Holloway squatters exhibition to highlight inequality

�A disused housing office has been turned into an art exhibition by a group of squatters to highlight a possible new law that could leave many homeless.

The property in Tufnell Park Road, which had been empty for some years, was occupied by the group last week and since Friday has been showcasing paintings, poetry, music and history.

The display, which will feature the work of around 100 artists, is open to the public for the next three weeks.

The group behind the installation, Save Our Squatting (SOS), are worried new laws mooted following a recent government consultation on squatting would give landlords greater powers to evict squatters in empty buildings, and tenants who fall behind with their rent.

Crisis


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Pete Pheonix, a member of SOS and a caretaker for the exhibition, said: “We want to raise awareness of a possible change in the law. A lot of people need housing and shelter is a basic human right. We are in the middle of a housing crisis and the government want to criminalise putting a roof over your head. For 98 per cent of people squatting is a life saver, they are in desperate need. They go into derelict or unused buildings and keep them in good working order. People think squatters come in and take your home and you have no power to move them out. That is rubbish – the police would come and kick the door in.”

The group, who previously occupied nearby St George’s Church, have the blessing of the building’s owner to host the exhibition until demolition work starts in November, when the site will be turned into flats.

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Phoenix said: “We couldn’t have asked for a more understanding owner. He is a philanthropist who has offered us another site after this one. This is the kind of solution we want to see between owners of empty buildings and squatters. “

Paul Reynolds, from squatters rights group Squash, said: “This new legislation in not even needed because it is already illegal to squat in someone’s home. The new laws will force people out of empty, commercial property, owned by developers, and put more people in the already overcrowded housing welfare system, costing millions of pounds in the process.”

There were 725,000 empty homes in England in 2009.

A spokeswoman for the Ministry of Justice said: “Not everyone who squats does so through desperation or because the alternative would be homelessness.”

She added that the government had made �4.5bn available to help deliver new affordable housing and bring empty homes back into use.

The exhibition is open Tuesday to Sunday, 3 to 9pm until November 7. To arrange a visit, call 07721375374.

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