SQUASH NewsRound: March – May 2014

The NewsRound is be a monthly post, 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. Disclaimer: All views expressed in this blog are that of the compiler and not necessarily that of SQUASH.

Stories in SQUASH NewsRound: March – May 2014

  • 1] Judge Rules in Favour of Adverse Possession Case
  • 2] Evening Standard Interview with Chris Grayling
  • 3] People’s Parliament: Housing and Homeslessness Crisis
  • 4] J. Blake’s article: “Housing crisis requires bold action”

Images: pictures from walls near Tempelhof, Berlin, used by anti-gentrification campaigners to inform people of their tenants rights, reveal some of the dodgy dealings of property speculators in Germany, and other such agitprop. Useful strategy for anyone interested….

Judge Rules in Favour of Adverse Possession Case

templehof

“Judge rules in favour of squatter” [Press Association (via Yahoo), 7th May 2014]

The case of a man, Mr Best, who was moved into, fixed up and lived in an abandoned residential building, and was able to secure “adverse possession” after 10 years in the property (after legal costs of around £100,000!). Even though the Land Registry took Mr Best to court, the judge ruled that LASPO s144 did not apply, and the case has become a “guinea pig” trial to test the new law and the application of older pre-Roman law of ”adverse possession” and the Real Property Limitation Acts 1833. All the best to Mr Best, and hopefully some interesting developments if the media circus doesn’t go into anti-squatter overdrive.

Evening Standard Interview with Chris Grayling

templehof

“The Political Interview with Chris Grayling: ‘I want pre-nups made law to stop long divorce cases in which lawyers are the only winners’” [Evening Standard, 28th March 2014]

A gushing interview from gormless Martin Bent-ham, journo from that enemy of squatting ES. The article covers Tory and Minister Grayling’s platform for election based on his “compassionate Conservatism. Tough when we need to be, but also thoughtful when we need to be.” (hmm…bollocks), which includes curtailing Human Rights law, cutting legal aid further, and privatising prisons and services. On squatting he had this to say: “The MP for Epsom and Ewell also backs criminalisation of squatting in commercial premises. A 2012 law outlaws squatting in homes. “I’m very supportive of what’s happened on residential property. I think it’s made a big difference,” he says. “I’m acutely aware of the issue of commercial property, I’m very sympathetic on that front.” Asked if that means he will press for legislation in the next Parliament should the Tories win, he confirms: “I’m broadly in favour, yes.”” Squashlings having differing opinions about what this bunch of political gobble-de-gook means, here’s two interpretations:

Squashling 1: I think it is good news because the bit where it says “next parliament” – meaning hopefully fingers crossed that is the clearest indication yet that they won’t try and bring in further criminalisation until after the next general election…

Squashling 2: The next election will allow whoever gets in carte-blanche to do whatever they want, and since Tories and Labour seem dead-set against squatting, they will probably attempt to criminalise squatting in commercial within months of getting in. It is worth getting organised now, and possibly looking at getting a coalition in that might check the worst excesses of the neo-liberal consensus (eg Labour-Green). But then don’t count on it; after all this is mainstream politics….

People’s Parliament: Housing and Homelessness

ppl

People Parliament has been running for a number of months now, and has been extended to run till the General Elections next year; held in Committee Rooms in the House of Commons, the debates focus on particular issues and use a variety of styles to stimulate debate and discussion. Some of the notable discussions have been around Housing and Homeslessness (1st April) and rights and safety for sex workers. Check out their Blog for some good articles and feedback from the debates, and their calendar for upcoming events. Worth attending if you don’t mind being frisked and photographed on your way in.

“Housing crisis requires bold action”

templehof

“Housing crisis requires bold action” [Inside Housing, 2nd April 2014] [Note: need to sign-up to access; can also be found on the People’s Parliament Blog site]

Friend of SQUASH, Joseph Blake, has written this piece in Inside Housing about squatting, the housing crisis, People’s Parliament and the Radical Housing Network. Thanks for this, and should shine some light on the housing situation for those new to the game:

Since Inside Housing require sign-in to access the article, here’s the article in full:

“Housing crisis requires bold action” by Joseph Blake

Are you a victim of high rents? If you live in London then most probably because the housing market is out of control. Everyone knows that now, and an unprecedented amount of coverage on the housing crisis means we no longer need to tell each other that we have a housing crisis on our hands in this country. The time is now to act on this. Fortunately, an opposition to the housing crisis is beginning to emerge.

Last night saw another packed out talk in the House of Commons as part of the People’s Parliament discussion series, organised by Labour MP John McDonnell, to liven up and provide political depth to the debate in the run up to the next general election. Last night’s discussion was on ‘the housing and homelessness crisis’, where it was immediately obvious that people have become bored of warning people about the housing crisis and are moving on to demanding answers.

The statistics are utterly staggering. Over 1.7 million households are currently waiting for social housing which to be honest just isn’t going to arrive. More than 2 million people find their rent or mortgage a constant struggle or are falling behind with their payments. Average rents in London are £1,417 a month, meaning people are spending a totally disproportionate amount of their income on securing a roof over their head. Even today we have heard that London house prices have risen 18% in a year. To exemplify how bad things have got, according to Anna Minton, author of Ground Control, apparently someone recently was even asked to pay rent to sleep in a fridge.

Yes, we must build more homes if the UK’s population continues to increase as expected but building more homes is not the solution. Boris Johnson and our other UK local authority leaders were accused last month by housing campaigners of ‘selling off our city to the highest bidder’ – in reference to their support of the MIPIM conference in Cannes, France.

What the problem boils down to, as spelt out by Danny Dorling in his new book All That is Solid is that no one should be able to make a profit out of housing. Housing is not like gold, or oil or anything else one might wish to invest in. Housing is a basic need for everyone to be able to have a roof over their head. Therefore, letting the market dictate are housing is not the right way to go.

In the last few months an organisation called the Radical Housing Network has emerged which is made up of groups fighting for housing justice across London who are attempting to harness all this housing anger.

At the People’s Parliament a number of solutions were put forward. For a start we need rent controls and we then need a land value tax which would require ‘property owners to pay an annual levy based on the market value of the plot of earth beneath their home.’

We should listen to the Empty Homes Campaign by doing everything that is possible to bring empty properties back into use, of which there are still around 1 million across the UK. Bringing empty properties back into use also includes repealing the criminalisation of squatting as it’s become evidently clear that squatters do more good than harm.

The bedroom tax must be repealed and we should reverse the trend of selling off all our housing stock by investing in first class council housing instead. Housing experts are now calling for such measures up and down the country.

Over the weekend, we heard that housing policy could be the issue that decides the next general election and if true all political parties must get to grips with the crisis because currently none of them are proposing anything anywhere near bold enough.

At the sharp end homelessness has risen by 62 per cent in the last 2 years in London which can be directly attributed to government policies. Because housing involves us all, it’s the issue which defines this era. We have an opportunity now because housing is rising up the political agenda.

These discussions will continue at a gathering later this month where experts such as Danny Dorling and others will be speaking.

Joseph Blake is a freelance journalist and campaigner