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 buildings back into use sooner and the housing needs of additional people would be met.”

The case had been brought against Camden Council by Yiannis Voyias, who volunteers with the Advisory Service for Squatters, as part of the struggle to publicise the number of potential homes currently lying empty across the country. The judgement will increase pressure on councils nationwide to make public the amount of long-term empty property in their jurisdiction, and challenge the government’s current attempts to criminalise squatting as a means of returning those homes to use.

Sam Little, campaigner with SQUASH (Squatters’ Action for Secure Homes) said:

“This is a massively significant judgement, which challenges the basis of the government’s attacks on squatting. We are in the middle of a housing crisis, and yet over 700,000 homes are allowed to stand empty. Criminalising those who use these empty buildings to put a roof over their heads is completely nonsensical.”

Yiannis Voyias of the A.S.S. said:

“The debate around housing and squatting is constantly clouded by a lack of facts: this ruling is a victory for transparency and accountability, which we hope will improve public understanding of this complex issue. We need an open and honest debate about the failures of our housing system, which must precede attempts to criminalise the victims of those failings.”