The campaign in support of squatting encompasses many organisations and opinions. Our blog aims to take a wide view on the issue and bring in opinions from across the board, though it does not necessarily represent the views of the Squash campaign.
We welcome contributions, so please get in touch if you’d like to post here. Join the debate on Twitter too.
On 22nd November 2013, squat campaigners occupied the forecourt of the Tory Constituency Office in Finchley, London, the office of right-wing politician Mike Freer MP, one of the architects behind Section 144 LASPO. Contains statements from both the occupiers and Mike Freer MP, links to Our Media and Mainstream Media sources.
Article by John McDonnell, Labour MP for Hayes and Harlington, on squatting and Britain’s housing crisis, reproduced from an article in the latest STRIKE! Magazine (Autumn 2013). McDonnell, a staunch supporter of squatting, rips apart the current housing system, the criminalisation of squatting through s144 LASPO and even his fellow Labour MPs who called for the extension of the law to commercial premises. Read more here….
The 195 free school is a week-long series (18th – 24th November 2013) of grassroots events such as presentations, discussions and skill-shares and much more. The event is free and open to all. There events range from queer politics to welding, with a special Housing Day on Thursday 21st November from 12 noon (see the programme below). SQUASH thoroughly recommend this event for anyone interested in squats and squatting, with the chance to hear from voluntary groups working on the frontline of squatting, housing and homelessness, and get the latest updates on legal rights.
SQUASH NewsRound: All Hallows Eve-Guy Fawkes 2013 Special Edition: stories in this edition include: 1) Two Years Ago and the Squatting Picnic, 2) Interview from the Park Street Occupation, 3) Ashmount School Occupation, 4) Dissident Island Radio Show, 5) Squatters Win s144 Appeals (Brighton, Wales), 6) “Weatherley is a Coward” Case Continues, 7) Non-Commercial House Remembered, and STRIKE! Now Out
This week the SQUASH Campaign caught up with two ex squatters, Tony Gosling from Bristol, and Eva from London. Here is what was produced. (SQUASH): So… first things first… what made you decide to squat? (Tony): I had to… my landlord turned weird on me & I had to get out fast… I also had no deposit (Eva): I left home when I was 16 and was housed for 4 months in emergency accommodation in a bedsit with a broken lock. Then I was housed in a house for vulnerable women. However the other women living there had mental health [...]
Housing activists have occupied a property 21 & 23 Park Street, just off Borough market which was owned by Southwark council. The building which has been derelict for ages, basically falling apart with just scaffolding to keep it up, was auctioned with a starting price of £2.3 million and sold for £2.9 million, making it the most expensive council house sold. The occupation is also a challenge to section 114 of the Legal Aid Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO) introduced last September which criminalised squatting in residential properties. Blog includes links to Our Media and Mainstream Media (MSM) articles on the occupation.
SQUASH NewsRound September – October 2013: stories in this issue include: 1) Updates from SQUASH, Made Possible and UN Special Rapporteur doing study on UK housing; 2) Illegal break-in at Mare Street, Kabele Social Centre turns 18 and JB Spray squat is lost; 3) Operation Elven and Traveller Repression; 4) Migrant Solidarity in Calais, ZAD Anniversary, and more repression of shack dwellers in South Africa
We just got send this image through along with the accompanying text from a guy who is on a mission to make this a big campaign…. Do you think you pay too much rent? Do you work hard but cannot get onto the property ladder? Do you see decent buildings in your area demolished only for ugly soulless “New Builds” to be built and sold off at unaffordable prices? Are you sick of the corperate bribery fuelling the construction and destroying our communities? Rent and house prices all over the country are increasing constantly and uncontrollably. Many people rely heavily [...]
Dear Squatters across the country, We have been fairly quiet recently but we want to assure you that we are doing all we can behind the scenes to ensure squatting in commercial properties remains an option for those who need to squat. We wanted to take this opportunity to rebuild our database of squatters who can do media. If your interested in doing media please send us over your contact details to email@example.com When you get in touch someone from SQUASH will give you a call to discuss everything with you and we promise to hold your contact details anonymously. [...]
On the 2nd September 2013, Labour politicians, Chuka Umunna, Tessa Jowell and Lib Peck wrote a letter to Secretary of State for Justice, Chris Grayling, asking that squatting in commercial premises be criminalised. SQUASH responded with an Open Letter, which was picked up by media commentators, prompting further investigation and responses from two of the politicians.
SQUASH Newsround August – September 2013 contains the following stories: Letter from Chuka Umunna, Dame Tessa Jowell and Lib Peck re: squatting; Chuka’s response; Owen Jones’ Independent article defending squatting; Vice “expose” Weatherley for being two-faced (shock!); Made Possible By Squatting Exhibition in London comes to a close; Legal Aid Protest; “Using research to expose dodgy dealing” Training
SQUASH NewsRound July – August 2013: In this edition, the following stories: Cardiff Squatters take on the Prison System, Toilets Squatted in Bath, Mare Street is Back, Update from Made Possible By Squatting, The Mass Sleep Out, Raids on Greek and German Squats, The Australian Museum of Squatting, Old Fadama “slum” to be Bulldozed.
SQUASH NewsRound June – July 2013: In this month’s edition, the following stories: 1) Rushcroft Road Evicted, 2) Eviction Alert for Grow Heathrow, 3) Brixton Anti-Gentrification Demo, 4) SQUASH at the “People’s” Assembly, 5) Stories in the MSM: Barnet Park Squat, Grayling on Commercial, Roma Eviction from Marble Arch, Property Guardians get some bad press, 6) Squat Resources: Mini-doc with Pete the Temp, Squatting Research, new homeless mag Nervemeter, Housing Crisis radio and European anti-eviction resources
A letter in today’s Guardian voices the concerns of unionists, students and MPs about possible new squatting laws. Here’s the full story. It’s been less than a year since it became a criminal offence to take shelter in abandoned residential buildings, but it appears that the government is concerned that they haven’t yet caused enough misery and distress to homeless people. It’s looking increasingly likely that new proposals to extend the criminalisation of squatting to non-residential properties may be brought forward by the end of the year. As well as the disastrous impacts that this will have on those who [...]
A major test of Section 144 occurred today in a Brighton Magistrate’s Court – with the criminalisation of squatting dealt a serious blow. Three people faced the charges of squatting in a residential property under Section 144 of LASPO, and obstruction of a police officer. They were arrested on 3rd September 2012, just two days after Section 144’s passage into law, in a high-profile eviction by police. All three were found to have no case to answer for obstruction of a police officer, whilst two were found to have no case to answer for the squatting charge. The case continues [...]
The letter reads: It is just over six months since the offence of squatting in a residential building came into force. At the time the offence was proposed, government sources claimed it was necessary as the law “does not support police acting when there are squatters in someone’s home” and that “there are no powers to throw them out”. The signatories to this letter include many of the 160 lawyers who wrote to the Guardian (26 September 2011) pointing out that, as a matter of law, those statements were wrong, as such powers did exist and had done so since [...]
Here we go again. Yet another foul, bordering-on-racist article in the Evening Standard, who quite clearly hate all squatters and it seems all Eastern Europeans – especially Romanians. Friday’s article on new figures released via an FOI request submitted to the Metropolitan Police (our first request was turned down when we were writing our report) claims that 45% of all squatters arrested in London, since the introduction of new legislation which criminalised squatting in residential properties last September, are from Romania. It is unsurprising that migrants who will not have English as a first language are being adversely affected by [...]
The Friern Barnet Library Activists have moved on to a new project in Enfield Borough in an attempt to fight austerity, homelessness and unjust squatting laws. The community activists who were previously caretakers of the Friern Barnet Library, are now residing at the Arnos Family Resource Centre (ARC). They won their court case against Enfield Council on the 11th of March 2013 at the Barnet County Court. Many of the activists arrived at court to defend the case being brought forward by Enfield Council for possession of the property. They were accompanied by several members of the Friern Barnet community [...]
Your attitude to private property is that of the land owners that belong in the “Medieval wasteland” you invoke, along with your Cabinet’s front bench…
Squatters Occupy the Ivanhoe Hotel in Bloomsbury to Protest Against the lack of Affordable Housing!
The event marked the launch of SQUASH’s 6-month report and impact analysis of section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO). It provided an opportunity to discuss what the MP’s, Lords, lawyers and academics could do to help, and highlight Mike Weatherley’s Early Day Motion (EDM) looking to extend criminalisation to commercial premises. Speaking were SQUASH, Crisis, Tuckers Solicitors and the Simon Community.
Section 144 (S144) of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill (LASPO) came into force on September 1st 2012. SQUASH, concerned about the lack of an impact analysis of the law’s effect, has decided to investigate, analyse and evaluate the direct and indirect consequences of S144.
Despite a lack of direct legislative support, property guardianship has grown sharply in the last 5 years, so that now there are at least nineteen different property guardian companies offering their services to private landlords and local authorities, with the major active players the Dutch companies Camelot and Ad Hoc. Guardian companies can set restrictive limitations on licensees, such as that they are not allowed to have children, be unemployed, become ‘intentionally’ unemployed, or in receipt of state benefit, and screen applicants for those who are “deserving” rather than in need. Property guardianship crosses boundaries between housing, employment and prison; it is a scam of epic proportion.
Squattastic is an organising network for squatters. There are groups in London and Bristol. With many facing increasing difficulty finding a stable home, and the threat of further criminalisation on the horizon, we encourage anyone who is squatting to head down to the next London meeting, this Sunday, and find out how everyone can support each other better. From the Invite: There will be Practical and Legal Resistance Workshops, films and an exhibition with a People’s Kitchen afterwards. It’s the usual 2-6 with extra social afterwards if you want to stay, Central London location to be confirmed. If anyone wants [...]
HAPPY 3RD BIRTHDAY GROW HEATHROW! What? Grow Heathrow, the squatted market garden by Heathrow Airport, will turn 3 years old this March – it’s time to celebrate! Come along for a day of feasting, music, cake competitions, swap shops, arts and crafts, seed sewing, and celebrations. Bring your friends, family and an entry for the cake competition! When? Saturday 2nd March, from 1.27pm sharp. Where? Grow Heathrow, Vineries Close, Sipson, West Drayton, UB7 0JG Check out the photos from last year’s birthday here!
In Friern Barnet, local people and Occupy activists came together to fight back against government cuts. The local library, which like thousands up and down the country faced closure in the name of austerity, was squatted for 5 months, restocked with books from donations, and reopened by the Occupiers and the community. The council has now agreed to hand back the keys to the community. Here’s an short film of this inspiring story, which goes to show that squatting can indeed be good for society. A Polite Revolution from Oonagh Cousins on Vimeo.
The NewsRound will be a fortnightly to 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). For the Period: 1st January – 5th February 2013. Contains: Early Day Motion 192, Repeal s144 LASPO Petition, Friern Barnet Library Saved Thanks to Squatting, Curtailing Freedom of Information by Criminalising Squatting, Another Arrest, Attack of the Media Whores, Greece: The Attack on Greek Squats [Villa Amalias et al], Brazil: “This fight will not be done for you, it will be done by you.” , Ireland: “Squatter told he can stay in NAMA ghost estate home”, Lambeth Super Co-op, Property Guardianship company Ad Hoc in Cardiff, Haringey Housing Public Event and Freedom Bookshop Firebombed.
At midday today, exactly five months since the occupation began, the community of Barnet took possession of the Friern Barnet Library. The local community – represented by the trustees of the library – are on the verge of agreeing a two-year lease with Barnet Council (LBB) to run the library with some funding from the council. At the ceremony, squatters and supporters of the Occupy movement, who have been keeping the building open and enabling the local community to run a book lending service and community centre in the building, will hand it over to the trustees of the newly [...]
Locksmiths in Spain have banded together to defy the country’s banks, who in the wake of the mortgage scandal are now receiving a European bailout to the tune of 40 billion euros.
Although they claim to be losing up to 10% of their business, Pamplona’s locksmiths are fed up with seeing the most vulnerable in society paying for the errors of the banks and the wider financial system.
The NewsRound will be a fortnightly to monthly post, keeping tabs on articles being posted in MainStream Media sources, as well as independent channels about squatting, the new law and possible new legislation. For the Period: 23rd November 2012 – 15th January 2013. Contains: Raids on Squat in Vauxhall, Resistance at Camden Garden Centre, Arrests in Leicester and Brighton, Spanish Locksmiths go on strike, Tory attempts to criminalise commercial, Adrian Nettleton’s Occupy and Explore exhibition, Heygate Estate planning committee meeting, and demonstration at City Hall to demand fair rents.
A guest post from a visitor to a Camden garden centre squat. Having seen their positive effect on the property, she concludes:
“Let’s have pressure for those sitting on empty properties not to be protected by the law, but to act responsibly, to occupy and put them to productive use or lose the privilege of ownership.”
Friern Barnet library was opened up by squatters and the community in September this year. The People’s Library now faces eviction, which could be as soon as six weeks from now.
The newsround is a fortnightly update, keeping tabs on articles being posted in mainstream media sources, as well as independent channels about squatting, the new law and possible new legislation. For the Period: 21st November – 15th December 2012. Contains the following stories: Madeley Meets the Squatters (ITV), Guardian article on Grow Heathrow and global squatting, Gremlins take on Keylet Properties, Property Guardians Camelot et al and their dodgy license agreements, demonstration outside Foxtons letting agents and against UCL sell off of the Carpenter Estate.
Many empty and wasted buildings have been turned into vibrant, open and useful spaces over the years – but the clamour for criminalisation of squatting in commercial properties has already begun.
Waste of Space may be one of the last opportunities for the public to experience arts at 491 – one last chance to visit this vibrant place
In his failure to look beyond the uninformed words of the association mouth-piece, Madeley replicated the mistakes which led to this damning law coming about. “The current law is sufficient to protect homeowners, but is not understood by the public, the police, nor, it seems, politicians” stated the Law Society in consultation.
We take a closer look at what Richard got wrong…
The News Round comes out every fortnight, keeping tabs on articles being posted in Main Stream Media (MSM) sources and independent channels about squatting, the new law (s.144) and possible new legislative attacks.For the Period: 1st to 20th November 2012. Contains the following stories: Mike Weatherley’s welcome to Sussex University, Al-Jazeera article on homelessness and squatting in Britain, various pieces defending the right to squat, MSM articles on squatting in commercial premises (eg Cross Keys Pub in Chelsea) and Siege of the Elephant conference.
The homelessness charity Crisis launched it’s ‘No Going Home’ campaign this week, targeting government plans to scrap housing benefits for the under 25s. There are currently 385,000 people under 25 claiming housing benefit across the UK. Many of these people work, or are looking for work, others are sick or disabled and more than half are parents bringing up children – all of them depend on housing benefit to keep a roof over their head.
The News Round comes out every fortnight, keeping tabs on articles being posted in Main Stream Media (MSM) sources and independent channels about squatting, the new law (s.144) and possible new legislative attacks.For the Period: 12 October -10 November 2012. Contains stories on the following: discussion in the MSM about extending criminalisation to commercial property, the squatted, the emerging housing crisis in B&B accommodation, rising rents and falling benefits, and the poor state of accommodation in the private rented sector, and communal living as housing solution.
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). Contains features on: squatting former bank in Clifton, Bristol, harassment at the House of Brag (LGBT squat), Gremlin Alley squat in Cardiff, blogs on new law (s.144), and the Tory attack on social housing.
The new law criminalising squatting starts to bite (First squatter jailed under new law, 27 September), and what a chilling headline that is – accepting as inevitable that this is just the first. We see a young man, an apprentice bricklayer, imprisoned for three months, and his two housemates awaiting sentence. It seems likely that he will lose his apprenticeship and be discharged from prison – homeless and with a criminal record.
Alistair Mitchell, a barrister from Foregate Chambers, recently found himself being courted by Andy Burnham from the Labour Party for their support. Outraged by the injustice of section 144, he has called upon the party to campaign for the repeal of this draconian legislation. Here is his letter: Dear Andy, I was appalled that the Labour Party failed to oppose the passing of s.144 LAPSO to criminalise homeless people who squat. Indeed, your Shadow Justice Secretary went out of his way to support the new law with a statement on your website. S.144 was passed with just 90 minutes of [...]
Squash 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). Issue No. 1: September 2012. Contains the following articles: MSM coverage of the new law (s.144 LASPO) coming into effect, Irene Gardiner and her case in Wales, arrest of Alex Haigh (first person prosecuted), reaction to first arrest, and housing blogs claiming the new law is not effective enough.
This round-up is cross-posted from the Eviction Resistance Network blog. We’ve been keeping track of squat related activity since September 1st when squatting in residential building was made illegal. Here’s a quick round up: GLASTONBURY A few days ago we reported that 5 individuals were, to our knowledge, the first to be arrested under the new law. Coincidently, it has also been revealed that proposals to make more emergency accommodation for homeless young people in Somerset have twice been turned down by planners. We understand the Squatters Legal Network are keen to support those arrested. Here’s more information from the [...]
On the 1st September the act of squatting in a residential building became a criminal offence under Section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (LASPO). This unprecedented piece of legislation was enacted to a flurry of government statements claiming ‘justice’ and ‘protection’ for “hard-working homeowners” against the “misery of squatting”. At once both mimicking and feeding vitriolic media campaigns, Justice Minister Crispin Blunt claimed that “by making this change, we can slam shut the door on squatters once and for all”. By Monday the 3rd September we saw police with battering rams in Brighton
This post is by Leigh Day & Co legal firm who are coordinating the legal challenge and was originally posted on their blog here A mother of four from Wales is taking legal action challenging the new anti-squatting legislation, coming into force today (1 September 2012), in a bid to stay in the house she has lived in for 11 years with her children. Irene Gardiner (49) has lived in her home, a cottage in Newchapel, near Llanidloes, as a squatter for 11 years. Her two younger children Hazel (15) and Sol (13) live with her and attend the local [...]
From Saturday, a massively unjust, unnecessary and unaffordable new law will come into force in England and Wales. In the middle of one of the worst housing crises this country has ever seen, up to 50,000 squatters who are currently squatting in empty properties across the UK face becoming criminals, and this because they are occupying abandoned residential properties to put a roof over their heads.
This post is cross-posted from the Guardian blog.
The Squash Campaign is collecting case studies of people impacted by the new law criminalising squatting. Many communities will be shattered by this new law. Some children will be impacted. People will be made homeless as they are forced to leave properties that will be left to rot. We are especially interested in stories of people who have been in their homes for years, in buildings that have been left empty. Are you or do you know any squatters who would be willing to share their stories with us?
The following piece has been written by Ashleigh Marsh who is currently being prosecuted under SOCPA legislation for her role is taking part at a picnic and sleep-out on the Xxth October 2011, in order to visually show the effect that the criminalisation of squatting would have on between 20-50,000 people in England and Wales, ie having to sleep rough. Ashleigh is active in her community, for example working to get a new skateboard park built for local people in Woolwich, one of most deprived areas in London. SQUASH fully support Ashleigh and her two co-defendants as they face charges, [...]
In the UK the homeless have traditionally been allowed to legally occupy long-term empty property. These rights were critical at key moments in history (such as after the WW2 when Britain experienced a housing crisis and squatting was rife). Squatters’ rights came to an end on March 27th when the government criminalised squatting in residential properties. The new law will come into effect in a matter of months…
Fight the anti-squatting bill! Assemble 1pm outside Metropolis, Stokes Croft. Saturday 14th April
This calls for an organised response. As has been recognised by SQUASH: “This has always been a right-wing attack to defend and enhance private property rights over the human right to shelter and we now have to defend ourselves”. That defence does not play itself out in the upholstered arena of sham-democratic institutions such as the House of Lords. It happens on the streets, and in empty properties up and down the country…
What a joke! All of it, the whole process. Last night the House of Lords passed a clause hidden in the legal aid bill to criminalise squatting in residential properties essentially making thousands of homeless people criminals overnight. A whole section of the very poorest and most vulnerable in society have been made criminals and again the debate took place extremely late in the day. The harsh reality is that the government keeps enough peers at Parliament late at night if they face any risk of defeat while the rest of the Lords (Labour, Crossbenchers, Bishops & others) rarely stay [...]
It’s a curious move during the worst housing crisis in modern memory, to turn homeless people who shelter in empty homes into criminals looking at a year in prison or a £5000 fine.
This from the government whose leader promised that austerity would not hurt “the vulnerable, the poorest in our society”.
This video from Squash shows the cost of criminalising squatting, both human and financial. As the video says, the Lords still have a chance to stop criminalisation on Tuesday, when Clause 145 (formerly 136) is debated again. Do get in touch with them and let them know clause 145 is no way to handle a housing crisis; please share this video widely.
SQUASH campaigners have just returned home from a three hour stint in the House of Lords public gallery. After an hour discussion on scrap metal the debate on squatting finally took place just before midnight. Considering the hour the honourable noble speeches couldn’t have gone any better. Baroness Miller who had tabled five amendments in opposition to Clause 136 – which seeks to criminalise squatting in residential properties – denounced the injustices of this ill thought-out clause, and explained why this clause needed radically rethinking. Baroness Lister and Lord Bach (both Labour) spoke forcefully on the devastating impacts that this [...]
These are the amendments we’re tabling in full, with explanations why we support them. They’re been tabled by a friendly peer and will be debated in the House of Lords next Tuesday 20 March. That will be a very important day: it could mean the criminalisation of squatting in residential buildings; it could mean a stay of execution for squatting. We’re doing everything we can to make sure it’s the latter, and we think these amendments will help…
We’re now at the most critical stage of the campaign, our very last chance to stop the criminalisation of squatting. Next Tuesday 20 March, Clause 136 of the Legal-Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders (LASPO) bill will be debated and voted on in the House of Lords. If it’s passed it would sanction a £5000 fine or up to a year in prison for those squatting in residential buildings.
Find out what you need to know to help make sure that doesn’t happen…
“Whether it is a creative community looking for studio space, or homeless individuals desperate for a bed, squatting has long been part of Britain’s housing landscape. When the massive Huntley Street squat in Bloomsbury was evicted in 1978, protests were staged across the world in solidarity.
But all that could all change after next week. The House of Lords will vote on the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill, clause 130 of which relates to the criminalisation of squatting.”
The report was featured on Channel 4′s news on Friday, and shows some positive aspects of squatting, like doing up a derelict property as shown in the video. It also questions how criminalising the homeless, at a time when their numbers are increasing, will help with a housing crisis.
As LASPO enters the House of Lords, the campaign to stop the criminalisation of squatting is entering its most critical phase.
This is a look back on LASPO’s progress through parliament, an update on where it’s at now and advice on what you can do to help make sure squatting doesn’t become a criminal act…
When the Ministry of Justice consulted about squatting, 2,126 responses came from “members of the public concerned about the impact of criminalisation” and only 25 were from “members of the public concerned about the harm squatting can cause”. The people, as ever, are kinder than their government.
The timing could not be more vicious. The chronic shortage of social housing, the cuts and the economic depression create a perfect storm of a housing crisis. Homelessness is up 15% nationally in the last year, and rough sleeping in London is up 8%. Shapps has promised funding to resolve homelessness but this money is a drop in an ocean of chaos; it will be wiped out by cuts elsewhere…
Perhaps the council can’t see that squatters are uniquely positioned to be the missing link in the equation they can’t solve. Fixing up houses is second nature to long-term squatters, and many are used to living in conditions that would be unsuitable for families. The blight of long term empty homes can be a thing of the past if people that are prepared to refurbish homes for themselves are allowed to move in and get on with it. What makes the council blind to such a common sense solution?
If the government has their way this pro-active, hands-on approach to putting life back into empty homes will very soon become a crime. Maybe they can’t add up either…
Lewisham People Before Profit has occupied 5 houses which Lewisham Council wants to sell-off.
In a bid to stop five family houses being sold off at auction today activists entered and peacefully took control of the houses earmarked for “disposal” by Lewisham Council.
Ok, ok, love for the Lords is a bit much, but could it be that our campaign of common sense and compassion is beginning to have an effect?
On Friday, the Evening Standard reported that Lib Dem peers are vowing to oppose plans to make squatting a criminal offence, by tabling an eminently sensible amendment.
This week Chris Moncrieff wrote an article in the Daily Mail, in which he whipped up fear in the usual ways, offered not a single fact and shouted: the Moldovans are coming!
Chris’ article was entitled ‘It won’t be long before an Englishman’s home is someone else’s castle’, evoking the image of east Europeans overrunning the parapets, and reinforcing the siege mentality that readers of the Daily Mail seem to lap up…
Last year the government launched a consultation on criminalising all squatting in residential buildings; 96% of the respondents argued that no change in the law was necessary.
But on 1 November, just five days after the consultation ended, the government jemmied an amendment into the legal aid bill, already halfway towards approval.
This meant that the House of Commons had no chance to scrutinise it properly, and objectors had no chance to explain the issues to their MPs…
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 [...]
Presenter George Clark finds an open window and climbs through to squat in the empty building for the night – not something you might expect to see in a Channel 4 documentary…
As the government plans to make squatting illegal in residential premises in England and Wales, former squatter Robert Elms considers the practice’s long history, and the issues it raises about the need for shelter versus the rights of property owners…
The media has been full of scare stories of people’s homes being stolen. These tales seek to deliberately misrepresent and mislead. It’s already illegal to squat in the home that someone lives in. This has absolutely nothing to do with protecting homeowners; it is about extending the protections to cover property speculators who keep houses empty simply to up their profits, and it will be open to abuse by landlords who want a fast means to evict precarious tenants…
This document addresses the following questions: Firstly, why bother at all? Why is it important that squatting isn’t criminalized? And secondly, why bother meeting the government on its own terms? Is engagement not contradictory when we’re aiming to build real alternatives to the current system?
On Saturday Squash will be representing at the NUS Student Activism 2011 conference, at Goldsmiths. Come down and say hello. We’ll be giving a talk at 2pm entitled ‘Trespass! Why criminalizing squatting could affect students…?’ Here’s why we think students should be concerned about the government’s plan’s to criminalise trespass…
“What really gets my goat is when Weatherley says “show me a squat which has been made better by the squatters” on his website or, most recently, on the BBC Politics Show. Mike said he was laying down the gauntlet to squatter groups: here is one response…”
This pernicious choreography – from summer consultation to rushed last-minute amendment – also hints at a more sinister logic. On Tuesday morning, the housing minister, Grant Shapps, tweeted the following: “St Paul’s: Right to protest NOT a right to squat. Looking at law to see if change needed to deal w/ camps like St Paul’s & Dale Farm faster.” Shapps’ casual and lazy equation of protest and collective assembly with the rich and varied history of squatting reveals, it seems to me, the ultimate target of the government’s legal revanchism…
It was a nail-biting debate on Tuesday night, and despite the fact that the vote was lost, some Members spoke extremely eloquently in opposition to the criminalisation of squatting. Reproduced below is John McDonell’s speech – you can read the full transcript from the debate here. We would like to thank those MPs who were brave enough to stand up for the vulnerable, and we hope that the Lords will pay attention to the words of those like McDonnell who clearly showed why these laws are deeply wrong. Making new laws, especially ones that can put people in prison for [...]
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.
They say ’7 days is a long time in politics’. A week ago today we found out that the government was introducing a sneaky last minute clause to the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Bill that would criminalise squatting in residential buildings. Yesterday the clause was voted through in Parliament by 283 to 13 against. The amendment to the clause brought by John Mcdonnell and Crisis was defeated by 23 to 300 against. The clause will now move to the House of Lords where it will face its first proper scrutiny. On Monday night hundreds came for a [...]
We didn’t all get arrested last night! This is what you can do today to stop clause 26 to prevent the criminalisation of the homeless. 9am – Gather outside Westminster Housing Options Service, 101 Orchardson Street NW8 for a workshop on how to register homeless by The Simon Community 12noon – Gather outside Parliament – Rally to show opposition and workshop on how to lobby your MP by Squash Campaign on the law concerning squatting as it stands, and of the impacts New Clause 26 would involve by a Housing Lawyer 3pm – Squash has booked a room in Parliament [...]
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 [...]
Student solidarity with squatters, in the face of Conservative plans to outlaw occupations…
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 [...]