This article by Amia Srinivasan in the London Review of Books Blog this week is a timely reminder that despite the criminalisation of squatting in residential properties by the Government last year – it is still legal to squat in disused commercial properties in the UK.
See here at the excellent Advisory Service for Squatters website for the basic facts on the current legal situation.
The article which triggered this post covers the human cost of the latest anti squatting legislation and points to the ludicrousnous of a situation where despite homelessness being on the rise (especially thanks to the benefit cap and the bedrooom tax) there are an estimated 25,000 long term empty properties in London, and around 700,000 in England as a whole.
What do we need to do about this?
I think we need to build a multi-pronged and unified campaign that brings together those who are willing and able to squat empty commercial properties and up for sharing their skills with those who need decent housing now to help them squat if they need to – with charities and campaigners like Homes from Empty Homes, Shelter, and the ASS to create to momentum around the idea of transforming empty properties both residential and commercial into decent cheap housing. To continue to work with progressive housing associations and cooperatives, and with legislators to repeal the bedroom tax and the benefit cap and replace them with regional rent capping.
However the people with the real power to create pressure on those who make the decisions are those who will continue to squat commercial properties and those who identy empty homes and encourage their local authority to take control of them to increase social housing stock in their area.