Wednesday, November 12, 2008

Being Realistic

When you first decide to squat, nothing could seem easier.
What is there to it after all?

  • Find an empty building.
  • Get in.
  • Inflate your airbed.
  • Raise your flag.
This is almost how easy i first imagined it would be. And yet months after beginning my search for affordable and subversive housing i am still squatless, though immensely lucky in that i do have a home.
Now it's not as if the issue is a shortage of abandoned properties, but vacancy is only the first tick on a long, and changing check list of favorable attributes. And each building has its own unique issues and quirks that only become obvious once you've made contact with that particular building.
The first building i intended to squat was a two storey terrace in Surry Hills. Being the first building I had staked out, I was more or less incompetent. The majority of my first mission was spent across the street gazing into its cloudy windows repeating to myself "It's definitely empty", as I worked up the courage to cross the street. When I did, I peeped through the mail slot to see an awful lot of junk, and walking around to observe the back entrance, saw more and more junk piled up in the windows. At this stage, I was under the impression that some junk was probably a huge inconvenience, after all I was still working within the frame work mentioned in the dot points above. And for the time being, that house was written off.

The second house I considered was a single storey, single bedroom terrace near my campus. It was cute, it was secluded, it was definitely empty and definitely unloved. I was doing it a favor!
One evening a friend and I planned to enter and change the lock.
Once again, this was preceded by long moments standing across the street in anticipation, waiting for a break in the steady stream of professionals returning from work. We had anticipated some difficulty entering as the door was obviously locked, and the only other entry was the front window which was broken and boarded up. Though as it turned out, the board was loose and moved with the wind, and I was able to slide in the broken window (cutting my hand, and not caring), to take my first steps within, what i thought at the time
to be, my future home.
This building had a few inconveniences also. Namely no glass in any windows, no electricity nor gas, and many repairs to do. Though by now, i was beginning to understand that this squatting would not be as easy as I had imagined and that these were reasonable tasks to undertake.
Over the next few weeks as i began doing some cleaning and planning, the landlords decided that they would prefer their house to remain empty and rotting, and screwed the door to the frame. A perfect waste.

As well as these, there was a key cutters in Sydenham, which turned out to have a pending Development Application. A small place in Hannam street which despite appearances, was for lease. A petrol station in Rozelle that would have provided a bizarre and inspiring home, that sold years after sitting vacant, and only weeks after entering my plans. A terrace in Darlinghurst that on the day i had planned to liberate, turned out to be owned by someone with a vague connection to me. And of course there were countless other empties spied on walks, for which plans and research were never begun.

Which brings me back to the first building I intended to squat.
The junk no longer seems like such an inconvenience. Though I've not been inside this house yet, and am yet to see the full scale of the mess. Though still, all these months later (on top of all the years before), it sits empty. In a nice part of town, neglected and seemingly of no consequence to anybody but myself. And I find myself thinking about it again.

Despite all the obvious set backs, and what has quite honestly been heartbreak. I'm pleased with the way things have gone. As the person who I love pointed out, it has developed my skills of researching buildings through the various beaurocratic avenues (one way streets and stop signs!) that exist. And I've also gained a more realistic understanding of what it is to squat. The next thing to do? Well, squat of course!

And a note to would be squatters; be prepared for dissapointment and frustration at the hands of the jokers of beaurocratic capitalism.