‘Batti il 5!’

Grassroots Strategies Against the Administrative Invisibilization of Rome’s Housing Squatters Before and During the Pandemic

Margherita Grazioli

Published in Issue 4.1 // The Long Read

Keywords: Article 5, squatting, housing crisis, Housing Rights Movements, Rome


Since the 2008 financial crash, housing vulnerability has been acknowledged as a determinant in the erosion of the social and territorial cohesion that is jeopardising the existence of urban communities. However, this recognition departs from the reality of housing policies implemented by states, who largely prioritise the continuity of neoliberal urbanisation over the pursuit of spatialised justice. This approach is exemplified by Article 5 of the 2014 Italian National Housing Plan, which represents the core of governmental effort to repress grassroots responses to the habitation crisis that exploded post-2008. The law aims to discourage the phenomenon of squatting vacant urban space for dwelling by stripping the possibility of housing squatters to have a legally registered address, hence of the civil and social rights connected to formally reckoned urban citizenship. Drawing upon the ethnographic materials collected during my activist-research since 2015 inside the Blocchi Precari Metropolitani collective (as part of the larger Housing Rights Movements, hereby HRMs), the article discusses the practical, political and theoretical relevance of grassroots strategies and contentious politics adopted by the HRMs in Rome to contrast the effects of the law from 2014 onwards, focusing on the critical turning point of the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic.


Margherita Grazioli is a postdoctoral researcher in Economic Geography at the Social Sciences Area of the Gran Sasso Science Institute (L’Aquila, Italy). She was awarded her PhD at the School of Business of the College of Social Sciences, Arts and Humanities of the University of Leicester (UK). Her doctoral dissertation was based in the activist-ethnographic fieldwork begun in 2015 in the housing squats organized within the Blocchi Precari Metropolitani collective, which is part of the Movimento per il Diritto all’Abitare in Rome. While her ethnography is still ongoing, her current research interests also embrace the evolution of the housing crisis within the pandemic, housing informality, mutual aid practices as empowering tools for restoring socioeconomic justice in conflicted cities. She authored the books ‘Housing, Urban Commons and Right to the City: Metropoliz, The Squatted Città Meticcia (2021, Palgrave Macmillan) and ‘Metropoliz, città meticcia. Storia militante di un’occupazione abitativa’ (2021, RedStar Press).

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