Sunday, 28 May 2017

Empty homes campaigner attacks squatting plans

The presenter of a Channel 4 programme highlighting the ‘scandal’ of empty homes has slammed government plans to criminalise squatting.

In the first episode of a two-part series looking at empty homes last night, architect George Clarke spent a night in an empty property.

George Clarke, Nirvair Sander, Jonathan Driffill

Architect George Clarke with Nirvair Sander, of Ark Housing Consultancy (left), and Jonathan Driffill, of Friendship Care and Housing

After the experience he said: ‘The government has got to wake up to the issue of squatting. Making it illegal is going to solve absolutely nothing, because squatters won’t stop squatting until they’ve got a viable alternative.’

In October the government released proposals that would make squatting in residential properties illegal.

Mr Clarke suggested the solution to squatting lay instead with bringing empty homes back into use and using them to house homeless people.

‘People squat because they have to,’ he said. ‘They need a roof over their head.’

During the campaigning programme Mr Clarke examined why properties are left empty, and worked with Birmingham City Council, Friendship Care and Housing, and Ark Housing Consultancy to show how empty homes can be brought back into use.

He is calling on the government to introduce a low-cost loan fund to allow people to access funding to renovate empty homes and bring them back into use. The campaign is also seeking a new right to allow people to take over the management of empty properties.

Mr Clarke was scathing of schemes that have seen empty homes demolished to make way for new developments, such as the housing market renewal pathfinders, claiming it was less expensive and more worthwhile to convert existing homes so they meet modern needs.

During a debate after the show he said: ‘We should be proud of our historic housing stock and there’s no reason why that can’t be upgraded and brought into the twenty-first century.’

The Great British Property Scandal

Mr Clarkes’ programme on empty homes is part of a series of shows on the theme of housing being shown by Channel 4 over the next few weeks. Coming up are:

  • Tuesday 6 December, 9pm - The Great British Property Scandal – second part of the empty homes programme
  • Wednesday 7 December, 9pm – Phil’s Empty Homes Giveaway – Location, Location, Location presenter Phil Spencer helps homeless people get a roof over their heads
  • Thursday 8 and Thursday 15 December, 8pm – Kevin’s Grand Design – Looking at Grand Designs presenter Kevin McCloud’s vision for UK housing

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