Portugues Ocupas: Haven’t Got Squat? Squat Is What You Get

An old house at dawn, with the back-light illuminating residents.
This scene was created by affordablehousingaction.org and is licensed under CC0 1.0 Universal Public Domain Dedication

Portugal is undergoing an exercise familiar to Americans who followed recent events by West Coast activists: illegal(?) squatting in unoccupied housing. That story focused on the actions of moms with kids up against vacant housing that was ‘banked’ by its private owners. The owners were waiting for a more profitable climate before putting the housing on the market1.

The crisis is similar in Portugal, though the details are different. “Ocupas” is the Portuguese term for people who are living in housing they neither own nor rent.

The previously mentioned U.S. West Coast squatting, strongly supported by activists, ultimately played out as a public relations battle with the private corporate owners. Both in the U.S. and Portugal, the ‘victims’ who own the homes are not ‘mom and pop’ landlords. In Portugal, Ocupas is targetting government-owned housing.

Over past decades in North America at least, squatting has been strongly linked with drug dealers and users.

On the U.S. West Coat and in Portugal, we are witnessing phenomena that contradict the drug link. The reality is more akin to desperate individuals and families, unable to afford rising housing prices, asserting a right to adequate housing. In Portugal, according to the article linked below, even police officers are speaking up for the Ocupas.

Read more in PORTUGAL RESIDENT: Squatting “gains new expression in Portugal”


  1. Try: Evicted Oakland Squatter-Moms Buy That Vacant House — Updated