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Tuesday, October 04, 2011

Dealing with squatters

This morning's Independent poses an interesting dilemma for the Government, what would be the impact on homelessness of proposed new laws to outlaw squatting.

The Government is planning to introduce a new criminal offence of squatting along with steps to prosecute squatters for other offences they commit, such as criminal damage, burglary, or using electricity without permission. However, a report, published by Sheffield Hallam University on behalf of homeless charity Crisis has found that the new law will lead to an increase in some of the most vulnerable homeless people sleeping rough.

They found that most homeless squatters squat only as a last resort, after approaching and being turned away from, hostels, shelters and local authorities. The report added that homeless people who squat occupy empty, usually disused or abandoned property and there was no evidence of squatters displacing anyone from their homes.

Of course the obvious solution is to improve the availability of emergency accomodation and affordable homes. Until that happens the Government should take notice of this report and not make a bad situation worse.
The Conservatives cannot complain on the one hand about land and buildings remaining unused for a long period and then on the other attempt to block people's common-law right to do something about it. Or is it only publicly-owned property they are concerned about?
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