Last time I got a haircut, the hairdresser and I talked extensively about squatting – no, not the exercise, but the act of occupying an unused building. That’s how he got into cutting hair, he told me - by experimenting on his squat-mates – they lived in an abandoned warehouse in North London and had no jobs, so they didn’t really care how they looked anyway.
It’s estimated that there are over 600,000 empty properties in the UK, so with housing prices rising and an increase in the homeless population it isn’t all that surprising that some people choose to take up residence in these empty buildings, but it’s still a very controversial subject.
Some people see squatters as moochers; anarchists who would rather spend their money on parties than rent, but as with any other group of people you can’t just lump them all together. There are many different reasons for why people are squatting. For some, it may be a lifestyle they have chosen themselves, but a lot of people simply don’t have any other options.
Many squatters are homeless and do it because it is better than sleeping rough. Furthermore, in addition to not having a roof over their heads, many homeless people have problems with addictions or their mental health, which makes it even harder for them to get back on their feet.
While it is illegal in the UK to squat in a residential building, squatting in a non-residential building isn’t in itself a crime – but should all forms of squatting be criminalised? As a landlord, it makes
sense that you would want to protect your property and keep strangers out – no one is ever going to willingly put their house in the hands of complete strangers.
However, if all squatting is criminalized, it will greatly affect the most vulnerable people in society who are just trying to survive, as they will have nowhere else to go but the streets.
So what do you think? Do you take the side of the owners trying to protect their property, or the squatters using something that was just going to waste otherwise? Let us know in the comments below or tweet us @WhatsUpTVUK or leave a comment on our Facebook page!