With houses already unaffordable for working class people plus growing numbers of evictions and home repossessions, what options are left to us as recession bites? Some people are starting to advocate squatting as the only viable solution.
The squat at 87 Ashley Road, Bristol, is owned by Places for People (P4P), the UK’s biggest housing association. Incidentally it also boasts the highest paid chief executive in the housing sector. P4P’s director trousered £258,000 in 2007. Housing associations were set up to fill the gap left by Thatcher’s destruction of social housing provision. Legally, they cannot make profits, so they make up by handing out big fat cheques to fat cat bosses. And let’s not forget that it’s our money which is going to fund these extravagant payouts.
On November 12th 2008, P4P executed an eviction order on 87 Ashley Road, even though this building hadn’t been used by P4P for four years and was empty until May 2008 when around 20 homeless people decided to take matters into their own hands and moved in to create a better life for themselves. Up to that point P4P had refused all attempts to negotiate a mutually beneficial agreement. Thereafter the company repeatedly submitted incorrect possession claims to Bristol Magistrates courts and threatened illegal evictions. At one stage the sitting magistrate called P4P’s representation ‘a right dog’s breakfast.’
At 10am on the 12th November police and bailiffs attempted to evict the squatters. Residents awoke that morning to find the street shut off and around a dozen riot vans parked outside. The front garden was a sea of police in riot gear with angle grinders and battering rams. Residents then agreed that the best way to resist this eviction was by occupying the roof. Unable to remove the squatters, police and bailiffs set about smashing up the property to make it uninhabitable.
Those on the roof remained in good spirits and plenty of people were giving them support on the ground until a temporary halt to the action came on 27 November when a public meeting was called to discuss the matter. Unsurprisingly P4P failed to turn up. In the meantime P4P continues to do its bit to solve the housing crisis by flogging off one-bedroomed flats for £140,000 and making the area even less affordable to ordinary people!
Despite all this the residents of 87 Ashley Road are determined to stay.
To support the protest contact:
Phone:07722 786 379
For general information on squatters’ rights go to: http://www.squatter.org.uk