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It is immoral to stop squatting unless alternative housing is available

Tomorrow clause 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act kicks in, which will make squatting in residential buildings punishable by up to 6 months’ jail and/or fines of up to £5,000.

Given that there are now nearly 5 million households on Council (including ALMO) and Housing Association waiting lists, together with 80,000 families officially classified as homeless, and given that fewer houses are being built this year than in any year since 1923, the expulsion of squatters under the Tories’ new law can only result in a big increase in homelessness.

Some estimates of the number of squatters across the country believe that 20,000 persons could now be at risk of being displaced without anywhere else for them to go.

This is a gratuitously callous and cruel measure. The great majority of buildings used by squatters have been unoccupied for a considerable time, and against the background of almost no new housing being built and cutbacks in local authority temporary accommodation because of funding shortages, it is not only heartless but irresponsible to deny squatters a roof over their head.

It’s not as though there isn’t legal redress available for owners who wish to repossess the property – there is. And it’s not as though squatters choose it out of preference – rather it’s the only option left as the result of a broken marriage or an abusive relationship.

Demonising squatters is no less reprehensible than the current demonising of disabled persons by Atos – the former are no more capable of getting a house or flat than the latter are of getting a job in the midst of austerity.

6 Comments

  1. (Name moderated) says:

    Very rare to see an article on this site I agree with but for once Michael Meacher is talking sense. It is important to realise that hostility to squatters isn’t the sole preserve of the right. In the 1970’s the Labour government, local councils and politicians demonised squatters with exactly the same rhetoric that the right is employing now.

    In those days the problem was totally inefficient Labour councils that took six months to re-let a flat and bought up streets of houses for redevelopment schemes that never happened.

    I fear the worst for homeless people as in the seventies we were not only a massive movement but highly organised. Estimates of 20,000 squatters across England are dwarfed by the at least 50,000 in London alone at that time.

  2. Laban says:

    I echo anon above’s remark re councils being some of the worst offenders re empty property, having lived myself in an old council tenement which was left empty for a year before redevelopment.

    But … this has always been the law in Scotland. Why haven’t we heard anything up til now about the evils of the Scottish law? It’s almost as if it’s OK for Scotland to do it, but not for England.

  3. (name moderated) says:

    The other bit of far right thinking on housing is the Policy Exchange document ” Ending Expensive Social Housing” which aims to evict council tenants in expensive homes and sell them off. Watch out for this one being slipped through on the tail end of an innocuous bit of legislation.

  4. john p Ried says:

    anonymous, at least the 70’s Labour gov’t stopped the selling of council homes, It wasn’t socially acceptable to be homeless upto 1979, Didn’t a tory say in the 90’s “the homeless are the people you step on when you leave the theatre” If the current gov’t didn’t let the return of cardboard city, then this law wouldn’t be so bad, but they’re not it’s becoming O.k agian for A tory Gov’t to let people without homes end up on the streets

  5. (Name moderated) says:

    john p ried. There had been a few attempts to sell council housing in places like, I think, Birmingham. It wasn’t until 1980 that the law was changed to make it widespread across the country.

    The history of Labour since 1997 in relation to housing has been one of acceptance of the Thatcherite status quo, but they did that in virtually every sphere of life.

  6. john p reid says:

    I not the Police federation are agaisnt this law, MAybe the police federation this’ll mean more homeless poeple in cardboard boxes, Sething that happened last time the Tories were in and the police have to get rid of the homelss form Nice tory North West 1, and stick them where the public can’t see them,a nd they’ve got better things to do like catch muggers,

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