A group of people calling themselves Squatters and Homeless Autonomy (SHA) have been occupying a commercial building in Fitzrovia since last week in protest against homelessness.
The building at 60 Newman Street was previously the offices for Ramboll, a group of consulting engineers, designers and management consultants.
In the window of the building SHA have displayed anti-capitalist banners and drawn attention to the tens of thousands of empty properties in London. Last year research by the BBC found that there are more than 80,000 empty homes in London.
SHA told Fitzrovia News they want to bring pressure to bear on property owners and use the buildings to give homeless people a roof over their head and allow anti-capitalist and anti-hierarchical groups to meet and organise.
They say that they are against the construction of new buildings where there is enough property to house all who are homeless. Land they say has been squandered and accumulated in the name of profit with privileged individuals having multiple properties and investors using housing to accumulate wealth.
While many housing campaigners are in favour of local authorities building more council homes, the group say that councils have only provided homes because they have to rather than because they want to.
However, they support existing council tenants. They cite the recent events such as on the Aylesbury Estate in Southwark where the council has betrayed residents by evicting them and selling the land to build mostly luxury flats. This they say goes to prove that local authorities are incapable of acting in the interests of the people they are meant to serve, and instead have handed land to corporate interests.
They also complain that councils have also failed to secure social housing through section 106 agreements and have instead allowed property developers to build luxury flats and using secretive viability studies. They say this is another example of how local and national government has proved incapable of providing for many people a basic human need — housing.
While the group say they are legally occupying the commercial building (non-residential buildings are not covered by the anti-squatting law) others in the building said that laws that are made to prevent people having a home are wrong and should be ignored.
“We should do away with government and instead have real democracy,” one activist told me. “Democracy should not be just about voting in an election but rather an ongoing process of direct democracy.”
SHA is a London collective of squatters and other activists working to combat capitalism, the state, and other hierarchy. You can find out more on Twitter https://twitter.com/shacollective and Facebook https://www.facebook.com/squatterhomelessautonomy.