Friday, December 14, 2012

Rome: Open for Squatting

According to government statistics, there are 2,850 squatter-occupied buildings in Rome. Reuters reports on one, a former public archives building which is now occupied by 140 families. Mariangela Schiena and her boyfriend
Henok Mulugeta moved in six months ago, after they lost their retail jobs. Unemployment among young people has passed 35 percent and those who do have jobs are often hired only on temporary contracts with limited benefits.

The squatters are pooling their money and sprucing up the building for Christmas. Schiena and Mulugeta have been working cash-in-hand jobs as cleaners and have managed to furnish their room with appliances, a television (complete with cable subscription), and a video game console.

The danger is that Rome is also enforcing more evictions -- pushing people from 176 buildings in 2011. This is a 12 percent increase from the number of squatter-occupied buildings the city vacated in 2007.

The government claims its combination of tax hikes and spending cuts will ultimately end the economic hardship. But the street-level view is not so rosy. Said Schiena, "All my friends are losing their jobs from one day to the next. I don't think this crisis is over."

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