Council house sale stopped by squatting

Avonmouth Squatting Victory

On 20th April 2016 a group of campaigners squatted a council house in Avonmouth to stop it being sold.

Six dramatic weeks later the squatters left, having successfully stopped the sale.
http://www.squatbristol.co.uk/2016/06/avonmouth-squatting-victory.html

In March 2016 the then Mayor of Bristol, George Ferguson, announced 15 empty council residential properties were to be sold at auction.  Ferguson said the money raised would be invested in current council stock and 75 council homes then under construction.

The sale of council houses while homelessness in Bristol is at crisis point was controversial.  With a mayoral election on 5 May 2016 and all the other candidates opposing the sale there was also a question of democratic accountability.

On 20th April – the day of the auction – 44 Richmond Terrace in Avonmouth was squatted to try and prevent it being sold.

It was auctioned anyway and the buyer was not told the Council did not have vacant possession.

The Council now had 28 days to gain possession of the house and complete the sale.  They asked the police to evict the squatters.  The police refused as the occupiers were not living in the building and were therefore not breaking any laws.

The Council then did nothing, unable to make any decisions until after the mayoral election on 5th May.  This was won by the Labour candidate, Marvin Rees, who had pledged to review council house sales.

After the election the Council again asked the police to evict the squatters.  The police again refused.

The Council then issued a claim for possession in the County Court, with the hearing on 25th May.  At the hearing the Council was awarded full possession entitling them to evict the occupiers.  Unusually the court order specified the eviction had to happen before midnight on 1st June.

The Council attempted to evict at 5.30am on Tuesday, 31st May.  However they had completely underestimated the occupiers who had heavily barricaded the building and built a roof platform.  It would take a substantial team of qualified and properly equipped climbing bailiffs to evict the squatters.  The Council attended with about four contractors, a County Court bailiff and a council officer.

After causing minor damage to the front door and waking the whole neighbourhood up with pointless banging the Council gave up on the eviction attempt.

Meanwhile the squatters were in contact with the buyer who now wanted to withdraw from the sale.  She’d found out the property required about £30,000 of repairs that the Council do not appear to have fully disclosed.   Her solicitor had served a notice to complete the sale on the Council, expiring on 7th June (or thereabouts).  After that the sale has failed and the Council has to return her deposit and pay compensation.

On 1st June the Council’s court order timed out.  They met with the buyer and agreed to release her from the contract.  The sale had now failed.

With the house no longer being sold and a new Mayor opposed to further council house sales the occupiers handed possession back to the Council on Monday, 6th June.

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some coming events

Friday 10th June Freedom building monthly social from 6pm until 9.
(then later there’s an Oi Poloi benefit for continuing the beach trespass they did recently at T Chances, not that anyone else needs to raise money to party on the beach!)

Saturday 11th June Towpath Gathering – annual boaters fest on the canal by the Canal Gate, Victoria Park from 12

Saturday 11th June 2-4 Squatting in the Netherlands: Talk by ETC Dee at Decentre (downstairs from ASS)

Tuesday 14th June 8.30am Protest at the London Real Estate Forum 2016, Berkeley Sq W1

Saturday 18th June National Protest against the Housing and Planning Act, gather 12 at Hyde Pk Corner.

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news from Barcelona

Gràcia: A Community Fights Back

May 31, 2016

Banc_Slider

Didn’t they learn anything from the attempted eviction of Can Vies two years ago, and the popular response that ensued? Have they not yet understood that when you attack the autonomous fabric of a neighbourhood in a city like Barcelona, it will cause the underlying the social, political and economic contradictions to erupt?

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another sad loss

Jack Tafari, homeless activist has died

http://www.theguardian.com/society/2016/may/10/jack-tafari-obituary

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SQUASH REPORT: Squatting Statistics 2015

The link between rising homelessness and the criminalisation of squatting – May 2016

report

Squatters Action for Secure Homes (SQUASH) has been tracking implementation of section 144 of the Legal Aid, Sentencing and Punishment of Offenders Act (s144 LASPOA) since it came into effect in September 2012. Section 144 criminalises squatting in empty residential properties, gives the police new powers, and guilt is determined by a lay magistrate, rather than a trained judge. Since 2012, there have been at least 738 arrests, 326 prosecutions and over 60 convictions for the offence. The consequence of the new law, are now starting to be felt.

see more at http://www.squashcampaign.org/repeal-law/report-squatting-statistics-2015/

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Benefit for Advisory Service for Squatters

In The City: Mod & Ska 100%Vinyl

Friday 13th May 8pm – 1am

Night of Mod: 60’s R&B, Motown, Northern Soul, Jamaican Ska, Calypso & Rocksteady.

DJ’s: Lou Pino & DJ Lee (Resident DJ @ITC).

Benefit for Advisory Service for Squatters

£5/£3concs OTD

Upstairs at T. Chances Venue, 399 High Road, London, N17 6QN.

Nearest Tube – Seven Sisters. Buses 41, 123, 149, 243, 279, 254, 476. N41, N73, N76, N279.

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Criminalising Shoreditch?

People might think something needs to be done about Shoreditch, but on the 3rd March an Interim Possession Order was granted on the whole of the Bishopsgate Goodsyard, including Shoreditch High Street station, the football pitches, the car wash and the “boxpark” shops.

Anyone in occupation at the time that the order was served should have left the land, and anyone using the station or the football pitches, or entering the shops could have been liable for arrest if accused of, or considered by police to be trespassing. How would they tell?

There was meant to be a follow-up hearing on the 10th at which the IPO might have come to an end, and at which a full possession order might have been made, giving Network Rail the right to bring in bailiffs to remove everyone from the land. That would be interesting.

The IPO was made by Mrs Justice Asplin DBE in the High Court, having agreed that service of the claim and application be reduced to 5 hours and 45 minutes. The claim doesn’t seem to have been served on all of the land covered by the order. A Guy Thornet for Network Rail had signed a statement that there was nobody else with any right to occupy the land, ignoring the thousands of people with a licence or tenancy to be on the land. This could be considered by some to be a criminal contravention of s75 Criminal Justice and Public Order Act 1994 as well as contempt of court.

The IPO itself was obviously not served on the whole of the land claimed, but was found on a mainly unused gate round the back. It was not in the correct format, but was cobbled together by Network Rail, and did not make clear what land was covered. So, all in all it would be pretty easy to argue against arrest and/or conviction, but it is concerning that an order was made that so clearly included land that wasn’t served and whose occupiers had every right to be there.

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Coming events against the Housing Bill

13-14 February: Weekend of Action: Love Council Housing, Stop the Housing Bill.
including Saturday 13th Charlie Chaplin walk from East Street market, 12.00;
Focus E15 stall in Stratford Broadway 12-2;
Sunday 14th 12-5 Housing Co-op history walk and screening of short films about housing, including Coin Street. More info contact coophousing@mail.com

13 March: National Demo: March For Homes – Against The Housing Bill, 12.00 Lincoln’s Inn.

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Squatters Handbook callout

The 14th edition of the Squatters Handbook is being worked on!
We are looking for relevant pictures (photos, cartoons, diagrams), offers of proof-reading or lay-out, any comments on anything in the last handbook or our current leaflets to correct or improve.
We don’t promise to use anything.

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Stop the Housing Bill – 5 Jan 2016

The next debate on the bill is the first week that MPs are back, on Tuesday 5 January. So we need to hit the ground running in 2016. Join the rolling demonstration outside parliament from 12 noon, followed by a Kill the Housing Bill campaign meeting inside from 5pm (allow 30 mins to get through security).

The Kill the Housing Bill campaign also has an organising meeting on Saturday 16 January, from 11am to 1pm at the Unite offices at 128 Theobalds Road, London WC1X 8TN.

If you can’t make it to either of these events (and even if you can), you can also contact your MP and demand that they don’t let it through. You can find a template letter here.

Let’s stop this attack on homes for all!

The Housing and Planning Bill is one of the most dangerous and far-reaching pieces of legislation passed in this country in a long time, yet its true impact has been unreported in the mainstream press and is largely unknown to the general public.

If passed, the Bill will:

1) Replace the obligation to build homes for social rent with a duty to build starter homes capped at £450,000 in London and £250,000 in England;

2) Extend the Right to Buy to housing associations without the obligation to replace them, further depleting the number of hoems for social rent;

3) Compel local authorities to sell ‘high value’ housing, either transfering public housing into private hands or freeing up the land it sits on for property developers;

4) Force so-called ‘high income’ tenants with a total household income over £30,000 (£40,000 in London) to pay market rents;

5) Grant planning permission in principle for housing estates designated as such to be redeveloped as ‘brownfield land’;

6) Phase out secure tenancies and their succession to children and replace them with 2-5 year tenancies – with such tenancies also being applicable to tenants who have been ‘decanted’ for the purposes of redevelopment.

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