Squatters Estate Agency - Housling London's Homeless

Gerrard Winstanley tony at tlio.org.uk
Fri Apr 18 02:07:57 BST 2008

As part of days of action for squats and autonomous space a squatters
estate agents was been set up in a newly opened squat in the centre of
London. It consisted of display of eighteen empty properties ranging
from abandoned houses and flats, to empty pubs, shops and even
government buildings. Some would suit small residential squats and
others grand large scale housing communities, squat cafes, freeshops
or social centres. Along with photos of each property, details were
given about their location, history and suitability for squatting.

Click the link above for lots of lovely pictures - Tony G

A flip chart next to the display quickly filled with additional
suggestions for possible future squats and a long list of people
seeking other people to squat with. We don't know yet but people did
arrange to meet and it seems likely that new homes have or will be
created as a result of the project.

The display boards were also on display at other autonomous spaces
over the weekend, including the Hackney Social Centre.

Lots of people seemed to really appreciate the idea and it worked on
multiple levels. Not only did it provide a practical and up to date
list of a few possible places people might go off and squat but it
also showed how many properties sit empty for years doing nothing
while properties developers wait to cash in. It also started to
present and document bits of recent squat history.

It's now planned to continue and maintain the project, adding more
properties and arranging specific estate agents open days when people
can meet up to go view properties together. The next opportunity will
be the Days of Action follow up on Saturday 19th April from 2pm till
4pm at the Bowl Court Squat in Shoreditch.

If you'd like to contribute to the project or have a copy of the
display for your put up at your space then contact the.rampart AT
gmail DOT com . Feel free to send in photos and details of any empties
you know of.


What about an online version?

15.04.2008 16:44
It could be open publishing like indymedia with people able to submit
new entries, add photos or info to new or existing entries. It could
also be a repository for how-to info like how to sort out the leccy or
whatever. If popular it could go national with different cities
taggable. What do you think?

Yes please

15.04.2008 22:43
to a internet verision...

brilliant idea

15.04.2008 22:48
i think thats a great idea! it makes the whole thing a lot more
tangible..is there anyone out there who could knock it together?
perhaps it could be opensource so anyone could put down their details
so they can meet other like minded people.

face to face is safer

16.04.2008 00:26
I know the idea of an online empties list has been knocked around by
many people and always discarded. There are several seemingly
unresolvable problems which make an online version undesirable.
Basically you can't have an open publishing type system as it would be
too easy for malicious unreliable disinformation to go unnoticed.
Owners and developers could add false information making a property
seem unsuitable for squatting to discourage people checking it out.
Likewise, people could easily add bogus properties that don't exist or
are not really empty in order to waste peoples time and make the
system unusuable. These problems are experience by open filesharing
sites but at least in those situations people can usually flag up
fakes when they find them but with buildings it's not just a case of
downloading, it's travelling, breaking in, facing arrest etc due to
dodgy info. And what happens when you post details of the perfect
squat and how to get in, only to have the owner informed and go round
to sitex the accessable windows or worse.

The squatters estate agents is a great idea for a physical space, not

usual stuff
Perhaps, perhaps not

16.04.2008 00:53
So maybe an open system would be a bad idea, but what about a closed
system with registered users. That's a direction many of the best
filesharing sites use, often with invite only registration. It could
also use some of the concepts used by online forums for indicating
whether somebodies contributions should be trusted or not, like
feedback in ebay for example. Such a system would probably work best
in combination with physical face2face meetups like the squatters
estate agency events, squatters cafes etc.

Open works

16.04.2008 01:01
Open publishing works for indymedia and it would work for a web based
squatters site.

If you knew anything

16.04.2008 01:16
If you knew anything you'd know that open publishing creates many
problems for indymedia. There are nomerous examples of disinformation
going unchallenged, posters misrepresenting themselves, information
getting into the wrong hands and putting peoples actions or liberty in
danger etc etc. There are dozens of admins engaged in a daily battle
to keep the newswire in a semi relevent state, hiding misinfo, spam
and disruptive users.

Now, okay, indymedia gets hundreds of posts per day while an online
empties list would probably get only a handful of posts each week so
would be easier to moderate, but would those moderates go round and
physically check that submitted info was for real? That would be
highly impractical. I think a system requiring registration makes much
more sense.

online offline?

16.04.2008 11:07
There is definitely a danger in having an open empties list rather
than moderated/registered. It would certainly help,for instance, the
Empty Homes Agency who's website reports

"The Empty Property Hotline runs and promotes a telephone and e-mail
hotline for reporting empty properties in ENGLAND.

The Agency is still involved with working on tackling individual empty
properties. In the main this is achieved through our Empty Property
Hotline and working closely with local authorities."

Note the final line. Also we see councils such as Camden pay
substainally for an empty properties housing team to keep them out of
the hands of squatters amongst other things and also have a reportage
system online.

The ASS forum, which is pretty quiet now, also had people swopping
empty properties but with around 900 registered on the site that
obviously has security problems as discussed above; also a web
presence is not enough on it's own.

Face to face is better for bring people together, particularly when
people are looking for other to squat with.

email list

16.04.2008 12:11
heres an idea, what about setting up a weekly/monthly email list for
empty houses, where people can only register if they put their name
down at the physical sqautters estate agents...this would overcome the
problem of unreliable houses being put down and security issues, as
only those who had turned up at the estate agents would get the info...

Hidden history

17.04.2008 10:15
I like the idea of using the estate agents to illustrate londons
hidden squatting history. Would be nice for example to include now and
then photos of past squats like 52 commercial road, now a scaffold
covered new tower block, then a squat for about 50 people next to
another ex squat that mysteriously burnt down.

Are lists really useful?

17.04.2008 21:05
I think lists -whether online or on paper- are a lot less useful than
people think. They do come into their own for campaigning or
publicity, for people who really only want somewhere short-term or for
a specific event or project, or are out to occupy against and expose a
particular owner.

It's different when it comes to making a judgement about which empty
place(s) are simply going to give you the best chance of a roof over
your head with minimum problems for as long as possible. For that,
lists can be a bit crap.

Things change and they go out of date very quickly.

People inevitably think a place on a list must be a good or
recommended place to squat, and that's not necessarily true.

What helps you make the best judgement of prospects for a particular
place is researching its story in the council's planning register
(free), the land registry (£3 a hit) and assessing the info. -or lack
of it- against the LOCAL political / "development" /
re-fucken-generation situation, the housing finance system for
councils and HAs, and what's going on with their "market" at the
moment. Things are shifting and changing rapidly on all those fronts.
Have a look at page 14 of Squatters Handbook, which I hear may be
expanded in the new edition. People who've really got their noses into
a particular borough or patch and know what's what, who's who, and
what's going down are in the best position to pick the best places.
Nothing is 100%, of course, but the trick is to eliminate all possible
unknowns and go for the most likely chance(s). Verbal info. may be
reliable or it may be complete bollocks. So know your sources!

I agree with those who're against even an attempt at a list online.
Just makes life too, too easy for landlords, councils and cops and far
too profitable for "security" firms.

The best and absolutely up to date list is kept on the streets. It's
the RESEARCH that really counts. You can generally do that bit
anywhere it's warm, dry and has an internet connection.

Arbuthnot Maladaptive 

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