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Squatter bill erodes rights, fails to address real issue

Dan Nguyen | Flickr

A new bill proposed by State Assemblyman Jake Blumencranz aims to expedite the eviction process for homeowners. While the bill’s purpose is to provide relief for property owners, it erodes crucial rights and fails to address the underlying factors contributing to homelessness in New York City.

While squatting garnered prominence in right-wing news platforms, no public data is available. Squatting is not tracked in national crime databases.

This did not stop Blumencranz from labeling the issue as the “squatting crisis” in a press conference.

The real crisis is not squatters. Homelessness, however, is a pervasive issue in New York City.

The highest number of children in nearly a decade were staying in New York City’s homeless shelters last year, according to a data dashboard unveiled by the comptroller’s office.

The city government needs to address the root causes of homelessness; issues like the affordable housing crisis, mental health crisis and domestic violence.

Stripping back the rights of squatters does nothing to address any of the real reasons for the problems.

The bill would allow police to intervene and make arrests instead of having to go through a court process.

Currently, squatters gain homeowner rights after occupying a residency for 30 days. That means the property owner can’t change the locks, can’t remove their belongings and can’t cut off the utilities. If they do, the owner could be arrested. Property owners must go through the court system to seek resolution.

Fox News host Jesse Watters claimed on March  20 that President Joe Biden was allowing migrants to “break into the country and then break into your bedroom.”

“Long Islanders and all New Yorkers should not have to live in fear of people trying to game the system and take away their hard-earned property and their American dream,” Blumencranz said in a press conference. “New York is the home of hard-working individuals and families, not criminals looking to cheat their way to the top. We must act now to protect New Yorkers and their homes.”

Inflating concerns about squatting are simply a distraction from deeper underlying issues that demand immediate attention. The demonization and dehumanization of unhoused individuals is not a solution.

The city should instead be focused on addressing bureaucratic hurdles that prevent supportive housing apartments from being utilized. Nearly 2,600 apartments were vacant in January 2022, which is enough to house most of the 3,400 people living in streets or subways.

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