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The Freedom to be Bad (or Good?)

As Steve said in his last post, it’ll take a while to work through everything in the government’s consultation on social housing.
I want to kick off by commenting on its central themes of choice, flexibility and localism, which will be much vaunted in the face of the old ‘top-down’, ‘static’, ‘monolithic’ system.
The paper does represent a genuine transfer of powers and freedoms out of central government to social housing landlords. Is this localism though? It is a localist measure to give freedoms to councils. These freedoms will also be exercised by housing associations, many of which have tens of thousands of properties, stretching across many council areas and regions. What does this mean for localism? Councils have a democratic accountability. Housing associations don’t. Yet they will be able to decide centrally the length of a tenant’s tenure and under what circumstances they will be evicted after two years. Big powers without democratic legitimacy.
Don’t get me wrong, I’m not bashing housing associations – the best are great at consulting and involving their tenants. But that’s not the same as democratic accountability. Just because government is giving away more freedoms, doesn’t mean it’s local and it doesn’t mean it’s more democratic.
The next question is – freedom and flexibility for whom?
Councils and housing associations now have more freedom to reduce the length of tenure, decide whether to allow tenants to stay in their homes after two years, charge higher rents and place homeless people in the private rented sector. So social housing providers have loads more freedoms and choices.
Where however are the guarantees of new choices for tenants? What are the new choices that the paper provides people living in social housing? Well, there are new measures that may make it easier for existing tenants to move home within the social sector. A modest and welcome measure – but hardly a revolution.
Councils and housing associations now have a great deal of direct power over the lives of their tenant and future tenants. The question is how will they use those powers and for what? There is much freedom to be malicious and prove Shelter right that these reforms are an attack on the poor. 
For Labour councils the challenge is this: can they use these new powers for progressive ends, for greater choices and options for tenants, to help build more sustainable communities, to support tenants into employment? Do they have the freedom to be good? Do they have the freedoms to show there are alternatives to the coalition’s policies?

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An unfair future for social housing

<strong><span class="has-inline-color has-accent-color">Steve Hilditch</span></strong>
Steve Hilditch

Editor and Founder of Red Brick. Former Head of Policy for Shelter. Select Committee Advisor for Housing and Homelessness. Drafted the first London Mayor’s Housing Strategy under Ken Livingstone.

It’s too ambitious a task to analyse Grant Shapps’ social housing consultation paper in one post.  I hope people will read it and make their comments forcefully to the government.  But there are a few points I think are worth stressing.

1. Localism is a great dodge.  It allows you to slide away from all difficult questions by saying you are just enabling the landlords and it will be down to councils and housing associations to decide for themselves how much the new powers are used.  The paper has no predictions of how many of each type of new tenancy might be created in future and it avoids any substantive discussion of how ‘well off’ a tenant needs to become before they are evicted at the end of a short tenancy.  So its a postcode lottery, what happens to you and your home depends entirely on an accident of geography and chance.  Given that the stated justification for the policy is to give more opportunities to the 1.8m on waiting lists, it is astonishing that there is no estimate, however rough, of how many people might benefit from the policy over a period.  

2. The proposed change to the homelessness duty guts the legislation as we have known it for 33 years.  Local authorities will be able to discharge their duty to a homeless household by finding a private letting for the applicant, who can no longer refuse it, even though landlords will still have to offer ‘reasonable preference’ to vulnerable homeless households under their allocation policy.  The paper complains that “those owed the duty can effectively insist on being provided with temporary accommodation until offered social housing” as if being in TA is some luxurious option.  In fact, TA makes it almost impossible for people to work, frequent moves mean families do not settle and children are seriously disadvantaged.  The average stay in TA is one year outside London and 3 years in London.  No-one would suffer that if the private rented option was a reasonable one for them.  People suffer it because social housing offers the only hope of a decent and secure home at an affordable rent to enable families to rebuild their lives in a settled home.   

3. Some extraordinary claims are made – for example that the reforms will help overcrowded families.  How exactly?  There are no proposals to tackle underoccupation amongst existing tenants and zero existing large homes will be released to help the 260,000 overcrowded social tenants.  Even more astonishing is the claim that the proposals will promote ‘strong and cohesive communities’ when the opposite is the almost certain outcome of a more rapid turnover of tenants with new tenants not being able to put down roots and become net contributors to their neighbourhoods.

4. The new ‘affordable rent’ tenure, or ‘flexible tenure’ as they now seem to prefer, is aimed to provide homes for the same people who might be offered social rent now.  But it is open to the landlord to decide the rent, the length of tenancy and, within a broad framework, the terms.  The paper at least is honest when it says this is “a significant first step towards those greater freedoms for social landlords.”  How will people on waiting lists, homeless people or any other prospective tenant know what kind of tenancy they will receive, for how long and at what rent?  Chaos awaits.      

5. The paper has one traditional charlatan’s trick – if you can’t change the reality, change the way it is counted.  One reason for the growth in waiting lists since 2002 was labour’s decision that they should be open to anyone to apply.  As a result, waiting lists have become a more accurate count of not only the need for social rented housing but also the demand – and it is huge.  Social housing is a popular option with many people and they want more of it.  But in future councils will be able to dictate who qualifies to join the waiting lists, leaving it open to local political manipulation as was the case prior to 2002.  And no doubt the government will claim that waiting lists have been slashed since they came into power.

6. And my 2 favourite hobby horses.  First the claim that social housing is subsidised when everyone at CLG knows that council housing is running a surplus, including the cost of debt, which is likely to grow over the next few years.  Even calling houisng association homes subsidised because they have capital grant is questionable – they make a large surplus in the long term.   And secondly, the use of the term ‘lifetime tenancy’ as if it was a legal or technical term, is extremely irritating.  This phrase was invented by those opposed to security of tenure to try to make it sound ridiculous.  Security of tenure simply means that the tenancy is not time limited and the landlord has to have grounds for possession and to get a court order to repossess.  Simple consumer protection.

‘Local decisions: a fairer future for social housing’ can be found at http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/housing/pdf/1775577.pdf

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Social housing ‘reform’: less Localism and more Localis

<strong><span class="has-inline-color has-accent-color">Steve Hilditch</span></strong>
Steve Hilditch

Editor and Founder of Red Brick. Former Head of Policy for Shelter. Select Committee Advisor for Housing and Homelessness. Drafted the first London Mayor’s Housing Strategy under Ken Livingstone.

There is a lot in common between the policies on social housing announced today by Grant Shapps.  None of the policies appeared in the Lib Dem Manifesto.  Apart from better mobility, none appeared in the Conservative Manifesto, which promised to “respect the tenures and rents of social housing tenants”.  Apart from the HRA reform and empty homes, none made it into the coalition agreement.  The common thread is that they have all been thoroughly undemocratically arrived at and the British people were not told any of it at the Election.

The truth is that these policies have all been developed in the back channels of the Conservative Party.  One document recommended virtually all the policies now adopted by the coalition.  A Localis pamphlet written by the Leader of Hammersmith and Fulham Council, Stephen Greenhalgh, and John Moss, in 2009, called ‘Principles for Social Housing Reform’, proposed ending security of tenure, raising rents to market levels, and removing rights from homeless people.  There is only one serious departure – Greenhalgh and Moss accepted that there would have to be a commensurate increase in housing benefit payments to enable rents to rise so high – and the government hasn’t taken that one on board.

Dave Hill in his London blog traces the contact between Greenhalgh and the Tory front bench.  The more they met, and the more the front bench distanced themselves in public from the more extreme policies, the more committed they seem to have become to implementing them if they won.

There is little doubt that social housing has suffered from a great deception. 

We will have more about the new policies on Red Brick shortly, but the government’s consultation paper can be found here: http://www.communities.gov.uk/documents/housing/pdf/1775577.pdf

 The Tory back channel policies can be found here:  http://www.localis.org.uk/images/articles/Localis%20Principles%20for%20Social%20Housing%20Reform%20WEB.pdf

And Dave Hill’s history can be found here: http://www.guardian.co.uk/uk/davehillblog/2009/oct/05/stephen-greenhalgh-housing-policy-timeline

Those that like to follow the personalities in housing as well as the policies will be interested to know that Greenhalgh and Moss specially acknowledge the help of “two extremely influential couples” – Julie Cowans, co-author of Visions for Social Housing, and David Cowans, Chief Executive of Places for People; and Nick Johnson, Chief Executive of H&F Homes and Kate Davies, Chief Executive of Notting Hill Housing Trust. 

 As Stan Laurel once said, “Here’s another nice mess I got you into.”

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Council housing for life and 'fairness'

It is being reported this morning (e.g. on Today) that security of tenure for council tenants will be reduced to two and a half years. In what is a fairly typical pattern for DCLG these days, there is nothing in the way of more information or a press release on the website.
It seems that after 2 years or so all tenants will be assessed for whether they ‘need’ council housing anymore; perhaps their income has risen or their household has become smaller. If they don’t ‘need’ it, they’ll have six months to move out. Again, the government will wheel-out a ‘fairness’ argument: why should people receive a subsidised property when they have the means to afford one in the market (probably private rented market) while there are others in need on the waiting list? So far so good?
But this surely is a bit of a disaster for making work pay and providing incentives to get into work; the major problem which IDS and George Osbourne are trying to solve? The government’s basic criticism against social housing is that is underpins dependency, poverty and worklessness: people get a cheap social home for life, with no conditions and no incentive to improve their circumstances.
But surely this reform runs completely counter to this? If you are on a low-income or without a job and you get a social tenancy from next summer onwards, why on earth would you strive to get a job or increase your income? You’d know that it meant, in a couple of years’ time, you’d lose your home because of it. 
If you did get a job, most likely not a well paid one, isn’t there quite a big incentive to ‘lose’ it just before you get assessed by the tenancy police?
People’s homes are pretty important to them, especially if they’ve been on a waiting list for years to get one. The unstable and poorly paid jobs that people often get as they first move into work, may well be sacrificed so they can keep their home.
This is such an obvious counter argument that I’m sure there is a government fudge on the issue on the way.

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LHA on a Shoestring (Eddie, that is)

<strong><span class="has-inline-color has-accent-color">Steve Hilditch</span></strong>
Steve Hilditch

Editor and Founder of Red Brick. Former Head of Policy for Shelter. Select Committee Advisor for Housing and Homelessness. Drafted the first London Mayor’s Housing Strategy under Ken Livingstone.

The excellent blogger Jules Birch, of Inside Housing magazine, demonstrates the value of a good journalistic nose and a bit of statistical persistence. 

Last week, Ministers made much of the comparison between private sector rents, which they claimed the Office for National Statistics showed were down by 5% in a year, and rents where local housing allowance was being paid, up 3%.  This proved, they declared in the House and on the airwaves, that LHA was distorting the market, driving high rents and fuelling profiteering by landlords. 

Birch, aka Inspector Clouseau, smelled a rat.  And in particular that the ONS produces no such statistics.  A few calls later, and Inspector Morse forced the admission from the department that the statistics in fact came from a private property website.  And Inspector Frost then discovered that using the website’s stats as an index was dodgy in the extreme, not to be relied on as an indicator of rents in the sector as a whole let alone the LHA market, and that their analyst was in fact predicting rent rises.  And finally Inspector Taggart demonstrated that all the available evidence shows that LHA does not distort the market after all.  No case to answer.

So, was Ian Duncan Smith misleading the House – sorry, in Parliamentary language, was he ‘inadvertently’ misleading the House?  If this had been Labour Ministers it would have been all over the front pages and Paxman and Humphreys would  demanding an apology, but so far our forensic investigator, Britain’s answer to the Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, has only managed the pages of Inside Housing and not the Daily Mail.

I’m sure that erstwhile Jane Tennisons and Juliet Bravos on Labour’s front bench will pursue further enquiries in Parliament. 

http://www.insidehousing.co.uk/community/blog/mind-the-gap/6512515.blog

(illustration: an inspector’s insignia)

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A nice little earner – or not?

<strong><span class="has-inline-color has-accent-color">Steve Hilditch</span></strong>
Steve Hilditch

Editor and Founder of Red Brick. Former Head of Policy for Shelter. Select Committee Advisor for Housing and Homelessness. Drafted the first London Mayor’s Housing Strategy under Ken Livingstone.

The New Homes Bonus 

As a country we have failed to build enough new homes for more than 30 years.  The coalition’s scrapping of Labour’s system of regional housebuilding targets, which was only starting to have effect, has caused great concern.  Now a little flesh has been put on the bones of their proposed alternative – the New Homes Bonus – in a consultation paper published on 12 November. 

The core proposal is that each council will make its own decisions on the scale and nature of housing development, but they will be incentivised to encourage building through a grant that will match the council tax raised on new homes for the first six years after development.  The benefit to councils (on current figures) over 6 years would be over £8,000 for a Band D property (using the national average) and over £10,000 for a band E property.  An additional flat rate of £350 a year would be paid if a property falls within the definition of ‘affordable’ in PPG3. 

Communities and Local Government department estimates that the cost will rise to over £1 billion a year in year 6 even on current housebuilding numbers, but it is likely to be significantly more if the scheme has the desired effect and housebuilding increases.  A contribution to the cost will come through scrapping the current Housing and Planning Delivery Grant – about £250m a year for the first 4 years – but all other costs – ie £1 billion or more by year 6 – will come out of local authority Formula Grant, so there will obvious gainers and less obvious losers.  Very little is said in the paper about the losers (ie those that will lose more in Formula Grant than they will gain in NHB) and how much impact the overall reduction in Formula Grant will have. 

Despite the wealth of methodology in the paper, the government has no real idea how many extra homes NHB will generate and how much impact an incentive of say £8k a home over 6 years will have.  Is that enough to overcome nimbyism and genuine local concerns?  An estimate is made that by 2016-17 there might be an uplift of 8-13% from the base, but this is not convincing. 

There is no guarantee that the grant will be used to help communities affected adversely by development or to support infrastructure.  It can be spent in any way the beneficiary council chooses – and the document identifies only non-housing uses like council tax discounts, rubbish collection, and providing local facilities like swimming pools.  Most likely in the current climate, it will be used to offset the general cut in Formula Grant that is taking place anyway as part of the CSR.

Will the scheme encourage affordable homes?  The £350 enhancement for affordable homes appears plucked out of thin air.  Who knows if this is a real incentive or not?  Using the PPG3 definition of ‘affordable’ means that everything that is sub-market will be included, and there is no specific incentive to encourage homes for those most in need. 

The scheme does not distinguish between different areas in terms of the need to build.  The benefit will come to those with the greatest capacity to build on easy sites.  Councils with little developable land or no need to build will be concerned about the overall impact this might have on the finances. 

An interesting oddity is the intention that acquisitions that increase the availability of affordable homes would receive the £350 enhancement but not the core NHB.  It is also suggested that the scheme might cover the bringing back into use of empty homes. 

I would strongly urge everyone to read the consultation paper and to get comments in.  We’d be delighted to report your views here on Red Brick. 

Click to access 1767788.pdf

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Simply complex

<strong><span class="has-inline-color has-accent-color">Steve Hilditch</span></strong>
Steve Hilditch

Editor and Founder of Red Brick. Former Head of Policy for Shelter. Select Committee Advisor for Housing and Homelessness. Drafted the first London Mayor’s Housing Strategy under Ken Livingstone.

Hands up if you understand the welfare reforms unveiled yesterday by Iain Duncan Smith.  How can a simplified system be so complex to understand? 

Fortunately the public seem to have a grip and polls show a healthy majority agree with the government’s position.  IDS seems to have pulled off a magic trick.  He will simplify the system into a single Universal Credit by 2013, he has promised to improve substantially the marginal rate (how much people keep from extra earnings taking account of benefit withdrawal), he has promised there will be no cash losers, and he has got the public onside. 

I have little doubt that the golden scenario will begin to unravel with a little more analysis.  Labour’s shadow work and pensions secretary, Douglas Alexander, pointed out that the ‘no cash loss’ promise did not appear to apply to new claimants, and of course turnover is high.  The Child Poverty Action Group were most concerned about the removal of hardship payments drawing attention to the main difficulty in withdrawing benefits from people who refuse to take jobs – making children suffer for the sins of their parents (Mr Duncan Smith likes to use the word sin). 

The simplicity aim has wide support amongst advisers, including the CAB.  The government claims that Universal Credit “will support people both in and out of work, replacing Working Tax Credit, Child Tax Credit, Housing Benefit, Income Support, income-based Jobseeker’s Allowance and income-related Employment and Support Allowance”.  As always, the devil will be in the detail.  UC will be a basic allowance with “additional elements for children, disability, housing and caring”.  Experience tells me that none of the add-ons will be simple to understand or to calculate.  The devil will also be in implementation.  A welfare system that is widely regarded in the media as soft and open to abuse is simultaneously experienced by users as inflexible, harsh and punitive. 

With 5 jobseekers chasing each job, how DWP implements the system will be hugely important.  There will be much stronger ‘conditionality’ – the new word for punishment – but “conditionality will be responsive to an individual’s circumstances.”  As the housing benefit system has been bedevilled by the complexity of handling changes in circumstance, how can the new system become more responsive?  The answer unfortunately relies on IT.  UC “will be calculated and delivered electronically, automatically adjusting credit payments according to monthly income reported through an upgraded version of the ….. tax system”.  I believe this is the same system that has delivered millions of incorrect tax calculations and hundreds of thousands of incorrect tax credits.  The test will be how DWP responds to many thousands of calls challenging their calculations and the many real errors that will be made.  

The proposal has ambitions that many will agree with – simplicity, the integration of out-of-work and in-work support – but also many dangers and risks for the poorest people in society.  And I have a particular fear about administrative chaos.  We may not be able to start evaluating those risks properly until the Welfare Reform Bill is published in January. 

Quotations from the White Paper, which can be found here:

http://www.dwp.gov.uk/policy/welfare-reform/legislation-and-key-documents/universal-credit/

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Indecently decent

A guest post from Maureen C
Like Red Brick I’m pleased to see so much news coverage of housing and benefit issues as this new government appears to announce new, ill thought out policies, most of which they have no mandate from the electorate for, on a daily basis.  Even when the press get things wrong, as they have on some aspects of the HB reforms, it is nevertheless good to get the issues out there.
Grant Snapps made some statements yesterday on proposals to alter funding arrangements for Decent Homes which do not seem to have attracted attention yet. These represent more bad news for the many tenants who still live in homes that do not meet the decent homes standard. Interestingly the background papers on this state ‘46% of council owned non-decent homes will lie in London at end March 2011.’
 
The decent homes standard is fairly basic – it includes having modern kitchens, bathrooms and electrical systems. But the previous government’s arrangements have quietly transformed standards in social housing all over the country. Millions of council properties in particular have been brought up to a decent standard after decades of under investment.
Some councils have done this by transferring their stock to housing associations. But where council tenants, understandably in many cases, voted against wholesale transfers , councils could get access to funding (largely loans) if the arms length management companies (ALMOs) they formed to run the housing got 2 stars in an Audit Commission inspection. The rationale was to incentivise councils to provide better quality, VFM services for their residents and ensure services were built around residents’ needs and preferences. As anyone who lives and works in this area knows -better housing, opportunities and stronger communities need much more than bricks and mortar. But decades of tenants’ pressure to improve services and design fell on deaf ears. No teeth and no real market to power better services.
Inspections assessed this independently and were widely credited with driving up services and standards. The reality is that housing organisations had to up their game and provide better, more customer orientated, VFM services to get 2 stars. These efforts produced good results for tenants that sadly previous decades of tenant and political pressure had failed to deliver. Over 20 ALMOs got top scores of 3 stars for excellent service and 40 have 2 stars – making them the best performing in the sector.
Now Grant Snapps has slashed the funding for future programmes to meet decency standards – down from £680 million to £260 million in 2011/12.
And the pressure is off landlords to improve their services as they no longer need to get 2 stars to access what little funding remains.  Under the banner of reducing the ‘hoops to go through’ funding will be decided upon by the regulator (what’s left of the regulator anyway). The proposals, published by HCA, state ‘We will work with the regulator to achieve appropriate assurance on value for money in the use of funding.’
So much for transparency and accountability.
They had a system that produced better services for tenants and decent homes. It wasn’t perfect but it did produce some of the best outcomes for tenants in social housing we’ve seen for decades. Now we can have no assurance that the reduced funding will fuel better services and choices for tenants who deserve much better than this.  Will this get picked up by the national media?

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HB: more heat than light

<strong><span class="has-inline-color has-accent-color">Steve Hilditch</span></strong>
Steve Hilditch

Editor and Founder of Red Brick. Former Head of Policy for Shelter. Select Committee Advisor for Housing and Homelessness. Drafted the first London Mayor’s Housing Strategy under Ken Livingstone.

Yesterday’s marathon Commons debate on the proposed housing benefit changes produced more heat than light.  There were a lot of apparently conflicting statistics, especially about the number of people affected and the number of people likely to have to move home as a result.


The main government theme – sorry, but I can no longer distinguish between Tory and Liberal members of the government, I had thought the Minister, Steve Webb, was a Liberal Democrat until I heard his speech – was to attack Labour’s ‘scaremongering’.  But as the government has yet to publish any meaningful analysis of the proposals, or to demonstrate how the savings are calculated, the opposition has to rely on its own analysis and that of the housing organisations like the National Housing Federation and Shelter, and all have predicted dire outcomes.


There was an interesting debate about the impact the Local Housing Allowance has had on rent levels in the private rented sector.  In short, Labour argued that rent levels, especially in higher rent areas, have been dragged up by buoyant and growing demand from non-HB tenants, especially the growing group of people who would have become owner occupiers in previous times who now can’t or won’t take a risk on buying.  Therefore LHA, being linked to the median rent, follows the market rather than leads it.  Labour in office had decided to remove the highest rents from the calculation of the median to reduce the impact the top of the market was having on the measure that determined the going LHA rate.
The government benches took two slightly different views; on the backbenches several claimed that the LHA level was determining the rent levels, driving the market up, but the Minister relied on the more limited construction that, as the LHA supported 40% of rent payers in the sector, it must therefore have some effect on the price. 

This seems to me to be a proper debate about a fundamental issue.  How does state intervention impact on a market, especially one with inelastic supply, which caters for the very rich and the very poor and lots in between and has little consumer protection?   We will be more and more dependant on private renting in the future, and this is a question worthy of proper study and analysis.  One factor may be the differences between the market in high rent areas and those in areas where the gap between social and market rents is really quite small and where there are fewer richer people entering the market.


Another noteworthy feature of the debate was the number of speakers from places well away from London.  The government has been keen to keep the debate focused on the more extreme cases where the national cap will now apply, but there were speeches about Glasgow and Sheffield and Sunderland and elsewhere identifying the likely losers and the impact the losses might have on families.


The only real sign of dissent on the government side concerned the proposal to cut HB by 10% for anyone on job seekers allowance for more than a year, irrespective of how hard they had looked for a job, and LibDem Simon Hughes said he would oppose this – although the remainer of his interventions gave me the impression that he might end up supporting the rest of the package, making it much more likely that it will go through.

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Empty homes and empty gestures

<strong><span class="has-inline-color has-accent-color">Steve Hilditch</span></strong>
Steve Hilditch

Editor and Founder of Red Brick. Former Head of Policy for Shelter. Select Committee Advisor for Housing and Homelessness. Drafted the first London Mayor’s Housing Strategy under Ken Livingstone.

One of the curious things about the Ministry of Justice’s advice on dealing with squatters in your home, published yesterday, is that it has a section called “How can I evict a tenant who won’t leave?”  It then offers advice on the “difficult procedural requirements to be followed”. 

Another is the starting point: “If you return from holiday or walking the dog to find squatters in your home and they refuse to leave, you can call the police and report a criminal offence”.   Of course, this stirred the media juices and Grant Shapps got himself on the telly, where he denounced the Advisory Service for Squatters as a fully staffed organisation, whereas ASS say they are run entirely by unpaid volunteers and therefore must be part of the ‘Big Society’.  ASS are adamant that they do not promote lawlessness.  I suspect they will welcome the publicity and free advertising for what they do.  

You may not like it but squatting, in defined circumstances, is still a legal activity.  I suspect that the number of cases of people squatting other people’s homes while they are walking the dog is really quite small, and insignificant compared to the number of squatters in the country.  It’s also insignificant compared to the number of homeless people and the number of empty properties, and there is the real issue. 

That some squatters do some bad things is beyond doubt, and there has been an amount of difficult-to-justify squatter tourism in the past, but history tells us that squatting in this country has had a big impact on housing policy and pushing public authorities into tackling the waste of homes being kept empty.  Historically, the occupation of the Centrepoint tower block, a political squat, raised awareness of homelessness more than any other single act, apart possibly from the screening of Cathy Come Home. 

Big landlords and councils who kept homes empty deliberately awaiting development or sale, smashing facilities to make them uninhabitable, found themselves challenged by squatters who made them habitable again and showed that they could provide acceptable accommodation for people who needed it in the meanwhile.  Many sought to come to an arrangement with the property owners, seeking licenses and agreements to occupy, leading to the creation of a self-help housing movement in short-life housing.  In one of the biggest and longest squats, Elgin Avenue in West London, a terrace of large houses would have been left empty by the GLC for many years; instead an extraordinary community was formed and the GLC mended its ways, to the benefit of all concerned including the neighbours.

Attacking squatters for a cheap bit of publicity is one thing.  But all of the political parties in the Election highlighted new initiatives to deal with empty homes, and they all denounced it as a scandal.  Yet none acknowledged that it is down to the squatters of the past that this issue strikes such a chord with the public today.    

http://www.communities.gov.uk/publications/housing/advicesquatters

http://www.squatter.org.uk