Tag Archives: Squatting

Lambeth needs council housing

IMG_20170523_160025530_HDR

The Patmos Lodge site as it currently stands. It used to be a care home until the council closed it down. It then became a home for 100 squatters for 2 years until the council had them violently evicted them to make this rubble heap.

Lambeth council have just started advertising their consultation on the future of the Patmos Lodge site on Cancell Rd, off Vassell Road on the north edge of Myatts Field North estate (N of Brixton/Loughborough Junction and SE of Oval tube):
The site is owned by the council and was a care home that was demolished around 5 years ago (planning decision here) – it’s been a pile of rubble since then. After the council closed the care home, the building was squatted and became the home of 100 people making use of Lambeth’s abandoned property for 2 years before the council violently evicted them. It’s vital to challenge a council that considers a rubble heap preferable to homeless people housing themselves.
We know that councils love to do ‘consultations’ with communities and then make up their own results. Let’s send them a strong message that can’t be distorted – this site should be 100% council housing.
With 21,000 families on the housing waiting list and a growing housing crisis (and the 1,000 new council homes that Lambeth’s Labour council have promised) the Patmos Rd site should be used for 100% council housing, seeing as it won’t have the cost of buying the land (which accounts for a big proportion of housing costs in London).
There’s a ‘drop-in consultation event’ on Thursday 25 May 2-8pm at Myatts Field North Centre, 24 Crawshay Road, Brixton, SW9 6FZ.
You can also complete a ‘feedback form’ here:
(There’s no deadline given, but presumably it won’t be around forever…)
Let them know Lambeth needs council housing – but we need to do more than just fill out forms and speak to them, we need to organise and take action together so that they can’t ignore our demands. Stay in touch and get involved in HASL!
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Lambeth Council making more people homelesss

bettertosquat

Image is from ‘Made Possible By Squatting’

HASL has found out from homeless members who squat in empty buildings that Lambeth council have been using business rates debts to get them evicted, leaving the buildings empty once again. There have been a number of long running squats in the area where homeless people took over disused abandoned commercial buildings, and when they were finally found by the owners they came to an agreement to stay till the building was needed. The owners tended to put the business rates they would have been paying in the squatters name (sometimes literally writing ‘squatters’ on the paper work!), which the residents would not have the means to pay and therefore would build up debts.

The council business rates team has not been chasing the squatters for the debts (knowing they can’t pay!) or even the owners (as the squatters are liable for the rates). Instead they have been sending bizarre letters that seem to imply the owners need to evict the squatters for the purpose of business rates compliance. Here is one of the letters:
Re: National Non Domestic Rates – address redacted – Property reference: redacted  I write in regards to the above premises.    The Council has been recently informed that there have been squatters occupying the  premise since the 15th February 2013. If this is correct, please supply documentary evidence proving this, showing the action being taken to move them out. This can be in the form of a police report, court order or notice of eviction from an enforcement company.    I trust you find the above in order.    Yours sincerely,
 
The above letter is asking the owner to show action being taken to move them out, but yet the owner is under no obligation to do so. The phrasing of this letter has put pressure on the owners to evict squatters they were happy leaving in the building. In one case the owner told the squatters this was because they felt they could face financial charges if they didn’t evict the squatters due to these letters off the business rates department. This is disgusting behaviour off Lambeth using business rates as a weapon to get homeless people evicted.
They have tried to say they have been doing this to put the buildings back into ‘beneficial occupation’. But the stories of two of the buildings are far from this. Before evictions the two buildings HASL are aware of housed 20-30 homeless people in total, with community meals, martial arts training and film showings taking place. Now one sits empty and boarded up with holes in the floors to prevent it being re-squatted and the other has security sitting in it 24/7 to stop it being re-squatted. To whose benefit is this new ‘occupation’? Lambeth may now be getting its business rates but in total over 50 people could be homeless as a result.
This fits into Lambeth Labour’s wider attitude to homeless residents. In 2013 Chuka Umuna, Tessa Jowell and council leader Lib Peck published a letter calling for squatting to be fully criminalised. The law has not changed yet but through bullying owners with business rates the council have been trying to make squatting impossible in Lambeth. While Lambeth force homeless people out of empty buildings they are denying homeless families the stable social rents they need and are selling off truly affordable housing with the short life coops. We demand Lambeth stop this disgusting practice and let people put abandoned buildings to truly beneficial use by housing themselves in them.
The Freedom of Information request can be found here.

Solidarity with protestors challenging LASPO section 144

Protest occupation

We’ll be supporting our friends of Camden Housing Action Group who are in court next week for their protest occupation against the sell-off of council housing by Camden council. More details below. Please join and share their facebook event here.

2 protestors who occupied a residential building owned by Camden council in protest at its sell-off and the wider sell-off of council housing across London, will be at Highbury Corner Magistrates court next Tuesday 26th and Wednesday 27th August.

They are being charged under the Legal Aid, Sentencing, and Punishment of Offenders Act section 144 which makes it a criminal offence to live or intend to live in an abandoned residential building. Section 144 criminalises homeless people trying to find a home. It also criminalises protesters who are trying to take action against the housing crisis through protest occupations such as this one.

Come along for court support to show your solidarity. Join us outside the court at 9.30am, bring placards and banners. We’ll then head in for the court case at 10am.

Quality, secure, affordable social housing for all! Scrap LASPO section 144!

More info on the protest occupation here: http://camdenhousingaction.wordpress.com/2014/02/24/camden-council-houses-occupied-in-stoptheselloffs-protest/

Previous cases successfully challenging LASPO section 144 include:
https://housingactionsouthwarkandlambeth.wordpress.com/2013/10/28/occupation-against-southwark-sell-off-still-going-at-park-street/
http://rooftopresistance.squat.net/fuck-s144-some-quick-analysis-of-the-brighton-case/
http://indymedia.org.uk/en/2013/11/513573.html

Camden council houses occupied in ‘Stop the Sell Offs’ protest

Southampton Road protest occupation

Southampton Road protest occupation

Protest occupation above the party shop

Protest occupation above the party shop

section 144 LAPSO does not apply

section 144 LAPSO does not apply

 

 

Our friends across the river, Camden Housing Action Group, have occupied a council house that Camden council are trying to sell-off. Grassroots direct action for housing for all! Read their press release here and spread the word!

Monday 24th February – Press release – For immediate release

Stop the selloffs! Camden council houses occupied in protest

Photo opportunities – There will be banners on the building so people can take photographs from the street. We will try and get some photos up online soon – please contact camdenhag@gmail.com for more info.

Camden Housing Action Group is occupying council property on Southampton road to protest against its selling off to private developers.

Camden council has promised to the residents of Camden that no residential housing stock would be sold off, but non residential properties such as land and garages would be sold to fund new housing.

Without any consultation or public announcement Camden council broke its promise by offering up for auction several residential properties on Southampton road.

Camden housing action group is calling on Camden council to withdraw the properties from the sale, issue an explanation and confirm that no further sell offs will take place in the future.

Anna Gardener, a member of Camden housing action group said:

“Our occupation is a protest at the mass sell-off of desperately needed council housing in our borough, and the whole of London, which is exacerbating the housing crisis and amounts to social cleansing as low income residents are forced out of zones 1 and 2.

“Our occupation is also a challenge to section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders act which criminalises squatting in abandoned residential properties. By using the building as a protest occupation, section 144 cannot be applied. We want to show the importance of being able to still use abandoned residential buildings for community protests such as ours. Criminalising squatting will only make the housing crisis worse, undermining the right to shelter and protest.”

HASL Response to Chuka Umunna, Tessa Jowell & Lib Peck

As residents of Southwark and Lambeth, we were disappointed (if not wholly surprised) to learn that the Justice Secretary, Chris Grayling, received a jointly signed letter earlier this week from the Head of Lambeth Council, Lib Peck; MP for Streatham, Chuka Umunna; and MP for Dulwich & West Norwood, Tessa Jowell, calling for the criminalisation of squatting to be extended to commercial properties.

The further demonisation of squatting, in a climate of increasing desperation and homelessness, couldn’t come at a more unwelcome time. Many residents across Southwark and Lambeth are increasingly struggling to keep up with the rising costs of living and, in far too many cases, to keep a roof over their heads. The squatting community has traditionally been a key component in providing a lifeline to those with nowhere else to turn.

There are thousands of empty buildings across London, many of which have been deliberately left for long periods of time. It would be far more preferable for these to be put to use by people who have nowhere else to live, rather than creating an entirely new criminal class of Londoners who are guilty of nothing more than being forced into poverty. If politicians are serious about reducing levels of squatting and trying to solve the root causes of something they present as a problem, they would be demanding and implementing the construction of truly affordable social housing and regulating the amount of rent private landlords can charge instead of pushing tenants out of particular boroughs, without much in the way of support, in the hope of attracting more affluent residents.

We only need to look at developments across our two boroughs in recent times for evidence of the ongoing process which this letter was attempting to strengthen: Entire communities are being broken apart; we have seen Lambeth Council aggresively pursuing residents who have fallen into rent arrears due to the imposition of the Bedroom Tax; we have witnessed the total destruction of the community at the Heygate Estate, against the wishes of its residents (some of whom were rehoused miles away from the area); residents of Rushcroft Road, Brixton, were violently evicted from their homes so that Lambeth Council could make a quick buck on the sale of the land; and house prices and rents rise ever higher and higher.

What this letter really emphasised was the immense gulf between the people who live in Southwark and Lambeth, and those politicans who claim to represent them. It is clear that if our ‘respresentatives’ had any real understanding of the lives and struggles of the people who live in their constitutencies, and if they had any pretence of representing their wishes, the last thing on their minds would be attempting to drive yet more people from their homes.

Housing Action Southwark & Lambeth is a relatively new group made up of residents of two boroughs who are working together to combat some of the problems that residents face; many of whom have been completely abandoned by the institutions which have a duty of care over them. We live the experience of Southwark and Lambeth residents. When we meet, we listen to each other’s concerns. We attempt to offer support, both moral and legal, to those who are finding themselves on the vicious end of an austerity climate that we did nothing to cause. We share in stories of the latest way in which housing offices have lied to us, misled us and threatened us. Everyone we meet is worried about where they will live when they can no longer afford to live in their current home. We are all struggling to make the next rent payment. The criminalisation of squatting does absolutely nothing to help with any of these conditions which rather begs the question: if our elected representative are seeking legislation against their constituents’ interests, exactly whose interests are they working for?