London Indymedia

Putting people into London's empties

15.04.2008 14:02 | 2008 Days Of Action For Autonomous Spaces | Free Spaces | History | Social Struggles | London

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.

Squatters Estate Agents, putting people places
Squatters Estate Agents, putting people places

Map aids London Squatter
Map aids London Squatter

Checking out the properties available in the squatters estate agency
Checking out the properties available in the squatters estate agency

... the entrance area ...
... the entrance area ...

... with the Squatters Estate Agents ...
... with the Squatters Estate Agents ...

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.


Four reclaimed spaces

23.04.2008 16:04

Warning: your home is at risk if you do not keep up your occupation at all times and replace any existing locks secured on it.
For information and advice visit the Advisory Service for Squatters. 84b, Whitechapel High St, 020 3216 0099



Hide the following 13 comments

What about an online version?

15.04.2008 15:44

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 21:43

to a internet verision...


brilliant idea

15.04.2008 21:48

i think thats a great idea! it makes the whole thing a lot more 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

15.04.2008 23:26

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 online.

usual stuff

Perhaps, perhaps not

15.04.2008 23:53

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 00:01

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


If you knew anything

16.04.2008 00:16

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 10:07

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 11:11

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 09:15

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 20:05

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

Useful stuff, thanks

18.04.2008 16:22

Lists and recommendations are useful, they give you a good starting point. Of course you still need to check things out yourself and not just blunder in but it saves a good deal of time if you can benefit from other people eyes in spotting empties.

I agree that an online list is a bad idea and I appreciate that in many ways the squatters estate agency last weekend was a bit of a stunt rather than a serious or comprehensive empties list but it still proved useful and got people together to go open buildings.

more the merier

Daily (Hate) Mail article about the Squatters Estate Agency

29.04.2008 21:23


Estate agents' offer empty homes for squat

At first glance, they are the sort of glossy particulars you would find in the window of any estate agent's.

But, on closer inspection, most of the properties on offer 'boast' some rather unusual features - such as boarded-up windows, possession orders and no front-door entrance.

The homes are being offered by Squatters Estate Agents, which has set up a 'shop' in a derelict warehouse near the gleaming office buildings of the City of London.

The new service is advertised on anti-capitalist websites and prospective 'tenants' are directed to the premises - squatted, of course - in the Shoreditch area of the capital.

A reporter from this newspaper met James, an 'agent' in his late 20s, wearing jeans, a T- shirt and several days' stubble, who guided us through the details of dozens of ' available properties' on printed sheets produced using a digital camera and a computer.

He explained that the service was free and designed to guide others like him into new digs.

On the agency's 'books' are scores of former pubs, abandoned flats and houses, derelict council properties and empty buildings owned by Government departments.

One squat up for grabs is a former JobCentre in East London, owned by the Department for Work and Pensions and described - in perfect estate agentspeak - as a 'huge brick building of mansion-like proportions with two side wings and a covered rear extension'.

Its proximity to a canal and a Lidl supermarket are highlighted. But in a piece of advice you would be unlikely to find in most agents' literature, it adds: "Access looks relatively easy... round the back."

Another hot property is Bedford House, Wheler Street, near the squatters' office.

Pitched as a "beautiful large building", it boasts a "red brick, stone and terracotta facade" noted as being "architecturally significant". The blurb adds: "It's a stone's throw from Liverpool Street and close to trendy Shoreditch and Brick Lane. It used to be an art gallery but has been empty for quite a while now."

"According to Land Registry records, the vast Bedford House was bought by a company called Islepark Limited in 2005. Its owners could not be contacted.

James said: "There is an enormous amount of unused property in London and other parts of the country.

"The Government keeps talking about the need to build millions of new houses to cope with the housing shortage - but we're proving they're wrong. They could turn existing empty buildings into new houses instead."

The 'agents' - Britain's first group dedicated to sidestepping the property ladder - are briefed in civil law so they can tell their clients that squatting in England and Wales is, technically, not a crime, so long as the squatters can get into an empty building without damaging it, and are able to secure it.

Quoting from charity the Empty Homes Agency, they claim there are 30,000 vacant dwellings in London alone.

All of the advertised properties carry the warning: "Your home is at risk if you do not keep up your occupancy at all times and replace any existing locks secured on it."

Squatters Estate Agents are trained in civil law and tell their clients that squatting is technically not a crime, so long as the squatters can get into the building without damaging it, and are able to secure it

Richard West, who owns a former pub in East London being advertised by the squatters, said he was unaware that it faces becoming a squat. He said: "Thank you for the tip. I'll have to secure it. "Ultimately, though, anyone who wants to squat there can do and there's little I can do about it until we get planning permission. Squatters have more rights than you'd think.'

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