The date the new anti-squatting law comes into force in English and Welsh law has been set for September 1st. The Advisory Service for Squatters (ASS) have issued a warning and a call to arms: “We are going to need to be more organised and look after each other better. We will need legal back-up available on the street, and people will need help moving quickly and storing their possessions. We need networks, linked up with others resisting evictions and attacks on housing rights.”
The Eviction Resistance Network (ER) have emerged to counter to the new law and new enforcement techniques. They have already mobilised big numbers to resist several evictions, and their phoneline is open 24/7.
As SQUASH and ASS are attempting to demystify the new law in terms of who'll be affected, and how best to protect yourself (see the links below), there have been signs that the police might be trying to evict people already in situ in long-term squats come the law change. ER have reported that sections of the new law have been posted on the doors of residential squats in East London by over-eager cops. Whether this is a pre-emptive eviction notice, or just plain intimidation, is hard to tell. New laws are not legally supposed to be applied retrospectively.
As SchNEWS has previously reported, illegal evictions have been occurring in Brighton as property owners and authorities get ahead of themselves. Similar events are reportedly happening in Bristol, where residential squats are being thrown out before the law change, along with non-residential property- such as the former building society premises that was illegally attacked by Avon and Somerset police on August 15th.
Gung-ho policing means that the legal stuff is worth getting to grips with, as you'll need the info on why your place is legal to shout at incoming police. The ambiguity of the law (e.g. residential squatting is illegal, non-residential legal) suggests that application of the law will be muddled, and cops are easily confused. Also worthwhile reading is the Code of Practice of High Court Enforcement Officers, which, amongst other stipulations, states they must act in a “professional, calm and dignified manner... with discretion and fairness” and not allow debtors to threaten violence.
Squatters rights activists are gearing up in other ways. ASS are holding a meeting on Monday 27th of August. Squattastic are also getting together around the second week of September (date TBC) to discuss and organise. Brighton locals SNOB have called for an action to take place at 2pm, October 13th at Victoria Square Gardens, Brighton.
Solidarity is the name of the game.
There's also around 420,000 empty commercial properties in the country. Make of that what you will.
HOME SWEAT HOME
The squatting law is only the start of it. This summer we've also witnessed exposes on dodgy landlords and 'beds in sheds', rapidly increasing rents, government plans to lift rules on affordable housing in new build developments - while 1.8 million families wallow on affordable housing waiting lists, housing benefit caps forcing low-income workers out their homes, Olympic gentrification of London boroughs, a 25% per cent increase in homelessness ...
This year has seen the quagmire of the housing crisis cruelly exacerbated by Tory 'screw the poor' thinking from all directions. Not surprising from ministers more concerned with the profits of their development and financier chums than kids in cramped and mouldy high rises– property firms donated a total of over £3.3 million to the Conservatives in the three years leading up to last autumn.
However the gravity of the situation has led to a boom in grassroots organising against evictions and wider housing rights issues from those within the rental sector. Active groups around the country are fighting for better housing and tenancy rights with mutual aid, addressing individual and community struggles against the backdrop of the need for radical change in the housing market. Together, they could constitute the embryo of a wider grassroots housing rights movement that the country sorely needs.
New group Housingforthe99 have the stated aim of campaigning against rip-off rents and for secure and affordable tenancies. After demonstrating against the Olympics' bogus claims that affordable housing would be one of the Games' legacies, the group also targeted the National Landlords Association- who represent over a million landlords, lobbying against regulation and advocating insecure tenancies. A Solfed action at the end of July saw dodgy letting agents Victorstone forced to reimburse three renters from Bethnal Green over £1200 that they'd tried to steal even though the deal, and the house, fell through. Local groups include Haringey Solidarity Group, Hackney Housing Group and Bristol Housing Action Movement.
Advice for squats vs. the new law:
ASS homepage: http://www.squatter.org.uk/
Eviction Resistance: http://evictionresistance.blogspot.co.uk/
For an in-depth overview of the housing crisis, see this offering by the anarcho-academics at Corporate Watch