SQUASH NewsRound: Mid-October 2012

The News Round will be a fortnightly event, keeping tabs on articles being posted in MainStream Media (MSM) sources, as well as independent channels (eg IMC, SchNEWS) about squatting, the new law (s.144) and possible new legislation (eg commercial). If you spot any articles of interest, please let us know by emailing: info@squashcampaign.org.

For the Period: 12 October -10 November 2012

Commercial Buildings – coming up in the press

Squatters in building in solicitors firm repossessed by Barclays bank

Guardian’s Glenister “Squatting on commercial premises – social nuisance or social utility” (12th Oct) argues that “homes” should be protected by the criminal law (as they are an extension of the person) but using commercial buildings is ok, for political statements, homes and reclaiming the commons. Guardian seems on-side (for now).

The prestigious Caterer and Hotelkeeper is offering advice to commercial landlords to get IPO’s (which should only be served on buildings that will be put back into use immediately), considers whether hotels are “residential” and encourages them to call the police, even though it is a civil matter. Well dodgy. “Wake-up call – Anti-squatting law applies to residential properties only” (12th October)

 Meanwhile, sources tell us that Mike Weatherley is due to meet Chris Grayling, the (In)Justice Minister, soon to discuss extending the criminalisation of squatting to commercial properties; Weatherley claims that there is “no link between squatting and homelessness”, that any charity which advocated that homeless people should squat in unoccupied “dangerous properties” was “beyond contempt” and he characterised all squatters as “anarchists and anti-capitalists”. Well we know one thing for sure, we’re definitely not Tories. Mike Waetherley will be speaking to Sussex Uni students on Wednesday 14th November at 2pm about squatting; to find out more visit the Fakebook event: http://www.facebook.com/events/256083827848147/

Cross Keys Pub squat in Chelsea, London

Outside of the cross keys pub, all boarded up and unloved

The media seems to have gone “squat-crazy” over 17 squatters taking over a 300-year old pub in Chelsea (commercial premises), which the owner Mr Bourne, property developer, wanted to turn into luxury flats (hmmm…just what London needs) in spite of local opposition. The pub was once the haunt of Dylan Thomas and Bob Marley, who probably would have sided with the squatters who wish to turn it into a public space and social centre. The local “community” claim that the squatters have not been a nuisance and some even see the benefits of having the building squatted (eg lower crime in the area). The story has been covered, without too much hysteria, by:

Evil Standard “Professional squatters take over historic Chelsea pub the Cross Keys

Daily Hate “Historic 300-year-old Chelsea pub taken over by squatters who plan to serve Sunday lunch

Kensington & Chelsea Chronicle “Exclusive: Squatters move into The Cross Keys pub

BBC News “Squatters take over one of London’s oldest pubs

[Note: BBC article is probably the most vicious of all the articles; what else can we expect from paedo-protectors]

Meanwhile the FT in “Law is on our side, claim pub squatters”, no doubt trying to stir up indignation from Middle England [Please note: you need to register with FT to get access to this article].

26th-31st October

Housing Issues Are Growing

family in a west london B&BThere are increasing reports of how every-day people are getting shafted by landlords (social and private) and councils alike. Squatters are not the only ones facing the Con-Dem attack on the basic necessity of shelter; low-income families shoved into B&B’s, access to social housing now impossible, disrepair and abuse by private landlords, and so on It’s time to get out of our silos and starting talking, whether part of a resident association, a private tenant, a squatters network, whatever.

Its time people joined up into a housing movement to establish the basic right to a secure and safe home, and counter the attack that will be coming next year from the Con-Dems.

1] Guardian’s “Homeless families and the B&B crisis” covers the terrible conditions and increasing relocation of low-income families (and children) to B&B’s (an increase of 60%) especially with housing benefit caps and the attempt to cleanse London of its poorest. Good, detailed article.

2] The National Housing Federation’s “Home Truths 2012: England” report is damning, showing that rents have risen by 37% over the last 5 years and will rise by another 36% in the next six, and that 86% more working people are now reliant on housing benefit to pay rising rents. Great for landlords and the government, bad for the rest of us. Sadly David Orr, the chief exec of NHF, seems to think the answer lies in government subsidisies to the building industry (they have loads already) and Barrett Homes for all (provided by the not-so-social housing associations).

3] Ben Reeve-Lewis “New homesless rules a “profound and astonishing” shift in housing policy” shows how new policy coming into effect soon will drop people into a Catch 22 when applying for social housing; pass all the tests or end up on the street or with a sub-standard private landlord.

4] BBC’s “Third of Bristol rented homes “fail basic standards”” covers Shelter’s recent study found that 30% of rented home sin Bristol were not in a fit state of repair, with complaints against landlords doubling over the past year. Of course the council and the National Landlords Association put their hands up and claim there’s not much they can do (hmmmm… maybe make it a criminal offence, like they’ve done squatting in residential? Just a thought).

Battle of Views

Protesting imminent eviction at Saint Agnes Place squat in Kennington South London

Anti: Luke Gittos joins the anti-squatting brigade in “The wrongs of the squatters’ rights brigade” claiming that only a third of squatters were homeless (with his back-of-a-fag-packet calculations) and that the rest did it because they they had a “sense of entitlement” and were “spoilt” and “nihilistic”. Funny that, I thought that was the bankers and landlords.

Pro: Owen Hatherley’s “Communal living – forget stereotypes, it could solve the UK’s housing crisis” is a refreshing piece against the right-wing obsession with private property and looking at alternative collective living especially squatting examples from Berlin. More of this please.