Yearly Archives: 2011

Treacherous Weatherley – Schnews reports how anti-squatting MP exposes himself

The SchNews website reports on anti-squat crusader MP Mike Weatherley’s claims about support from homelessness charities. Mike Weatherley, the Tory MP for Hove & Portslade – architect of the squatting bill – has spent much of his first 18 months in power attacking the homeless in his own constituency under the guise of a crackdown on ‘lifestyle squatters’. For the most part his campaign has been dominated by a collection of factually inaccurate soundbites. His ‘facts’ about squatting have been repeatedly rebutted (including in an open letter from 160 lawyers) but Mike soldiers on. One argument Mr ‘Fair’ Weatherley has used […]

The Great British Property Scandal (C4)

Presenter George Clark finds an open window and climbs through to squat in the empty building for the night – not something you might expect to see in a Channel 4 documentary…

All still to play for

The Government have voted through an amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, to make squatting in residential buildings a criminal offence, with up to 51 weeks imprisonment. The clause has now moved to the House of Lords where it will face its first proper scrutiny. A second reading took place on the 21st November where a general debate on all aspects of the bill occurred. The bill is still to go to committee stage where a full line by line examination should happen and this stage is yet to be scheduled. You can keep track […]

BBC goes squatting…

As the government plans to make squatting illegal in residential premises in England and Wales, former squatter Robert Elms considers the practice’s long history, and the issues it raises about the need for shelter versus the rights of property owners…

Time Out: Should Squatting be Made Illegal?

The media has been full of scare stories of people’s homes being stolen. These tales seek to deliberately misrepresent and mislead. It’s already illegal to squat in the home that someone lives in. This has absolutely nothing to do with protecting homeowners; it is about extending the protections to cover property speculators who keep houses empty simply to up their profits, and it will be open to abuse by landlords who want a fast means to evict precarious tenants…

Shift: the spatial politics of squatting in the UK…

This document addresses the following questions: Firstly, why bother at all? Why is it important that squatting isn’t criminalized? And secondly, why bother meeting the government on its own terms? Is engagement not contradictory when we’re aiming to build real alternatives to the current system?

NUS Student Activism 2011 Conference: why is squatting relevant to students?

On Saturday Squash will be representing at the NUS Student Activism 2011 conference, at Goldsmiths. Come down and say hello. We’ll be giving a talk at 2pm entitled ‘Trespass! Why criminalizing squatting could affect students…?’ Here’s why we think students should be concerned about the government’s plan’s to criminalise trespass…

Your gauntlet, Mr. Weatherley?

“What really gets my goat is when Weatherley says “show me a squat which has been made better by the squatters” on his website or, most recently, on the BBC Politics Show. Mike said he was laying down the gauntlet to squatter groups: here is one response…”

This pernicious choreography hints at a more sinister logic…

This pernicious choreography – from summer consultation to rushed last-minute amendment – also hints at a more sinister logic. On Tuesday morning, the housing minister, Grant Shapps, tweeted the following: “St Paul’s: Right to protest NOT a right to squat. Looking at law to see if change needed to deal w/ camps like St Paul’s & Dale Farm faster.” Shapps’ casual and lazy equation of protest and collective assembly with the rich and varied history of squatting reveals, it seems to me, the ultimate target of the government’s legal revanchism…

‘Out of the squats, onto the streets’ Photos

         

John McDonnell’s speech from Tuesday

It was a nail-biting debate on Tuesday night, and despite the fact that the vote was lost, some Members spoke extremely eloquently in opposition to the criminalisation of squatting. Reproduced below is John McDonell’s speech – you can read the full transcript from the debate here. We would like to thank those MPs who were brave enough to stand up for the vulnerable, and we hope that the Lords will pay attention to the words of those like McDonnell who clearly showed why these laws are deeply wrong. Making new laws, especially ones that can put people in prison for […]

It’s a choice between homelessness and a criminal record

Most squatters do not pose a threat to ordinary homeowners, but they are a potential embarrassment to a government whose best response to the housing crisis is to make homelessness illegal, which is rather like solving a food shortage by making hunger illegal. Laurie Pennie criticises the governments recent ammendment to criminalise squatting over on the New Statesmen.  

Squash Parliament

They say ‘7 days is a long time in politics’. A week ago today we found out that the government was introducing a sneaky last minute clause to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill that would criminalise squatting in residential buildings. Yesterday the clause was voted through in Parliament by 283 to 13 against. The amendment to the clause brought by John Mcdonnell and Crisis was defeated by 23 to 300 against. The clause will now move to the House of Lords where it will face its first proper scrutiny. On Monday night hundreds came for a […]

#StopClause26

We didn’t all get arrested last night! This is what you can do today to stop clause 26 to prevent the criminalisation of the homeless. 9am – Gather outside Westminster Housing Options Service, 101 Orchardson Street NW8 for a workshop on how to register homeless by The Simon Community 12noon – Gather outside Parliament – Rally to show opposition and workshop on how to lobby your MP by Squash Campaign on the law concerning squatting as it stands, and of the impacts New Clause 26 would involve by a Housing Lawyer 3pm – Squash has booked a room in Parliament […]

Mass arrests at Squatters Homelessness Protest ‘undermine democracy’

PRESS RELEASE For Immediate Release Mass arrests at Squatters Homelessness Protest ‘undermine democracy’ Late last night police arrested homelessness protesters for attempting to sleep outside Parliament against government plans to criminalise squatting. Hundreds of police were deployed to kettle a ‘mass sleep out’ against a proposed late amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill to be voted on today, that would criminalise squatting in residential buildings. After a critical mass bike ride protesters attempted to sleep out on Parliament Green but were surrounded and ordered to disperse under SOCPA. The controversial act – currently being repealed […]

Essential final details for SQUASH action

Here are the essential final details for the Squash action taking place during Parliamentary debates and votes on the criminalisation of squatting – this is our moment! Today and tomorrow Parliament discusses and votes on amendments to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill Clause 26 of the Bill seeks to make squatting in residential buildings illegal. Groups opposing this have tabled amendments to lessen the impact and are detailed here. Squash have called for action to be taken . . o Lobby your MP, call and ask them to oppose the Bill or support these alternative amendments […]

Out of the squats and into the streets

  The Government wants to sneak through the criminalisation of squatting, it will be voted on in Parliament this Tuesday 1st November. Over 95% of responses to the ‘consultation’ on squatting were against further criminalisation, despite this the government is still going ahead with their proposals – effectively bypassing democracy. SQUASH have tried engaging with the democratic processes but despite overwhelming support to not criminalise squatting we have been ignored. Our only rational response now is to call for people to TAKE ACTION. We have been forced into this position. See you on the streets!   MONDAY 31st OCTOBER: CALL […]

Press Release: ‘Out of the squats and into the streets’

Press Release Embargoed for 6.59am, 31st October 2011 ‘Out of the squats and into the streets'; squatters sleep out in Central London Squatters Action for Secure Homes (SQUASH) who have been leading the campaign against Government plans to criminalise squatting have called for a mass sleep out tonight in Central London. The protest has been organised the night before an amendment (Clause 26) to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill to ‘criminalise the squatting of residential properties’ is to be discussed in Parliament. Hundreds are expected to meet at High Street Kensington Tube for 6.30pm before heading […]

Between people and property: why the anti-squatting amendment must be opposed

The following piece is by Jacob, writing for The Third Estate. The state, we are told, defends two things in the law: people and property. That is, the state are bad dialecticians, who forever stupidly butt their heads against the fact that these two things, people and property, often come into conflict. And of course, for the most part they come out on the side of property, at once proclaiming that protecting people is the same as protecting the “rights” (although never “abilities”) of people to own property. Thus this manifest contradiction is, apparently, “solved”. The solution comes with a […]

Campaign lobbies against rush to criminalise

The Government announced yesterday amendments to the Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill, including a clause to make squatting in residential buildings a criminal offence, with up to 51 weeks imprisonment. They are due to debate and possibly vote on the amendment next Tuesday 1st November in the House of Commons. Yesterday also saw the Ministry of Justice (MoJ) publish their summary of the consultation ‘Options for Dealing with Squatters’ which came to an end on October 5th. There were 2,217 responses and over 90% of responses argued against taking any action on squatting. See this table from the report. The […]

Event: Student solidarity with squatters – 02/11/11

Student solidarity with squatters, in the face of Conservative plans to outlaw occupations…

Labour to back government in support of homeowners despite concerns

Labour will support government moves to outlaw squatting despite concerns that changes to trespass laws could leave thousands of homeless people facing year-long prison sentences and fines of up to £5,000, the Guardian has learned. Sources working for the shadow justice minister said they did not think there was any possibility that the new law would affect sit-ins and occupation protests as previously feared, and they would support the change to show their support for homeowners. Under the government’s new proposals, rushed into the legal aid, sentencing and punishment of offenders bill, it will become a crime to squat in any residential […]

Why we need to ‘keep squatting legal’, and why ‘guardianship’ is no solution

Over at Ecologist Laura Laker looks at some of the issues around the current housing crisis and how squatting – in this context – poses more solutions than it does problems. “The UK faces a housing crisis, with a growing population and spiralling rental costs made worse by the recent financial crisis. However, where many find it increasingly difficult to buy or even rent, a large number of homes in the UK remain vacant. A Halifax survey published in December 2010 estimated there were 296,000 homes in the UK left empty for more than six months; some estimate as many […]

Government ‘bypasses democracy’ to sneak through anti-squatting laws

Press Release For Immediate Release Government ‘bypasses democracy’ to sneak through anti-squatting laws Housing charities, MPs, squatters, property consultants, activists, lawyers and artists have accused the government of sneaking in an amendment to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill announced today by Justice Secretary Ken Clarke to “make squatting in residential buildings a criminal offence”. Campaigners say the amendment will not take into account the thousands of consultation responses submitted earlier this month and will not add any further protection to residents. Over the past 3 months the government have been undertaking a consultation process entitled “Options […]

Take a look in at Squatters Town…

Even the briefest reading of history is enough to dismiss the idea that squatting is either a modern phenomenon or a hangover from the 60s and 70s; squatting has always existed as a solution wherever there are people without any other option for decent housing. This newsreel from 1946 is a beautiful example of both how squatting can work and how far the debate has declined…

The Demonisation of Squatters

The following piece is by Vyvian Raoul, guest posting over on io magazine. Raoul is a London-based squatter, and talks here about the demonisation of squatters, political hysteria and why the real scandal is the number of empty properties across the country. News needs to be two things: new and true. In terms of the latter, most of what gets reported about squatting misses the mark somewhat. And, to an extent, it’s understandable: squatters aren’t exactly queuing up to give interviews to the mainstream media, so misconceptions and murkiness, stereotype and sensationalism, abound. But no other area of investigative journalism […]

Inside Housing article: ‘There’s no such thing as squatter’s rights…’

Over on Inside Housing Simon Brandon looks at the Government’s announcement to ‘slam the door on squatting and so-called squatters’ rights‘, and questions what Ministers hope to acheive by criminalising an estimated 20,000 people in the midst of a housing crisis and with local services already stretched to breaking point. Repeat it over and over, like Dorothy declaring ‘there’s no place like home': ‘There’s no such thing as squatters rights’

In defence of squatting

Squatting, a proud tradition in the UK which involves individuals taking over empty/abandoned properties is under threat.

A new government consultation to criminalise squatting in the UK has just ended and any criminalisation plans are likely to be pushed through in the new year.

This isn’t the first time the Tories have tried to criminalise squatting but these current plans couldn’t come at a more crazy time.

Student solidarity… with squatters?

The following post is by Vyvian Raoul, originally posted up on the Counterfire site. Conservative plans to criminalise trespass have wider repercussions than outlawing squatting. Whether it’s an unintended side-effect or a deliberate fringe benefit, imagine the future of protest without occupations. By now, you may have seen the Conservative housing minister, Grant Shapps MP, on Question Time, talking about social housing. No-one asked him for his thoughts on trespass, but some apt questions might have included: how does criminalising squatting help with a housing crisis? Are the 160 property lawyers who signed a letter accusing you of deliberately misleading […]

Grant Shapps and his housing mishaps

Britain’s got [squatted!] Talent

Courtesy of Miss Badchild.

This is where it starts getting lively

In light of Crisis’ new research into squatting and homelessness the government’s proposals for the criminalisation of squatting seems increasingly misguided and wrong.

Yet the ‘consultation’ process has magnificently failed to acknowledge the vast majority of groups who will be affected by the proposed legislation.

Instead the consultation has been directed and addressed only to those who already consider squatting to be a problem.

New research concludes criminalisation of squatting would be criminalising the most vulnerable

Squatting: a homelessness issue , the recent report by the Centre for Regional Economic and Social Research (CRESR) outlines exactly what the title suggests: far from being a criminal justice issue, squatting should be treated as a housing and welfare issue. The research was undertaken on behalf of homelessness charity Crisis, and reveals squatters to be some of the most vulnerable of all homeless people. Some of the key finding were: Squatting was found to be a common amongst homeless people. 40% of those surveyed had squatted at some point, with 6% on any one night. Homeless people squat out […]

Government fails to consider vulnerable groups: Squash calls for extension of consultation on squatting

In a letter to the Ministry of Justice, leading members of housing, homeless, Gypsy and Traveller groups request that the deadline of the consultation is extended and the necessary steps taken to account for the views of ‘hard to reach groups’ who will be affected by the proposals. So far the Government has failed to engage such groups in the consultation process; in the following letter we give an indication of who these groups include, and call on the Government to take a more effective and honest approach to the consultation. Robin Edwards & Yvonne Murray Ministry of Justice 7th […]

Ministers are ‘obscuring the law’ around squatting say lawyers

In a letter to The Guardian, 160 leading lawyers, academics and housing experts state their concern with a recent surge of misleading media stories around squatting, and accuse Government ministers of stirring up public fear around the subject by making statements in regard to these stories that are simply legally wrong. The motives of ministers, as Shiv Malik explains, is no doubt to try and rally sensationalist support for government proposals to criminalise squatting. In particular it is the stories of squatters moving into peoples homes that the signatories of the letter describe as creating ‘fear for homeowners, confusion for […]

Home-Made: the misery the government can cause

Ever wanted to know who the squatters really are?

Well here’s a beautiful cartoon by, telling the story of some of the victims of the government’s attack.

In support of squatting – the neighbours talk

Check out this great new video giving some perspectives on what it’s like to have squatters for neighbours. Circulate at will!

Squatting campaigners hail judge’s ruling on empty homes

A judge has ordered that Camden Council must comply with a Freedom of Information request, and make public a list of empty homes in the borough. Housing and squatting campaigners celebrated the landmark judgement, that will have repercussions for the management of council-owned empty property and which puts pressure on the governments controversial plans to criminalise squatting. In her judgement, Judge Fiona Henderson stated that “the public interest lies in putting empty properties back into use,” and rejected claims that squatters are a greater source of anti-social behaviour than rent-paying tenants. She argued that publication of the list would “bring […]

Travellers and Squatters

We are the last links with independence and self sufficiency in an over organised country…

We elude to a great extent the tentacles of officialdom which seek to enclose everyone within their grasp, plotting their lives by standards, times and dates.

Freedom we are told is everyman’s heritage – yet how few achieve it and how few exploit it.

Squash’s guidelines for responding to the consultation

The government’s consultation on the proposed criminalisation of squatting is currently taking place. The consultation is supposed to allow the government to formally take public opinion and suggestions into account.

Here we have provided resources for you to understand it and quickly submit an email response to the government. The deadline is the 5th October 2011.

Advisory Service for Squatters’ Response to the Consultation

The ASS provides legal and practical advice to squatters and other homeless people, and have been doing so since 1975.

Here they offer their comments on the government’s consultation paper ‘Options for dealing with squatters.

The government consultation attacking squatting is a very ill-informed document.

Fitzrovia, 130 years of Squatting

The Really Free School squats in Guy Richie’s house in Fitzroy Square and then the Black Horse in Rathbone Place hit the headlines a few months ago.

In fact these follow in a long tradition of squatting in the area.

In 1980 pop singers Boy George and Marilyn were among those who squatted at 21 Carburton Street before achieving fame. There were other squats in Warren Street and Great Titchfield Street at the same time.

Who is a squatter?

A fairly normal afternoon at ASS (Advisory Service for Squatters), and a fairly typical call…

The bloke, and his pregnant wife, are renting from someone whose tenancy doesn’t allow them to sub-let. The landlady is demanding more money and threatening to come back and kick them out.

He went to various places for advice. The council told him that he had no rights (untrue) because the tenancy was illegal (untrue) and suggested he might want to look into “squatters rights”.

Squatters in Britain: vulnerable, demonised, and soon to be criminalised?

Lili and Melissa and Pete of the campaign group Housing Solidarity respond to the government’s proposals to criminalise squatting. The following article was originally posted over on open democracy, feel free to go over and join in the debate in the comments section. Last month, the Ministry of Justice released a consultation aimed at gathering information on the extent of problems caused by squatters as well as views on a proposal to introduce legislation making squatting itself a crime. The views of squatters themselves rarely feature in mainstream debate, allowing myths and misunderstandings to persist, which feed a process of demonization […]

Islington Community Housing Co-op oppose the criminalisation of squatting

In the following post Richard Cooper, a member of the Islington Community Housing Co-op in North London outlines the history of their cooperative and its roots in squatting. The Co-operative is unanimous in it’s opposition to the government’s plan to criminalise squatting I am a member of a long established Housing Co-operative, Islington Community Housing Co-op, in North London. We grew out of the 70s squatting movement. Many properties were squatted and then licences were gained from the local authority. From there we set up a fully mutual co-operative and started to manage houses that the local authority could not […]

Hackney GP backs squatters fighting eviction from abandoned school

Contradictory to the governments claims that squatters cause ‘distress and misery’ Jasmine Coleman – reporting for the Hackney Gazette – reveals how a Hackney GP has condemned council moves to evict ‘considerate’ squatters living in an abandoned school. The following post was published in the Hackney Gazette on July 22nd 2011   A Hackney GP has condemned council moves to evict ‘considerate’ squatters living in an abandoned school. Jonathon Tomlinson, who works at the Lawson practice in Nuttall Street, said town hall attempts this week to remove his next-door neighbours were immoral. The squatters have been living in the old […]

The Neo-Liberal City: Struggles in Space

Aaron Peters and Alex Vasudevan look at the changing cartography of the neo-liberal city and the implications this has on property speculation, social housing as public good, time, memory and protest Listen here

Brighton’s Squatted History 4 – the 21st Century

The following post is the last in a series by SNOB(AHA), tracing some of the history of squatting in Brighton. We’d love to hear the stories from your area – get in touch with blog [at] squashcampaign [dot] org. 2000s As we move into the 2000s, we can see that squatting continues, following the same pattern of ebbs and flows. Sometimes up, sometimes down. Not so organised, no squatters’ unions, but still happening. Medina House is a lovely old building on the seafront in Hove, next to the King Alfred’s Leisure Centre. It was first squatted in 2002, but in […]

Empty Promises – A report from The Big Issue in The North

Ryan Gallagher, writing for The Big Issue In The North, examines how proposals to criminalise squatting in unoccupied homes are prompted by scare stories. The following article was published in issue #886 Government plans that could criminalise squatting have prompted an outcry from housing campaign groups. Tabled last week by Conservative justice minister Crispin Blunt as part of a consultation titled Options for Dealing with Squatting, the proposal seeks to abolish the rights that are currently afforded to squatters under civil law and could result in persistent offenders being jailed. It could also have an impact on protesters occupying workplaces […]

Brighton’s Squatted Past 3 – the 1990s

The following post is part of a series from SNOB (AHA) looking at the history and importance of squatting in Brighton (and Hove actually… which is notably the constituency of a certain modern-day villain seeking to steal from the poor and give to the rich). 1990s Throughout the 1990s, there were many squatted projects. This phenomenon can be seen against the backdrop of the increasing gentrification of Brighton. As many yuppies moved in who commuted to London for work, the centre became standardised, lots of independent shops and traders got priced out and the mood switched. Residential squatting was forced […]

Brighton’s Squatted Past 2 – the 1970s (& ’80s…)

The following post is the second in a series by SNOB(AHA), looking at the history and significance of squatting in Brighton. 1970s After what appears to have been a lull, with records scarce, in the late 1960s and early 1970s, the movement grew and became more political. The issue again was housing. Steve Platt records in his chapter for the excellent book ‘Squatting: The Real Story’ that in November 1971 the Cyrenians, a charity for the single homeless which had become exasperated with Brighton Council, squatted three houses. The Brighton Rents project was squatting buildings with widespread support (even Dennis […]

Dear Telegraph…

The following post is by Rueben Taylor, a campaigner with SQUASH. As we all know and we’ve been exploring a little on this blog, many newspapers are riddled with inaccuracies and distortions about squatting. The Telegraph has been particularly manipulative in this regard, spewing a concerted campaign of mistruths as part of their plan to Stop the Squatters – to ensure empty buildings remain empty and the poor remain on the streets. Spearheading much of their coverage has been scaremonger-in-chief Tom Whitehead, the Home Affairs editor. Unfortunately, Tom does have rather a tendency to make mistakes or to misinterpret the […]

Brighton’s Squatted Past 1

Over the next few days we’ll be publishing a four part series about the history of squatting in Brighton, which has been put together by the crew at Squatters’ Network Of Brighton (And Hove Actually). We’d love to publish more stuff about the stories and histories of squatting and land struggle around the UK and indeed the world: get in touch if you’ve got a tale to tell! The first version of this history is available as a beautiful free zine to download here. Introduction Squatting in Brighton has a long and illustrious history, some of which is captured here. […]

From Housing Crisis to Radical Urbanism: Reflections on Squatting

The following guest post is by Alex Vasudevan from Nottingham University Over two weeks ago I posted a piece on the Guardian’s Comment is Free site which explored the coalition government’s plans to criminalize squatting subject to a brief consultation period. The main thrust of my argument was twofold: 1) That plans to criminalize squatting would simply exacerbate a growing housing crisis in the UK. Squatting should be seen as a necessary coping strategy in the face of an highly uneven and exploitative housing market. 2) That the proposed ban also betrays a more sinister logic that seeks to legislate […]

Further Reading

This is an extract from Colin Ward’s book ‘Anarchy in Action’, first published in 1973. He talks about some of the differences between being housed, and housing oneself. Touching on the peripheral squatter settlements around some of the worlds largest city; the 1946 large-scale squatting of old army camps in the UK by families and the differences between the settlements that became ‘official’ and those that did not; and finally the gulf in Britain between the owner occupier and the municipal tenant. The pdf is layed out for print, so you have to skip backwards and forwards a bit, but […]

Stirring up the consultation

The following post is written by Victoria Blitz who is working with the squash campaign The consultation is upon us and, in the words of the guardian last week, it is ‘drip[ping] with the embarrassment of the officials who’d been ordered to write it’. The tellingly thin document is titled ‘Options for dealing with Squatters’, and briefly outlines five different positions the government could take in regards to dealing with squatters. We have until October to challenge the consultation’s proposals of criminalisation: encouranging as broad a range of groups and individuals to respond to the government and highlight the different […]

Advice for talking to journalists

The following post is by Rueben Taylor, a campaigner with SQUASH. So, the Murdoch empire is trembling under the weight of all their rivals’ gloating. The stories that we’re being drip-fed daily are grotesque, each revealing the monstrous callousness of the News International hacks. Shocking, yes. But for anyone who’s ever experienced the venom of a journalist looking to make their name from sensationalism and populism, it’s hardly surprising. Just like those who work in call centres, or those who work on stage, will use alternative names while at work, we recommend that anyone who decides to tell their story […]

Consultation launched: Campaigners condemn “criminalisation of the homeless”

The government has announced its consultation into criminalising squatting. Housing charities, MPs, squatters, property consultants, activists, lawyers and artists are working on diverse campaigns to oppose the government plans. Today, a coalition of groups met in parliament for the second time to discuss opposition to this legislation. In their parliamentary briefing SQUASH outlined how the legislation may be unworkable in law, unenforceable by the police and unaffordable to the public purse.

Squats bred some of the best UK music – the Tories want to shut them down

The following post is by Carl Loben, originally posted on the  Louder Than War blog. Squat culture has been the backbone of creativity for years. The right wing press would like to paint a picture of marauding lunatics stealing your home from under your nose but the truth is far more blurred. There are countless empty properties, kept empty to bump their price up. Large tracts of the city left empty whilst people are homeless. Musicians are traditionally skint and need space to create. Some people abuse this position and some people make great use of the space. David Cameron […]

“Some of them have jobs” – Kenneth Clark

The BBC Politics Show The analysis is wrong we need to focus our attention on affordable housing – Graeme Brown, director of Shelter Scottland

Landlords From Hell… Jon Snow tells us how unscrupulous landlords are exploiting the most vulnerable people in society and getting away with it

Barry Tseung gives us a report of last weeks Dispatches documentary, produced with help from homeless charity Shelter. The programme is available to watch over on 4oD. It concentrates on one rogue landlord, who an undercover Dispatches reporter got a job working for, and there was a side story filmed in what you could only describe as a shanty town – in Southall. Vulnerable families and migrant workers are paying £320 per month to live there, in sheds at the bottom of each back garden along a pair of suburban streets. Nice. The landlord in the main story ran a […]

The Assault on Squatting

The following article is written by Richard George and was originally posted over on the New Left Project The traditional view that the Tories are the party of the landed classes was built on solid bedrock. More recent events show that it continues to hold good. The last time they were in power they orchestrated the largest land-grab in living memory – the ‘right to buy’ – through which council housing passed to property magnates and buy-to-let landlords under the auspices of helping people onto the property ladder. This time around, spurred on by misleading articles in the right-wing media, […]

Amid government fears of ‘mass homelessness’ is criminalising squatting appropriate?

Yesterday’s headline in the Observer announces that Eric Pickles has warned David Cameron that welfare reform will make 40,000 more families homeless. Contrary to the government’s claims that a limit on benefit payments will have little impact on homelessness and child poverty, the leaked letter confirms that the caps will disproportionately affect families and reveals fears of ‘mass homelessness’: ■ 40,000 families will be made homeless by the welfare reforms, putting further strain on services already “seeing increased pressures”. ■ An estimated £270m saving from the benefits cap will be wiped out by the need to divert resources to help […]

The Legal Aid and Sentencing Bill: what does it really mean?

The following post is from Rueben Taylor, and was originally published in a slightly different form over on the New Internationalist blog. Last week, Prime Minister David Cameron announced something or other about burglars and squatting and knife crime and legal aid and … well it was all rather confusing really wasn’t it? So what did it really mean? Buried among all the headline grabbing bogeyman hunting, what exactly has the government announced? The top legal aid story, was that support will be withdrawn from squatters. Now, anyone with any knowledge of squatting will have raised a quizzical eyebrow at […]

No round table with Camelot

The following post is by Karen Eliot, who is involved with social and housing projects in London. A recent article in the Independent, responding to the coalition governments’ intentions to criminalise squatting, proposes “vacant property protection” companies such as Camelot and Ad Hoc provide a compromise between the needs of those seeking cheap housing and the rights of the owner of an empty property. The article suggests that such agencies forge a “mutually beneficial union” between these two parties, and could therefore be a solution to the glaring mismatch between the housing shortage, and the abundance of empty properties. Given […]

Squatter hate Mail’s real agenda

The following post is by Liz Davies, chairwoman of the Haldane Society of Socialist Lawyers, writing here in a personal capacity. It was originally published in the Morning Star, and is reposted with kind permission of the author. The Daily Mail and Tory MPs are obsessed with squatting. Every two months the Mail bangs home the message that squatting is “legal” in Britain. What it actually means is that squatting is not criminal. Trespassing on someone’s property has always been a tort or civil wrong. But the Mail is right. “Trespassers will be prosecuted” – ie will face a criminal […]

Housing Trust Praised for “Doing the Dirty Work” – forcing people onto the street and destroying their homes

The following post is from Jenny Matthews, who is involved with the SQUASH campaign. Here she looks at another example of media myths and distortions about squatting.     Housing Trust Praised for “Doing the Dirty Work” tackling A406 squatting problem Here’s a nasty little piece which was brought to our attention from the Enfield Independent: a particularly flagrant example of lazy journalism and the persecution of unauthorised occupants. Astounding in its lauding of deeply inhumane acts being perpetrated against the homeless by an organisation which supposedly aims to “help peple achieve more for themselves …[and] house people in need”, […]

OUR SOCIETY IS BIGGER THAN YOURS: Squatting and the wider political rumblings

The following post, by Victoria Blitz, was originally posted on the Critical Legal Thinking blog Despite the attempts of Tory backbenchers to delegitimize squatting, and divide it from the issue of homelessness, the two remain inextricably linked: un-met housing needs, a supply of empty property, and squatting, go hand in hand in hand. But that’s about as far as the generalizations go; squatting is both a means and an end, and the ways that different individuals and groups put squatting into practice varies enormously.   The goofy arrival of Cameron’s Big Society, which provides us with a nice neighbourly back […]

On the Naughty Step: The Telegraph Gets it Wrong (again)

On the SQUASH blog we will regularly post pieces which highlight the innacuracies and distortions of media pieces about squatting. The following post is reprinted with kind permission from Nearly Legal, the housing law news and comment blog. I don’t read the Daily Telegraph. Frankly I’ve failed to see the point since it stopped featuring details of the salacious trial of the day as a regular fixture on page 3, because the rest of it was preposterous blimpish nonsense, mainly full of regret that Britain ever came off the gold standard. I was dimly aware that it had a re-design […]

Campaign in motion but government consultation imminent

It was good to meet so many of you at the Squash launch event in May. What a reassuring gathering of people opposed to the criminalisation of squatting, and chaired expertly by John McDonnell, thank you. At the event Catherine Sacks-Jones of Crisis gave a powerful insight into the realities of squatting for the hidden-homeless in England and Wales. Paul Palmer provided the facts about empty properties and the speculators who do well out of them.

Squash campaign launched

The Squash launch event took place at the Houses of Parliament on the 18th of May. Presentations were made by Crisis, the Empty Homes Agency, the Advisory Service for Squatters and Squash. We discussed the squatting population, why this legislation is being put forward, and the financial, juridical and social costs of implementation. Perhaps most alarming were anecdotes about the reality of squatting as a crucial safety net for the most vulnerable members of society. It’s striking that the government’s plans would criminalise those already facing desperate circumstances. All in all, the event proved that there is a broad range […]