Resist the Criminalisation of Squatting
On 13th of July 2011, the government published a consultation paper:"Options
for dealing with Squatting". The consultation period ends on 5th October
2011 so we need to act NOW to be heard.
The proposals outlined would affect a much wider community than those who
identify as squatters;
- tenants would be at risk from unscrupulous landlords,
- worker and student occupations would be illegal, as would peace and climate camps.
- Police discretion is considered as a way of determining who is or is not a squatter
- violent and forcible eviction of squatters would be legal
- Anyone who used a squatted social centre or venue could be labelled a squatter, regardless of whether they actually lived there.
And this is the last of our ancestral rights to go.
For hundreds of years, we have had the right to live in abandoned buildings. Just as the government took away our land and rights to use common land in the past, now they are attacking our right to shelter.
In 2009 there were 725,000 empty homes – the government estimate the number of squatters in England and Wales at 20,000: squatting is not the problem, it is part of the solution.
We have a problem fighting this. The consultation paper pretends to be
speaking for the normal, respectable person although it is clear enough that
the interests being promoted are those of big developers and property
The negative images of squatters spread in the media in recent months make
it hard for us to convince people that this is not a 'squatter' consultation
but an attack on the human right to shelter that will impact most heavily on
the most vulnerable people in society. These are standard divide and rule
alpin macgregor commented
Squatting is not a solution for the homeless (who go elsewhere) but a way for people to live in someone else's property for nothing. You cannot steal someone's car without committing a crime, so why should you be allowed to streal someone's house?
Paul B commented
The government can try and make it difficult for squatters, but, in effect will created an even greater resistance and the people will end up forming even much bigger communities than before!!! Well,that is what I think!!!!!
Christian Garland commented
Keeping a roof over your head is hard enough, and is set to get even harder if squatting is criminalised. Another attempt by the Tory-led coalition to wage war on the worst off, and if possible to divide the general population into 'good' and 'bad', by making those defined as being in the latter, believe that they share the interests of the parasitical landlord class,
as well as the aspirational illusions of 'owning your own home', which also contributes to gentrification, and an each-against-all, 'I'm alright Jack' mindset.
Places that are squatted are vacant, unused, and unlived in: the 'property' of their absentee owners, who do not live in them or need them. These spaces become homes when they are used by those occupying them, meeting this very basic and universal human need. Owning property and extracting rent from people for the privilege of living somewhere is not a human need, it is exploitation, but one our society not only accepts but defends wholeheartedly.
Those defined as 'bad' are the social other to be scapegoated and blamed for problems they did not create and do not compound or perpetuate, in this case unaffordable, uncapped rents further driven up by gentrification, inadequate, terrible housing and a severe shortage of habitable dwelling space. This proposed change to the law must be resisted and defeated at all costs.
I live in a house that has been squatted for the past 12 years. In that time we have never been contacted by the owner & we obviously therefore, have not been asked us to leave. The owners are registered on the electoral roll to this address.
We are fortunate that no one is bothered by our 'occupation'. Our neighbourhood makes us very welcome & they all know that we are squatting, we are invited to the community gatherings, most recently we went to a 'Zocolo' ( a Mexican inspired get together).
We have been praised for keeping the house in good keep, in & out; prior to us the house was neglected & in general disrepair after years of being empty.
I wonder what lies ahead in the future for us folk? at some point in the near ...even though the owner hasn't ever asked us to leave or made any contact, will we be sentenced to a fine or jail? & what will become of 'adverse possession' laws?
Here is an interesting article that discusses a few of the points I have mentioned http://www.dailymail.co.uk/news/article-2033944/Judge-orders-Camden-Council-publish-list-homes.html
If any of you would like to sign& send a letter to resist the changes being made via 'Crisis' http://e-activist.com/ea-action/action?ea.client.id=47&ea.campaign.id=12500&ea.tracking.id=email
John Freestone commented
I'm not sure that there's any need to change the law, but I've read the consultation paper and it arose from concerns that so many people suffer from the actions of squatters. It acknowledges that there may be groups who need to be excluded from more stringent squatter laws, including those who are protesting, workers and student occupations, etc.. Lisa Feeney's campaign suggestion text is quite misleading in a number of areas. The bullet points above are all covered as concerns to be addressed in the consultation, not as things the government are going to do unless we stop them.
I wonder how those who support this campaign would feel if they had squatters in their buildings and had to spend thousands of pounds to bring the issue to court trying to regain use. I reject utterly the idea that if you own a building you must keep it in continual use or suffer the occupation of it (theft, basically) by people who refuse to give it up again when required. I am happy to consider a motion that more should be done to avoid unused buildings falling into disrepair, but that is a different matter. As I suggested earlier, the moral rule suggested by that argument would reasonably extend to the driving of vehicles that "rich vehicle owners leave lying about in collections". Buildings cost millions - it simply is preposterous to suggest that somebody can steal another's million-pound possession and refuse to give it back!
Furthermore, the use abandoned buildings by the homeless might actually be making their plight worse by masking the problem. Campaign directly for more housing, or put someone up in your garden shed (how many would even go as far as that, while they're happy to have some random "rich person" suffer the loss of their property?). You'd soon change your tune if you had a bunch of squatters in your house, or even living in your back garden. Quite how this suggestion has got over 2,500 votes I can't imagine, but I'm shocked to see so many comments by apparent total anarchists who are lucky enough not to have people living in their property without permission.
I'm not sure what stage the plans are at - the consultation period is over, but I don't know that any motion has been put forward yet. Why not wait and see what the gov't intend before ranting about it with an utter lack of empathy?
I find it hard to believe that they object to squatter's. They don't object to the people who own these places and completely let them go into disrepair and end up looking like an eye sore!!!!!! Most squatter's turn these empty places' into a thing of beauty and most oftern give back to the community by organising workshop's etc... It also provides a space for people who are vulnerable who wouldn't have anywhere else to go. If the government are hell bent on this then provide the people who are homeless with a home!!!!
I was homless once and they couldn't even provide a hostel so I quess I get annoyed when people look at the situation as black and white and say that squatters are stealing they can go in a hostel there's not always a space!!!!!
Squatting acts as a way of protecting vulnerable people, people with mental health problems, those experiencing addiction and those with little money from becoming homeless.
It also enables people to turn negative, unused space into positive space. I have personally been part of a number of productive pro-active squats where art exhibitions were held, free food given out, workshops on things like dance, spanish classes given to the local community.
I am a qualified complementary therapist and I have volunteered at a number of squatted social centres giving free massage, aromatherapy and reflexology treatments to members of the local community.
My experience is that squats can provide communities with community centres where people can meet, learn and exchange ideas.
The squats that are used by people solely to take drugs are a minority and in my experience you have a similar number of people (or more) doing this who are renting - so this is not a valid reason for making squatting a criminal offence.
Those people who move into houses while the owners are away are even more of a minority and in fact this is not squatting - this is already illegal. So once again, this does not provide any foundations for the criminalisation of squatting.
The misrepresentation of squatting by the media who focused on a group of teenagers who had moved into a house while its owners were away has done a lot to fuel the move towards criminalisation in my opinion, and it is very very sad, as this is not a reflection of squatting in any way.
If squatting was criminalised a lot would be lost, and I think it would have quite a profound negative effect on people involved in the movement who are often just trying to make positive change. It would also effect communities and those unable to pay rent for whatever reasons.
Finally, there is absolutely no point in criminalisation as it does not create anything positive, it only cuts people off from one option. Perhaps this is all just part of the governments efforts to cleanse London before the Olympics.....
John Freestone commented
I don't get this either, Marion, and I agree with you. In fact, it makes me angry how stupid some people are, suggesting that we criminalise leaving a house empty or allowing anyone to occupy it because it is empty. Somebody should occupy their brains, since the owners aren't using them. What next, a car not being driven can be driven by someone who needs to go somewhere? If not, the "the government is trying to take away our right to go places"? Why not go looting while you're at it - nobody's using that stock on the shop shelves overnight. Wake up.
Marion Taylor commented
I just don't get this. Accommodation is something everybody has to pay for. People can't just steal accommodation because they don't want to pay for it. Hostels for the homeless will put people up if they can't afford other accommodation.
At the end of the day, if a person buys a property and for whatever reason they do not live in it, that's their prerogative because they are the owner.
fay v d commented
dont take away peoples homes. dont criminalise people for making empty buildings into homes. instead why not criminalize people for leaving buildings that could be homes, empty.
Alain English commented
With landlords becoming short of funds and thus getting unscrupulous, with limited homes available in this inner-city more attention should be paid to the rights of homeless people who squat in abandoned buildings...
never we go a surrender!!!!born for be free!!!!
craig parr commented
Hannah Eiseman-Renyard commented
Though I have never squatted I have taken great joy from the art and events that squats have created. They harm no one and are an asset to the local community. Furthermore - SQUATTERS' RIGHTS ARE TENANTS RIGHTS, PROTESTORS' RIGHTS AND HUMAN RIGHTS.
There is a shared ownership (private/housing association) house at 18 Harborough Close , Whissendine, LE15 7EY empty since 2006 due. Partly paid for by public money. Empty due to private greed and housing association stupidity. Squat it now before it becomes an offence.
Becky Ridgewell commented
Criminalising squatting is not a viable solution in a time of economic hardship and during a huge affordable housing shortage. To allow buildings to sit empty whilst there are people without homes - now that should be criminalised.
Ben Cox commented
If someone has a broken arm, you don't give them antibiotics. The current way of doing this represents a better model than the proposed one- it is by no means perfect, but criminalising in the way proposed is simply a move out of touch with the reality of the situation.
Chris McGuire commented
If i am homeless and sufferin from the cold and other health issues that might occur from bein homeless, IF there is no help from the goverment to provide me with suitible accomadation straight away, then i dont care what the law says, I am a animal that wants to survive and will not be told i have to live rough on the streets! If there is an abandoned house, nobody else is usin it, then i will! I was told it is against the law to live in cave if i found one, and i'm not allowed to hunt for food in the wild. I am not allowed to use my natraul animal suvival instinks, i have to do as i'm told by some one livin in a nice big house. Fuck em'!!
This is daft you can't criminalise people simply for living in their homes.
In this age of economic struggle, when more and more people are loosing their homes because they cant keep up with morgage repayments the government now want to take away our right to have a warm nights sleep in an abandoned building. Where is the sense in that?