International Squatters III: Paris
The specific housing problems leading to squatting vary enormously around the world but underlying them all is the usual corruption around land and property which is found everywhere from Ankara to Zaria. This is part three of a four-part special on international squatters by Sam Beale with additional Spanish material by Emma Eastwood.
Squall 8, Autumn 1994, pg. 37.
Bank of France Squatted
On 24th May, a building belonging to the Bank of France in Paris was squatted by 37 people, including 18 children. The building had been empty for five years, and those who moved in were either homeless or badly housed. Droit au Logement (DaL), Right to Housing, an organisation campaigning for the rights of the homeless, along with Greens and a radical anti-unemployment group, helped squat and guard the building. Since the occupation of another large building last year the squatters have organised themselves. They had van loads of mattresses and were ready with banners for the front of the bank, calling for the requisition of all empty buildings for use by the homeless.
The Bank of France was highly embarrassed by the incident because it is notorious for leaving Parisian buildings empty. A few days after the squatters moved in the Bank announced that it was ‘obliged’ to take action but changed its mind due to the high profile of the occupation and the active support of a number of French personalities, particularly l’Abbe Pierre, a formidable priest who moved in with the squatters and said the Bank would have to evict him as well (for some reason the Bank seemed reluctant to stir his wrath).
In an unprecedented move the Bank came up with a temporary rehousing suggestion in another building which had also been empty for five years. The squatters moved at the beginning of June and have the place, for a small rent, for two years.
Canard Enchainee (a French satire mag) recently printed a Bank of France internal memo from the beginning of the year in which Bank staff were requested to be ‘extra vigilant’ because of the re-emergence of squatting in Paris. Canard Enchainee noted that in the past the Bank has preferred to block toilets, board up its empty buildings and pay vigilantes to look after them.
DaL squatted another large building in July and have called on all large property owners to allow empty buildings to be used by the homeless.
There are between 10,000 and 15,000 street sleepers in Paris alone, as many as 400,000 throughout France, as well as 2.6 million living ‘sans logis’, in hostels etc.
DaL estimate that as many as 110,000 people were evicted without a court case in 1993. The country has an estimated 1.9 million empty buildings (1990 figures).
Read the other International Squatters stories