Homesteading for the Homeless
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Almost every large American city has vast tracts of unutilized or underutilized land, usually located in proximity to very expensive, highly utilized land. Every city also has large and increasing numbers of homeless folk, and you can't help but notice that these two phenomena go hand in hand. Often, this land contains improvements, consisting mostly of abondoned and deteriorated residential and commercial structures, and is owned by the city, having been abondoned by its previous owners with taxes and liens against it.
Why not parcel this land out to the homeless to be homesteaded by them. Homesteading lets you establish your ownership of the land by occupying and improving it - you have a time frame during which you must occupy the land and must work it or improve it.
Building codes could be relaxed to permit simpler dwellings with say, two apts and a shared bath and kitchen, and the bureacracy involved in obtaining easements, permits, etc. simplified to bring down the cost further.
Other groups of people in addition to the homeless could benefit greatly from such a homesteading program, such as collectives of artists, authors, musicians, mad scientists. It would also put property back on the tax rolls and revive areas that have been completely abondoned.