Speaker tells of new squatting sensation

Author Robert Nuewirth spoke as part of the Global Perspective Lecture Series Nov. 14 in the Otto Budig Theater to communicate his experiences throughout the world with the growing urban phenomenon known as squatting.

Nuewirth spent two years living among squatter communities occupying four continents and compiled his research in the book “Shadow Cities: A Billion Squatters, A new Urban World”.

As part of his travels, Nuewirth detailed the vast numbers of people who build unofficial and makeshift second cities called shantytowns and the individuals who dwelled within them, referred to as squatters.

In the lecture Nuewirth revealed whom the occupants of these communities are, the reasoning behind why they exist, and how the growing phenomenon of squatting is going to sculpt the urban sprawl of the future.

“It is the way every city develops over time,” said Nuewirth. “Squatting is becoming a huge growing phenomenon in the world.”

At his lecture, Nuewirth recounted how squatter communities exist as a reaction to farmers abandoning the agricultural lifestyle of the country. He told how the farmers, seeking a better wage and better quality of life; migrate to an urban type setting, where the economy is constant and more robust.

“[Squatting is] a necessary thing. More than a million people leave the countryside and come to the world’s cities every week,” said Nuewirth.

But as the masses leave the rural setting and settle down into their new urban environment, they discover that the city is overpopulated and the rent is overpriced, forcing them to seek housing alternatives.

“They can’t find housing they can afford. So, they wind up building it for themselves or renting in existing shantytowns,” said Nuewirth.

So the phenomenon of squatting begins: overpopulation, elevated rent and nowhere to go.

According to Nuewirth, one of the ways to address squatter communities would be through government intervention.

But the governments of the countries squatter communities thrive in are at a loss.

Nuewirth tells how the average population of a squatter city can reach upwards of 300,000.

With such large numbers, the respective governments can’t produce a sufficient number of affordable housing units to stem the amount squatting taking place.

“The latest estimates from the United Nations suggest that to keep up with the global demand for housing, we have to be building one home every second