Squatting and the Struggle for Housing


Waterstones Gower Street

Image by Kelia Anne, Catalina Rooster

Often demonised, the act of squatting has developed some rather negative connotations throughout the years. Yet, occupying an abandoned building to reclaim authority over urban spaces could be a powerful tactic to address the downside of London’s brutal regeneration plans.

From north to south, several areas of London and their dwellings are increasingly subjected to property speculation. A blinded gentrification that tends to exclude from the equation any interest in local communities and the history of the redeveloped places.

People are being evicted from their own neighbourhood; a striking and recent example is the redevelopment of the Heygate Estate in South London. The building was torn down in 2014, with tenants receiving half the value for their flats, while 100% of the new apartments in the shiny building that replaced the Heygate Estate have been sold at stratospheric figures to foreign offshore investors.

Considering the housing crisis that is taking place across London, squatting and the occupation of dwellings can be seen as a necessary action to oppose the exploitation of urban spaces. But far from concerning exclusively London and its housing crisis, other examples of political occupations can be found all across Europe. From the transformation of an unused building of Oxford University into a homeless shelter, to migrant solidarity squats in Greece and Italy, people are turning into squatting and occupation action to reclaim rights over their cities and their management.