UK housing crisis worsens, Squash supports the homeless

The Squatters Action for Secure Homes (Squash) campaign today highlighted the increasingly dire housing crisis in the UK, and repeated their argument that squatting was a practical solution to this crisis that should not be criminalised.

Campaigners pointed out that while those at the top of the financial system are under increasing scrutiny following the series of recent banking scandals, the housing crisis that sparked and still underpins the financial crisis continues to be all but ignored.

Data released by receivers Templeton LPA for the first quarter of 2012 suggest a 6% rise in eviction orders on the last quarter of 2011 (extrapolated results derived from a sample of 18,000 tenants of the LSL Property Services Group). Evictions look set to continue rising, as over 100,000 private tenants in England and Wales owe at least two months rent in arrears (itself an increase of 24% on the highest figure last year, and the highest since 2008).

“Wages have been stagnant for years, and as rents continue to rise they become increasingly unaffordable” said Frances Cooper from Squash. “Yet the latest statistics show 720,000 homes are empty in England along with 279,000 empty for more than six months. We believe squatting is an entirely justified and appropriate response to the current housing crisis – it brings empty buildings back into use, while avoiding adding to housing benefit costs”. Earlier this month, David Cameron talked of removing housing benefit for most under-25s, saying “we have to ask, ‘Up to what age should we expect people to be living at home?'”.

Last year, Omar Oakes reported for This Is Local London on the death of a 44-year father following an inquest at Westminster Coroner’s Court. In returning a verdict of suicide, Dr Fiona Wilcox said: “What I find particularly tragic in this case is this act appears to be pursued by a man who was not suffering from an illness and appears to have made a considered act in response to his inability to find employment. The fact his housing benefit was about to be cut and the family would be at risk of having nowhere to live would appear to be especially poignant and tragic”.

Commenting on the stories, Frances Cooper from Squash said, “With the government cutting benefits in the context of stagnant wages, mass unemployment and spiralling rents, is it any wonder people are being driven to tragic decisions? Criminalising squatting in this context is crazy. We continue to support homeless people who can still squat in both residential and commercial buildings until the new ligislation is enacted. Squash gladly offers legal advice to anyone who needs it.