Author Archives: cf

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 […]

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.  

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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 […]

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

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 […]

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 […]

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, […]

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 […]