Friday, 9 December 2016

Changing Connotations of the word 'Squatting'

Yesterday (7/12/16) a plaque to Joe Strummer was put up on the walls of 33-35 Daventry Street. 
Apparently when they were considering the wording of the plaque it was decided the word ‘squatter’ should not be used and the wording should be ’Joe Strummer lived here musician and wordsmith’. The changing connotations of the word ‘Squatting’ over the years is a reflection of the changing reality of  the housing situation in London and UK over the past 30 years. 
When I moved in here on January 1st 1980 there was vast swathes of empty, liveable but disused property  in west London, that is now sought after multi-million pound properties. They had been vacant and rundown for years. 
Originally Michel Prigent had opened up 33 Daventry Street for Strummer, and when I moved in, with my then girlfriend, Yolande Snaith, the house had been vacated by the Clash and was occupied by Doug Gill who designed the Seymour Housing Coop logo in the basement, Laurie Booth, and Jessica Loeb who now lives on a houseboat in Little Venice. To my  generation of young adults- late teen early 20s - living in empty properties was recognised way to live in expensive  London. The law was: it was against the law if you got caught whilst entering a property but if you were in and changed the locks- you were the key holder and they had to get an eviction order through the courts (caughts) to evict you- a time consuming administrative and legal process. The law on squatting goes back to the Middle Ages and was based on the  principle that if there is an empty property and there are homeless people it is morally wrong for  the place to be empty. But the law has changed.  A well intentioned and morally founded law. Now it is illegal and the morality, maybe due to innercity pressure and property prices, has changed. So my daughter, looking at me doubtfully and disapprovingly, can ask ‘Dad were you a squatter?’  and it has a whole different meaning. How times change! The connotations of the word have changed but the action of squatting unused property is not understood.
~The co-op came into being out of this situation
We are not council tenants
we are different from Housing Association
The Office is not our landlord, it is where the co-op is managed from

we - all the tenants - are co-owners.

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