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Nine-Tenths of the Law

Nine-Tenths of the Law

Nine-Tenths of the Law, Property and Resistance in the United States by Hannah Dobbz 

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How does "property" fit into designs for an equitable society? Nine-Tenths of the Law examines the history of squatting and property struggles in the US, from colonialism to 20th-century urban squatting and the foreclosure crisis of the late 2000s, and how such resistance movements shape the law. Squatting is defined by Dobbz as “occupying an otherwise abandoned structure without exchanging money or engaging in a formal permissive agreement.” Stories from our most hard-hit American cities show that property is truly in crisis: 

  • One in five homes in Buffalo, NY, are abandoned. 
  • Our national housing vacancy rate is 14 percent. If we gave a house to every homeless person in the United States two-thirds of that stock would remain empty. 
  • In May of 2011, 1 in every 103 homes in Nevada was in foreclosure. 

Nine-Tenths of the Law expands our understanding of property law and highlights recent tactics like creative squatting ventures and the use of adverse possession to claim title to vacant homes. Hannah Dobbz unveils the tangled relationship Americans have always had in creating and sustaining healthy communities.

“A brilliant history of squatting in the USA.”—Mike Davis, author of Planet of Slums

“This is the thinking person's guidebook to urban and suburban squatting. Using her own life, recent news stories, and generations of scholarly work, Dobbz waltzes through the bizarries of the U.S. property system, from the iron logic of property speculation to the madness of ‘arson for profit.’ Her book tells the hidden histories we badly need to know, from lone wolf opportunists to political activists acting selflessly to house others. We read about the big city stories—from New York, Philadelphia, San Francisco—and navigate the entanglements of the foreclosure crisis, how ‘people remain homeless as homes remain peopleless.’ For those who aren't quite ready for off-the-grid outlaw living, Dobbz explains land trusts and co-op ownership, along with the romance (and grime) of collective living. If you're thinking of squatting—or just want to know more about legal theory of property and home ownership—this book is for you.”—Alan W. Moore, author ofArt Gangs: Protest and Counterculture in New York City

“With America's foreclosure crisis generating a landscape full of empty houses, one can see the rise of an even bigger squatters movement on the horizon. To those engaged in such activity, and those considering it, this book will be a valuable resource.”—Seth Tobocman, co-author of Understanding the Crash andDisaster and Resistance

Hannah Dobbz is a writer, editor, filmmaker, and former squatter. In 2007 she produced Shelter, a film about squatters in the Bay Area. The film has screened widely at universities, bookstores, and community spaces, as well as at the 2009 Three Rivers Film Festival in Pittsburgh. Nine-Tenths of the Law is her first book.

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