Archive for May, 2011

May 18, 2011

Housing Crisis News Round-up

‘The primary purpose of housing policy must be to provide secure, decent, affordable homes for the whole population. But in recent British political discourse – and public policy – a house has been seen first and foremost as an asset to be bought and sold.’ – IPPR Housing policy: a fundamental review

Shortfall of 500,000 affordable homes via The Guardian

‘Housing shortage crisis’ predicted and Thousands of London council homes left empty via BBC NEWS

Housing crisis as home loans slump to new low via The Independent

The UK housing crisis in numbers: ‘spending cuts could put 1.25 million more people on waiting lists for affordable housing’  via New Statesman

Housing statistics via Campaign For Affordable House Prices

Shhh… don’t mention the housing crisis

May 8, 2011

More on squatting

Let’s be clear, it is extremely unlikely your house will be squatted while you are away on holiday. No, squatters do not go around casing other people’s homes to steal. The whole point for the vast majority of squatters, and I think we can presume it’s the same across the world, is to make use of property that has been left to waste, temporarily bringing a long term abandoned building back to life as a home. Recycling on a grand scale.

And not all squatters are dreadlocked crusties or radical anarchists, despite media portrayals of Europe’s main cities. Squatters are basically people who have taken things into their own hands, most are simply victims of a global economic system that creates a housing crisis.

Different people squat for different reasons, generally out of necessity, often because of homelessness through poverty or natural disasters, or unnatural disasters like war zones. Many who were previously not squatters now are and will be for the foreseeable future’.

There are thousands of people squatting in New Orleans since hurricane Katrina ravaged their city, millions of internally displaced earthquake survivors squatting in Haiti, entire squatter villages in some parts of the world.

Every continent has squatters. Heard of the favelas? Dharavi? Grande Hotel Beira? The shackdwellers movement Abahlali baseMjondolo?

Wikipedia entry on ‘Squatting’

(via Squatting Film Newsreels from British Pathe

previous postA Common Housing Alternative – Squatting

May 2, 2011

Rise in squatting ‘as a barometer of the times’

Last month, the Daily Fail started something, the Independent joined in with their ‘anarchist collectives living rent-free in Georgian townhouses‘, and the Torygraph took it upon themselves to campaign for a change in the law, and Grant Shapps the Housing minister took it up. Now they are looking to make squatting a criminal offence, a crime, in England and Wales. It already is in Scotland.

The Advisory Service for Squatters replied with an open letter to the Daily Mail.

The Washington Post had a piece (last year), a tad more balanced than the Mail and Telegraph, the feature ‘Recession Revives Britain’s Squatter Movement’ sees a rise in squatting ‘as a barometer of the times’, and makes the still relevant and important point that  ‘home repossessions soared … to about 45,000 last year and could reach 75,000 this year, creating new homeless people and new empty houses’.

Under current law squatting is not a criminal offence. It is a civil matter, if a property owner wants to get squatters out they have to take it to court. Squatters have certain rights. And so they should have. Squatters are caretakers and home-makers, they make homes out of buildings that more often than not have been left to rot, needlessly, sometimes intentionally, some houses are simply bricks-n-mortar investments sitting til a profit can be made.

Why do they want to turn the homeless into criminals for helping themselves rather than making it a crime to create homelessness, empty homes and perpetuate the shortage of decent affordable housing?

Or is it more of a reaction to activists cleverly ‘reclaiming the dead investment space of the wealthy‘? Because it’s not just about homes for the homeless. There is a history of abandoned buildings like schools, libraries, swimming baths, shops, even old police stations and jobcentres being put to good use by and for local communities. What Scotland lacks thanks to it’s law criminalising squatting, we notice, is free spaces and real community centres or social centres. Free as in gratis, and free as in non-commercial.

As the cuts kick in and public services are reduced we might see more empty edifices ready to be turned into positive community spaces.