research project in English for the first time, unravelling the challenges of realising a research project as part of a social movement. We reflect on the complex emotions of sharing the project at academic conferences in Lisbon, London, Brighton and Stockholm, often finding ourselves feeling outsiders as activists doing research rather than researchers studying movements.

Tom is a former member of the neighbourhood housing assembly in Latina, Madrid. He is an economist and co-author of La vivienda no es delito (‘Housing is not a crime’, Coordinadora de Vivienda de Madrid, 2017).

Laura is a member of the neighbourhood housing assembly in Usera, Madrid. She is a sociologist and co-author of La vivienda no es delito (‘Housing is not a crime’, Coordinadora de Vivienda de Madrid, 2017).

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