Reclaiming Our Homes: the Movement to Occupy Vacant Housing : The Indicator from Planet Money Homes owned by California's department of transportation lay vacant. So people reclaimed them.

Empty Houses, Reclaimed

Empty Houses, Reclaimed

  • Download
  • <iframe src="" width="100%" height="290" frameborder="0" scrolling="no" title="NPR embedded audio player">
  • Transcript
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images
(Photo by FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images)
FREDERIC J. BROWN/AFP via Getty Images

The story of the Reclaimers movement isa story about one of the biggest issues in America today: housing and homelessness. In March of 2020, a group of homeless and housing-insecure people broke into a number of empty homes in a neighborhood of Los Angeles, and occupied them. They called themselves "Reclaimers".

The houses they occupied were owned by CALTRANS: California's transportation agency. CALTRANS had started buying homes as far back as the 1950's, as a way to make room for a freeway extension. But that extension was never built, and some of the homes lay empty for years.

The Reclaimers said it was unacceptable that usable homes owned by the state were lying empty when people were homeless and living on the street. And, remarkably, none of the Reclaimers were evicted. Instead, state officials agreed to lease 23 of the houses to the city's housing authority, which allowed a dozen families to live in them for two years, as part of a transitional housing program.

Sasha Atkins is a member of a second wave of reclaimers, which attempted to follow in the footsteps of the first group back in March. They were met with resistance from the state, and Sasha ultimately had to leave.

Robin Urevich, a staff writer at Capital and Main, joins us to tell the story of the Reclaimers and explain the movement's implications for affordable housing strategies in the future.

Music by Drop Electric. Find us: Twitter / Facebook / Newsletter.

Subscribe to our show on Apple Podcasts, PocketCasts and NPR One.