|Bristol: Squatter Speaks Out About Eviction Resistance|
Firstly thank you very much to the large number of people from the local community who came down to show their support and resist the eviction attempt last Tuesday (28.10.08).
Since then, many interesting points have been raised online: http://www.guardian.co.uk/society/joepublic/2007/dec/05...pires http://bristol.indymedia.org/article/689144 http://bristol.indymedia.org/article/689143 http://www.thisisbristol.co.uk/news/Squatters-delay-Bri....html
I'm going to try and give few of my own thoughts on the situation. Who we are, what is the situation with this house, why do I squat, when: now. I speak for no one other than myself though I communicate and share thoughts with my fellow squatters. For the record I'm not educated beyond GCSE level other than my vocational qualifications and work with my hands.
WHO ARE WE?
We are a diverse bunch. Most people in the house are in paid work, some are not, probably in similar proportion to an average group of people in St. Paul's. We range in age from 16 to 40. We don't have kids or families with us at the moment, simply because of the pressure from the authorities. How we may be different from others is that we try and solve our problems ourselves, collectively. All of us living at Unity House had previously being living in houses that were socially owned (housing association or council) that had been abandoned then sold off to private developers. This is a trend we see increasingly.
People who trash houses, be they developers, squatters, arsonists, thieves or whatever, are not good people. Me and the people that I live with always attempt to make the space we live in as pleasant as possible, as would any decent person. To see any building derelict or destroyed is sickening to me. We are people who are struggling for collective space. We have had gigs and parties, meetings and film screenings for a range of groups. We were part of the International Days of Action for Autonomous Spaces in April and we will continue to look for and help create vibrant spaces in our communities.
WHAT IS 87 Ashley Rd?
We have been sold a lie; that private ownership and placing poor people on the housing ladder is the solution to the so called housing problem.
Places for People Group are the biggest UK housing association. They also have the highest paid chief executives in the housing sector, (Director salary: Β£258k in 2007). Housing associations were set up to fill the gap left by Thatcherâs destruction of social housing provision. Legally, they can not make profits, so they make up for this through fat bonus checks for the fat cats. That is taxpayerâs money going to fund extravagant lifestyles (see first link above).
The registered owner of 87 Ashley Road is a separate legal charity based in Preston, called Places for People Individual Support. This charity has never contacted the occupiers of 87 Ashley Rd.
This charity aims to support: Homeless families with support needs, single homeless people with support needs, women at risk from domestic violence, teenage parents, refugees, people with physical or sensory disabilities.
Noble aims indeed and which I assume come under the scrutiny of the Charity Commission particularly with regards to their tax breaks. But while they are supposed to provide housing for homeless and the elderly P4P Group in fact plan to sell some of these flats into âshared ownershipâ. They plan to turn the majority of the house into private owned apartments. It has been empty for over 3 years and squatted by a large number of otherwise homeless people since April 2008. It currently is housing 20+ collectively organized people.
At the heart of this topic is the question, why squat? For what reasons do I choose this way of life. It has its ups and definitely its downs but to me it's about autonomy. Squatting is part of a long tradition in this country and around the world. It is a struggle for the commons against private property speculation. It is for collective living and against gentrification â where the poor are pushed out of areas to make way for the rich. By occupying houses squatters are maintaining them, ensuring they do not rot when left empty for several years by property speculators who would rather wait for the area to become developed â and their assets increase in value âonly then to do it up.
The people â squatters and mortgage defaulters alike â who are being evicted up and down the country are not those who are responsible for the financial crisis that is consuming us right now. They are the fat cats, CEOs and directors that continue to profit while the many risk defaulting on their mortgage repayments or worse falling prey to repossession by the bailiffs. More locally, St Paulâs is a microcosm of this situation with renters treated as second-class citizens in their own area. Social and council housing is being sold off to private or semi-private companies â out-pricing local residents and displacing them out of the area where they have lived for years, to the margins of the city. The credit crunch (recession) is upon us, and this is the time to act. We all need to take a stand against the corporate takeover of our city and our lives.
This is not simply the battle of squatters, but all residents.
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