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Government will outlaw squatting once and for all…..

Jamie Potter is a graduate in Journalism and Politics, a member of the Labour Party and his blog can be found here.

Grant Shapps has written in the Telegraph of his government’s plans to outlaw squatting ‘once and for all’ to alleviate the ‘distress and misery’ squatters cause to people who can’t be bothered to do anything with their building until it’s occupied by somebody in need of one.

This comes not long after the Tory Westminster council announced their intention to dispose of any human empathy in their collective soul and ban food donations to the homeless. Apparently it ‘encourages them’, much like scraps of food encourages rats and other vermin I guess. It’s hardly surprising then that the government want to crack down on squatters making use of empty homes whose numbers are startling.

According to local authority data (.xls) compiled by Empty Homes, a campaign group working to convert empty buildings into habitable properties, there were over 700,000 neglected houses stood idle in 2009. Meanwhile, there are over 1.7 million families waiting for social housing and hundreds more people spending nights on the street. Does something strike you as discrepant here?

And these are just the figures for homes. There are also countless empty shops, offices and other commercial (even industrial) buildings twiddling their thumbs in towns and cities across the country. The problem is apparent to anyone with eyes and the means to get around town, with buildings falling into disrepair and horrifying the well-to-do homeowners who fear for their own image and affected property prices.

On the other hand, many squatters have seen to it that such buildings are put to a good social use, acting as green education centres, women’s refuges, places of education and creativity which otherwise wouldn’t be there (cough, big society, cough). Guy Ritchie’s abandoned Fitzrovia mansion made more of a contribution to the neighbourhood when it was briefly taken over by protesters than it has at any previous point in its unremarkable, forgotten and couldn’t-care-less state.

For so many homes to be stood idle, waiting for investors, the market or local authorities to wake from their slumber, while so many homeless and marginalised people crave a roof over their heads is a disgrace. Are we really suggesting that it’s absolutely fine for property developers and the rich to buy up houses and forget about them while people across the country cry out for their own home?

In many cases, that people are squatting is a symptom of a wider malaise of deep rooted and systemic inequality, one that Grant Shapps and his colleagues in government are only going to exacerbate as budget cuts bite. Cracking down on squatting is nothing more than a doffing of his cap to the rich and landed, a policy that once again reveals the inner spite of the government and their refusal to consider the needs of the marginalised and impoverished in society.

Bollocks to it.

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Filed under: Big Society, Conservatives, Economy, Welfare, Westminster

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