HACKNEY COUNCIL is to evict squatters from a huge Victorian house in Dalston and replace them with licensed squatters.
Hackney Homes, the council’s housing arm, told Loving Dalston that it was planning the removal of the low-paid workers and students so that 5 St Mark’s Rise could be sold to a private developer.
Chloe Goddard said: “Hackney Homes can confirm that plans are in the pipeline to evict the squatters and move in property guardians – low-paid workers and students who in the short term will look after the property.”
To return it to letting standard would cost too much; it was more feasible to sell it to a developer. The squatters say that during their three years in the house they have repaired much of the damage caused by council bailiffs after a previous eviction, including the breaking of every window
Local residents were invited to an open weekend in 2009 to meet the squatters and to see the organic garden they established. They say: “We are sick of being evicted so that buildings can rot… to make way for ‘regeneration’.”
When Hackney council met to discuss selling 5 St Mark’s Rise to a private developer, it agreed to hide its discussions from the public. Required to give a credible reason under public-record legislation, the council fell back on “business confidentiality”.
The house is in the centre of the St Mark’s conservation area and has been suffering the decline caused by being officially empty for many years, possibly 25.
Squatting is not a criminal offence in England and Wales. A three-month government consultation on squatting is due to close next week.
Hackney Homes declined to answer most of Loving Dalston’s questions. The “property guardians” are, however, likely to be supplied by Camelot Property Management, Ad Hoc Property Management or another of the firms that have sprung up in the wake of renewed anxiety about squatting.
These outfits offer their services as “vacant property specialists”. Camelot says: “We can provide temporary occupants and/or users for your vacant property; key workers such as nurses and teachers who protect you property through temporary occupation licenses [sic].”
Camelot refers to licences rather than tenancy agreements; the guardians may have fewer rights even than squatters.
Rueben Taylor, of Squatters’ Action for Secure Homes, said that property-guardian companies are not housing-providers but private security firms, “exploiting the housing crisis”. He added: “Councils across London are evicting people from their homes in order to hand the buildings to these profit-making firms.”
David Altheer 290911
* Anyone interested in becoming a property guardian can press this hyperlink for an assessment by The Guardian.