Estate agency for squatters opens for business

Big Issue, August 1999 nr. 346.

*Housing By Max Daly


An estate agency for squatters has been launched as part of a summer action across the coountry to highlight the near 1 million empty homes left to rot without tenants. The squatters' Estate Agency, which opened its doors to prospective clients last week, expects to have around 30 empty flats and buildings on its list within a month. Photograps of 'available' properties will be accompanied by blurb on the state of each abode. Details include whether the electricity or gas is switched on, how long it has been empty, how many broken windows there are and how 'heavy' the owner is. The agency, run by ex-squatters, has already got six properties on its books. "We have got anything from small terraced houses to a 30-bed disused old people's home," said a spokesman for the agency based at Nottingham's Rainbow Centre. "We asses places which are empty, add them to the list an provice advice to squatters. With over 800.000 empty houses in England and so many homeless the problem amounts to nothing more than a national disgrace. This is why the agency has been set up," he said. In London, squatters rely on an informal list of around 25 potential squats posted at the Advice Service for Squatters HQ in Hackney. Alternatively, one-man band Syd the Squatbroker 'cracks' squats and prepares them for living for a fee of 120 GBP. And later this month the Empty Homes Agency (EHA) and friends of the earth will set up a squatters' agency for a day to 'highlight thescandal of empty homes in north-west England" where one in 25 lie uninhabited. Mock estate agent's signs will be put up at around 150 properties. Eachbuilding will have its photograph displayed in the windows of The Big Issue In The North's Manchester office. Ashley Horsey, EHA chief executive, said local authorities should follow the lead of Hackney, north London in allowing empty homes to be used by squatters in 20 derelicht houses on two streets. "We would like to encourage local authorities and owners who feel they have not got enough money to do anything with empty homes to look at what Hackney has done and not just let them rot," said Horsey


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