Squatters: They make the most of empty space

Rent is spiralling out of control in the UK, especially in London. So it hardly comes as no shock to find more and more squatters.

Julie Hebenstreit

Usually squatters have nowhere to go, left abandoned and without help on the streets.

Some of these vulnerable people are left with decisions that the average person would never understand. Why would someone turn to prostitution or drug dealing to pay the rent when there are empty houses?

Yes, some choose to squat because of the excitement and adventure and this motive is questionable. But as long as squatters do not move into occupied buildings, they are not posing a threat to anyone. They do not mean any harm and they do not take anything away from others. What’s the problem?

Squatters are portrayed as a menace against society, but they can hardly be regarded as harmful.

A benefit to the community

Sometimes squatters can even benefit a community, as is the case close to Heathrow Airport where 17 squatters have taken over an abandoned plant nursery.

Two squatters in their 20s have started the ‘Grow Heathrow’ project and cleared the site of 30 tonnes of waste. They grow their own vegetables as well as holding various workshops for the local community. Most squatters are involved in community work or the fixing up and restoring of damaged and deserted buildings. However, these are rarely the headlines we see in the media, the positive outcomes of squatting seem to be completely unrewarded and unrecognised.

Empty houses just a waste

There are so many empty houses in the UK and properties are deliberately kept empty if landlords do not have any tenants. But perhaps they should consider not squeezing every last penny out of people and avoid empty houses going to waste.

The Coalition Government chose to condemn those who can’t afford rent and made squatting illegal in 2012 and last September the first person was jailed.

So why do squatters go through this ordeal, if they know it can be taken away immediately?

900 million worldwide

I guess some just seek the adventure, particularly young students who aren’t looking to settle down yet. On the other hand, it seems impossible to pay for accommodation in London these days, and I’m sure a lot of people feel forced into such a frugal existence.

According to the UN, over ten per cent of the world’s population are already regarded as squatters, a huge 800-900 million people worldwide.

If the local residents have  any issues with squatters, they should show sympathy and find them a proper  home. Having a roof is a human need, not a privilege.

Read the other side of the argument here.

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