Bad time to ban squatting

The Lords will soon have their final chance to reverse the government’s attempt to criminalise squatting. Clause 136 of the Legal Aid Bill will likely be debated next week.

With 720,000 empty houses and a stream of new figures on increasing homelessness, this is not the time to outlaw squatting.

Nor is it the time to be mass-demolishing houses, yet the Empty Homes Agency reports that:

“£70m of public money has been earmarked for demolishing over 5,000 homes, with little prospect of them being replaced.”

At the same time, official homelessness numbers are up 18% and have been rising steadily since at least 2010. Rough sleeping is also up by 23% since last year.

This video from the Guardian shows how desperate rough sleepers turned to London’s ‘bendy buses’ which ran all night and were free to board.

Those buses have now been phased out. Squatting might also be lost as an option for the vulnerable. Where else will be left for the homeless to shelter?