Archive for February, 2011

February 23, 2011

A Common Housing Alternative – Squatting

I read that public housing has become a ‘tarnished state project, so stigmatised in the public’s view’. Well if you think council housing has a bad name, then consider most people’s attitude to squatting. The mere mention of it sends middle England completely potty.

Taking over abandoned empty buildings to make a home is actually quite a common, if mostly temporary, housing solution for millions of people around the world. According to Advisory Service for Squatters there are at least 20,000 squatters in England and Wales, although in Scotland it’s a criminal offence.

Even the president of Venezuela Hugo Chavez has recommended it, encouraging poor Venezuelans to occupy disused land apparently ‘prompting a wave of squats that is rattling Venezuela’s middle class.’ Chavez is definitely on to something when he claims the rich keep all the best land, often leaving it sitting unused. Cities for the rich suggests the same; poorer households are displaced by higher-income households and property investors, also known as gentrification.

Squatting 4 Dummys suggests squatting, or housing liberation as they term it, can be a force for positive change, ‘especially one rooted in its neighborhood community’.

An example in Bristol of successful resistance to eviction against infamous bailiffs Constant & Co. (For more on these ‘gypsy eviction specialists’ read this and this). And this: homeless evicted from former homeless advice centre.

In France a group have occupied a building in upmarket Paris. And recently a London group reclaimed a Grade I listed building in central London.

squatter sounds youtube channel

Advisory Service for Squatters

February 8, 2011

Empty Homes

So previously we were talking about the housing crisis. What? Yes, I know it’s been a while. Excuse the hiatus. Anyway, one thing to note is that there are in fact plenty of empty properties, in some places as many or even more unused homes as there are people in need of a home.

There are more than 70,000 properties lying empty in Scotland according to this Scotsman article. And ‘Of England’s 762,000 empty homes nearly half of them are long-term empty. That’s enough homes to house a million people.’  –

It seems more attention is now being paid to the potential of empty properties as part of the solution to the crisis in housing. The Empty Homes agency is somewhere you can report buildings you know of going to waste in your area. You post the location on the site and the relevant local council is informed. Then the council supposedly make an effort to get the empty properties back into use. Sounds good. Probably quite straight forward if the property belongs to the council, but what if it’s abandoned private property? What powers do councils have to encourage property owners not to let buildings sit empty? Well local authorities are actually required by law to seek out empty homes. There are grants and loans to help  owners make their empty property available, and ultimately councils have Empty Dwelling Management Orders and even Compulsory Purchase and Enforced Sale. Local authorities in Scotland may get new powers to increase council tax on long-term empty homes.

Today (Tues 8th Feb) the Guardian’s Housing Network Blog hosts a live Q&A on funding and the changes in council housing.

And until the 28th Feb Edinburgh council want to know your thoughts on affordable housing in the city via this (rather limited) survey. They want an idea of what levels of rent and house price would be affordable to most people. A couple of interesting ideas in the survey:  g) I would consider renting a home where some of my rent could act as a deposit, allowing me to buy it in the long run; m) I would support social landlords charging a slightly higher rent for their homes if it meant more affordable homes can be built quicker. Included in the survey is this chart, a very rough guide to some ‘affordable’ housing prices…



live Q&A 8th Feb ‘Finding alternative funding for social housing’

David Ireland Chief executive of Empty Homes on twitter