500 signatures reached
To: The Mayor of London
Promote Pop-up Tenancies (licenced squatting as short-life housing)
This petition calls on the office of The Mayor of London to:
Promote licenced squatting (short-life housing) of empty commercial and publicly/privately owned property and housing stock by:
1. Establishing a London register of empty property
2. Reaching out to support existing squatters groups to co-ordinate pop-up tenancies in collaboration with local authority housing departments.
3. Encouraging participation by property owners and managers through rates and council tax breaks, and underwriting basic buildings insurance.
Why is this important?
Homelessness can be fatal. To London as a city as well as people like Kinga (who was Kinga ? - see below). Never mind cup-cake shops, London needs pop-up tenancies.
Far from a social scourge, squatting of empty commercial and publicly-owned residential property was a dynamic and beneficial element of London's housing ecology for many years. It enabled young people to live cheaply in the capital, kept premises from dereliction and drove the regeneration of much of London. In particular, it directly enabled the growth of the arts and cultural sector of which London is now supposedly so proud. It was the start of the rehabilitation - and gentrification - of Islington, Camden, Notting Hill and Brixton to name just four examples..
Recent anti-squatting legislation inspired by a few sensationalist instances citing 'rogue migrant' activity - and the emergence of opportunistic, privately owned so-called Guardianship scams (which charge high rents and offer no security or rights whatsoever) has:
destroyed an age-old counterbalance to the unassailable right of property owners to allow good property to lie empty,
completely destroyed our city's ability to support innovative communal group living on any scale,
enabled uncontrollable inflation of rented living space,
encouraged profiteering by wholly unsuitable buy-to-let landlords
driven young people out of London or onto the streets.
Short-life housing schemes were once common in London, run by local authority housing departments and Social Landlords (housing associations), these schemes brought homeless people and empty property together within a simple legal framework that recognised squatters rights for an agreed period of years in exchange for the basic maintenance of property by occupants. Many of the housing associations operated as co-ops set up by squatters themselves.
Now that Housing Associations have developed to be social landlord property owners themselves, with fully fledged legal capacity, such schemes would be easier to operate now than before. It is ironic that such a simple idea, needed now as never before, has been so lightly let go.
Squatting saved 70's London. Breathing new life into run-down areas, enabling arts business start-ups, allowing people to live together in ways other than single living, coupledom or three/four people sharing a huge rent in exchange for a shelf in a fridge.
London needs squatting back; for housing, for experimental living, for affordable lifestyles for those putting vocation above income. Without it our city is hollowing out as developers take control and young people leave. Without squatting, London would not be the vibrant place it has grown to be, but may not be for much longer. Squatting saved London. And it saved many Londoners.( It certainly saved me. I was a squatter in the 70's for 8 years.)
And it would have saved Kinga.
Kinga was a 22 year old law student we (staff of The Cockpit Theatre in Marylebone) found sleeping, blue with cold, in the carpark next door just before Christmas. She died the following day after returning to the streets for her last night hoping to be picked up by a homeless charity. Drugs and relationship breakdown were part of her story, but basically she had just fallen through all the cracks - just as any of us could. All of us who met her know the key element in her tragedy was having no roof of her own.