Squatters take London's housing crisis into their own hands

STORY: “So this is an abandoned school. It’s closed for more than four years. Now we’ve got some work to do. We just managed to turn on the water…”

In the streets and housing estates of the south London town of Croydon lie neglected buildings like this one.

But they’re slowly being brought back to life by a group of squatters, who are taking over disused commercial premises to house the homeless.

“We have some black mould, so we’re going to have to clean it quite a lot…”

Squatting is when people deliberately enter a property without permission, and then live there.

Alex is a member of Reclaim Croydon, which says it’s providing a community-based solution to a broken housing market.

“There is no type of person who might come here. We have, we have young trans kids coming here, you know, and hiding from the rest of the world because of transphobia. We have we got refugees. We’ve got elderly people.”

Alex says Reclaim Croydon checks that buildings are vacant, and have basic necessities like water and electricity.

The group, formed in 2023, says it has refurbished around 30 empty buildings and provided homes for over 100 people.

Leaf, who is non-binary, is one of them.

They say they lived on the streets and in squats after rising rents outstripped government welfare and housing benefits.

Leaf says support from Reclaim Croydon has turned their situation around.

“I’d be dead. It did get close at times. This has literally been life saving, finding the squatting community in London. I’m disabled, I wouldn’t have survived on the streets. Simple as that.”

Like most of the squatters interviewed by Reuters, Leaf would only give one name to avoid drawing the attention of authorities.

Reclaim Croydon says many homeless people also squat to avoid the upheaval of living in different temporary accommodation.

Many slip through welfare safety nets, as vulnerable people are less likely to seek help through official channels.

Britain has long lacked enough housing, and squatting culture has existed there for hundreds of years.

In the 1970s, the movement became more political, with anarchists taking over buildings in acts of protest.

It has been illegal to squat in residential buildings such as flats or homes since 2012.

Commercial squatting, though, is not a criminal offence – provided no damage is done, and the squatters leave when ordered to by a court.

A 22% jump in private rents in England over the last five years has meant the number of those struggling to find a home has grown.

Housing campaigners have long argued that local councils themselves should utilize some of the roughly 700,000 vacant buildings in England as a cheaper, faster solution.

The British Landlords Association estimates squatting in commercial buildings is up by almost 300% since December 2021 – a problem its head blames on government policies, rather than squatters.

Britain’s biggest political parties, Conservative and Labour, have vowed to tackle the crisis by building more homes.

They did not make people available to discuss the housing crisis.

Source link

About The Author

Scroll to Top