Tag Archives: squatting ban

Labour MPs Call For Extension of Squatting Ban To Protect Profits of Property Tycoons

squatAs homelessness in the capital soars, three senior Labour Party figures have launched an all out attack on homeless people by demanding new laws to protect property developers and landlords from squatters.

Head of Lambeth Council, Lib Peck, MP for Streatham and Shadow Business Secretary Chuka Umunna along with Dulwich MP Tessa Jowell have all signed a joint letter this week written to bungling Justice Secretary Chris Grayling demanding that the squatting ban be extended to commercial properties.

Showing exactly whose side they are on – and it ain’t ours – the treacherous trio claim:

“Unfortunately, the problem of squatters for commercial property owners has since worsened, and Lambeth has seen an increase in the number of squatters now specifically targeting non-residential buildings. Extending the law to protect businesses would be a welcome move.”

The letter contains examples of spurious claims about squatters damaging property, even stooping as low as claiming that an attempted suicide in one squat is a reason that this vital lifeline for homeless people should be banned.

One of these squats was Patmos Lodge, a former care home which had been home to 100 previously homeless residents until they were violently evicted on the orders of Lambeth Council.  The Council want to demolish the building and flog off the land, no doubt to property developers looking to build yet more yuppy flats.

Multi-millionaire property tycoons have long attempted to blame squatters for damage caused to buildings left abandoned as investments, or simply because they’re so fucking rich they can afford to leave a property empty. They seem to believe they have a divine right to occupy large swathes of city centres, leaving buildings to become derelict eyesores until they judge it profitable enough to bother knocking them down and turning them into luxury flats that local people could never dream of affording.

Meanwhile at least one homeless man has died as a direct result of the ban on squatting in residential properties.  Daniel Gauntlett was just 35 years old when he was found dead of hypothermia outside an empty bungalow in Aylesford at the end of February.  Reports claimed he had previously attempted to sleep inside the boarded up property but had been prevented after police were called.  The  bungalow was due to be bulldozed.

When this death was reported MPs calling for further bans on squatting didn’t even blink in the face of the desperate consequences likely for some due to these new laws.  It is better to them that someone poor dies in the gutter than the rich be mildly inconvenienced when it comes to renovating their property portfolios.

Yet this tragic death revealed the truth about the squatting ban, which is not that it was intended to stop families coming home from holiday to find squatters living in their home.  There were always more than adequate laws to prevent that.  This law was introduced to protect the investments of the rich, with callous disregard for those who find themselves without a bed for the night and may seek to take life-saving shelter in an abandoned building.

According to a letter published in The Guardian last March, not one of the 33 people arrested in the first six months of the squatting ban – 3 of whom have received prison sentences – involved squatters displacing people from their homes.  Yet this law built on lies, which many housing lawyers say should be repealed, isn’t enough for these three senior Labour figures who want yet more penalties for homeless people trying to avoid death by seeking a roof for the night.

Both Tessa Jowell and Chuka Umunna are yet more chinless public school wonders living pampered lives and are not likely to have ever experienced the stark terror of being without a home.  They are far more likely to empathise with grasping property developers complaining that their precious investment is being harmed by homeless plebs.  And so they are quite happy to team up with a vile Tory Minister like Chris Grayling in a bid to strip away what’s left of a centuries old right for the destitute and the homeless.

When it comes to fucking over the poor, whether Labour or Tory, they really are all in it together.

Visit The Squash Campaign or squat.net for the latest news on the fight to save what’s left of squatting rights, Eviction Resistance for direct ways to fight back and the Advisory Service for Squatters if you need legal and practical advice.

The letter to Grayling is at: http://lambethnews.files.wordpress.com/2013/09/fao-chris-grayling-mp.pdf

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

Homeless Man Dies of Cold Just Inches From Shelter After Squatting Ban

empty-bungalowIn a tragic story which fell largely by the wayside, a homeless man died of hypothermia earlier this year after sleeping in the doorway of an abandoned building in Aylesbury, Kent.

Daniel Gauntlett was just 35 years old when he was found dead outside the empty bungalow at the end of February.  Reports claim he had previously attempted to sleep inside the boarded up property but had been prevented after police were called.  The  bungalow was due to be bulldozed.

Some housing campaigners have laid the blame for his death directly at the feet of Mike Weatherley, the Tory MP who proposed the legislation which makes squatting in any residential property a criminal offence.  It is not just Weatherley who has blood on his hands.  Almost every Labour MP also voted for the new laws which were not only built on lies but removed an ancient and historic legal right.

Dishonest MPs claimed the new legislation was to prevent squatters taking over properties whilst people went on holiday following a string of lurid stories in the right wing press.  In truth there were already more than adequate laws to prevent this from taking place.  A letter recently published by The Guardian and signed by 40 top lawyers claims that of the 33 known arrests so far not a single one has been due to someone being displaced from their home by squatters.  At least 3 homeless people are known to have been jailed under the new laws.

Every measure of homelessness has risen since this Government weren’t elected – a situation that seems set to become far worse as rents soar, wages stagnate and housing benefits are slashed.  On top of this 660,000 people face homelessness and destitution due to the bedroom tax, whilst George Osborne wants to sell off even more council houses.

This is far from the first and nor will it be the last death as a direct result of this vile Coalition’s policies, many of which seem to be based on panicky responses to tabloid lies.  It seems that the only people gullible enough to believe everything they read in the Daily Mail are now running the country.

Not content with one death due to his legislation Mike Weatherley(@mike_weatherley) is now attempting to have squatting banned in abandoned commercial premises as well. For now this is still legal.  Visit the Advisory Service for Squatter’s website for information, advice and support or SQUASH to keep up with the campaign to get the law repealed.

Follow me on twitter @johnnyvoid

The Squatting Ban – A Law Built on Lies

On 1st September 2012 an ancient legal right will be lost to the people of the UK as the ban on squatting finally comes into law.  Treasonous MPs from all main parties overwhelming voted last year to remove the right of the homeless to occupy unused spaces without fear of arrest and prosecution.

No doubt pre-empting the upcoming homelessness crisis, the legislation banning squatting was rail-roaded through Parliament despite 90% of responses to a Government Consultation rejecting the ban.

It is vital to note that only squatting in residential premises is affected by the law and that the fight to save squatting is far from over.  The Advisory Service for Squatters notes that a building is defined as ‘residential’ if it is “designed or adapted, before the time of entry, for use as a place to live”.  Many squatters will not be affected, check the Squatters Advisory website for full details of the upcoming legal position.

Like so much legislation rushed through by this toff Government, there is likely to be chaos as the law is implemented and bewildered coppers face complex legal arguments on squat doorsteps.  Private tenants may also find themselves vulnerable as unscrupulous landlords attempt to exploit the new laws to illegally evict tenants.

But this has mattered little as the privileged public school boys and girls of all parties have conspired to destroy a vital part of the UK’s political and cultural heritage on the back of a few tabloid scare stories.

Proceeding the legislation, a string of smear stories appeared in the media deriding squatters.  Lurid tales of families returning home from holiday only to find their homes squatted appeared alongside headlines demanding that ‘something must be done’.  None of these  fabricated tales mentioned that there are numerous laws in place to address these occurrences –  which are so rare that they demand a full page story in the national press.

Any house-holder currently living in a property or intending to move into one, was fully protected by the law as it stood.  Any house-holder returning to their home to find people living there could have them removed by police as easily as if the intruders were burgling the property.  Squatters themselves are only too aware of this fact which is why abandoned and often derelict properties are frequently sought out to provide homes.

Squatters have been portrayed as middle class artists, trustafarians or  hippies at best, and benefit scum, criminals, or even worse, Eastern Europeans at worst as part of a relentless smear campaign.  It is true that squatting has contributed to the cultural heritage of this country, but squatting is not a movement rooted in counter-culture.

Squatting has been at the heart of political struggle in the UK since the Peasant’s Revolt.  Shortly after the Second World War, tens of thousands of families squatted former air bases and military camps. Even today many street homeless people shelter in abandoned buildings as protection from the elements.  Homelessness charity Crisis has stated that 39% of homeless people have squatted at some point. As from next week, these people will be liable to arrest.

As rents soar, wages stagnate, Housing Benefits are slashed and social housing provision is demolished, the homelessness crisis facing the UK is possibly unprecedented. Therefore it is of little surprise that a Government, many of whom are landlords themselves, should seek to criminalise this scant safety net for the homeless.

According the the Squash Campaign the UK currently has 750,000 empty homes, many of them owned by banks, large corporations, offshore companies and other potential donors to political parties.  These homes will stay empty whilst homelessness soars.

Should sleeping bags once again line the streets of city centres, this law may yet unravel as it becomes impossible to police.  Until then fierce and determined campaigning may yet reveal the legislation to be a paper tiger – Holland still has many large squats despite the ban introduced over two years ago.  The fight to save squatting rights is not yet over and may have only just begun.