I popped up the road earlier to see how things were going at the 87 Ashley Road squat eviction resistance (hmmm, bit of a mouthful there, sorry).
To rewind a little: until yesterday, there was a squat on 87 Ashley Road, but it was evicted in the morning. Former squatters of the Places For People-owned building (and possibly others) then managed to evade security, bailiffs and police, and gained access to the roof. They have been there ever since.
According to people on the ground supporting them, they have ample wet- and warm-weather gear, food, supplies and other such useful materials up there.
The reasons for the resistance are outlined in a leaflet:
At 10.am this morning (12/11/08) police and bailiffs smashed their way into 87 Ashley Road evicting some of the occupants. Several people are on the roof, while contractors and bailiffs rip up the inside to make the house uninhabitable.
We are resisting this eviction because…
- We need somewhere to live.
- Taking your housing needs into your own hands is a positive thing, especially when social housing has such long waiting lists.
- This building has been left empty for at least 4 years, during this time both Places for People (P4P) and Bristol Churches (previous owners) have made no attempt to renovate or convert it into social housing. That’s 8 potential flats that have been left to rot. And for the past 6 months no.87 has housed more than 30 people.
- P4P have no planning permission to use or renovate this building. This morning a P4P representative said that the only active planning application they have is for April 2009, where 87 will contain a ‘site office’ for the ‘development’ of 16 other ‘shared ownership’ properties in the St. Pauls Area.
- St. Pauls UnLtd have opposed P4P’s plans because they did not provide enough social housing or affordable housing.
- Existing P4P tenants complain about the standard of service of maintenance in their existing properties.
- Everyone has a right to a home: Squatting is legal, necessary, and provides an alternative to the stranglehold of debt that underpins the current financial crisis.
- Tying people into 30+years of mortgage debt is an illusion of housing security, in the light recent repossessions.
- We are part of this community and against all privatizations, repossessions and evictions.
P4P are more concerned with money than housing those in need they are the biggest UK housing association and have the highest paid chief executives in the housing sector (Director salary: £258k in 2007). Housing associations were set up to fill the gap left by Thatcher’s destruction of social housing provision. They cannot legally make profits, but make up for this with fat bonus checks for the fat cats. That’s taxpayer’s money going to fund extravagant lifestyles
For more information and sources about P4P please check indymedia
‘Direct action is better than any waiting list’ Squatters handbook. (Or mortgage!)
I used to squat, because I was too poor (despite a full-time – but minimum wage – job) to rent privately, and locked out of the housing list. The property I squatted had long been emptied by its owner, a housing association. Despite assurances to its previous tenants that it would be repaired to an acceptable standard and that they would be permitted to return to it, it was not, and they weren’t. I and my fellow squatters were able to quietly live there for nearly six months before the housing association even realised we were there. We negotiated a situation with the housing association whereby they would not institute eviction proceedings against us, and in return we would vacate the premises (with fair notice) when they were ready to make good the building for the return of its tenants. In its life as a squat, this building helped house around twenty people, and helped seven or eight get onto the housing list, where they might secure decent long-term accommodation.
After I left, there was some kind of breakdown in relations between the squat and the housing association (I’m not sure of the details), and I believe an eviction was carried out. The building was then left to rot until the housing association was able to discharge its obligations under law, and then to sell it on the open market to a private developer. The tenants did not return. The building is now in the private sector, another piece of prime inner city real estate lost from the social housing sector.
Therein lies the rub – just because an empty property’s owner is a ‘social landlord’, it does not necessarily follow that the landlord wishes to use the property to house poorer people who want to rent. Often the landlord will look to the market, and decide that ‘shared ownership’ or open market sales would be more desirable – desirable to the landlord, not to those it is meant to be housing.
From what I understand of the situation at 87 Ashley Road, the building was not cleared of squatters so tenants from the housing list might be rented a home there, but instead to sell off. This is not about ‘places for people’, this is about profits.
The roof resisters seem like they might be there for a while. I’m sure they would welcome support on the ground, even if only for a few minutes.