Squatting laws

MQT on 2012-09-19
Session date: 
September 19, 2012
Question By: 
Steve O'Connell
GLA Conservatives
Asked Of: 
The Mayor


Do you welcome the recent law which now makes squatting in residential buildings a criminal offence, allowing police to arrest squatters?


Answer for Squatting laws

Answer for Squatting laws

Answered By: 
The Mayor

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I do welcome it, Darren, and I think it is quite right that the law should allow owners to regain possession of their properties more quickly and more easily. There is a problem of unoccupied housing in London, but we have now got the rate of empty homes down to the lowest since the 1970s, 1.1% of the total housing stock, and we have put about 5,000 empty homes back into use with a targeted funding stream, and we are going to continue to do so.

Steve O'Connell (AM): Thank you very much, Mr Mayor. Yes, exactly, there is a balance to this story but I would like to agree with you and welcome on behalf of Londoners the fact now that London and the UK is not going to be the soft touch for squatters. Will you, Mr Mayor, confirm and indeed direct your deputy to ensure that the MPS will be fully enforcing this law with immediate effect, because clearly this does apply to existing squatters.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am sure the MPS will be enforcing the law as they always do. They do not need to be directed by me or by anybody else to enforce the law. That is what they do. I think there are interesting and attractive things you can do to put empty homes, empty shops back into use, and that is what we want to do.

Steve O'Connell (AM): As I say, the public will very much welcome this. It will give them reassurance on something that actually has been a curse of many neighbourhoods over far too many years. However, in the spirit of sharing and giving confidence to the public, will you ensure that the MPS regularly updates the public on arrest and conviction rates for illegal squatting in their areas?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): That is a good point. I will find out. We will get some data for you.

Steve O'Connell (AM): Thank you. Again, the other balance and the other side of the coin is, do you see in your analysis that the new law will make it easier for much needed council homes that up to not, perhaps, have been vulnerable to councillors -- squatters, and also --

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): I am glad you thought of councillors who might be squatting in them themselves.

Steve O'Connell (AM): Absolutely.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Yes, I would not be surprised.

Steve O'Connell(AM): I would be very surprised, Mr Mayor, but certainly do you anticipate savings that local authorities will make through the enforcement of this law, that they can then invest in building new council houses and investing in new Housing Association stock for those vulnerable people?

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Absolutely. Obviously, the more you can solve the problem of homelessness by making sure these empty homes are used, which is what we are doing, the greater you can ease the strain on the waiting list, and that is a big problem in the city as everybody knows.

Steve O'Connell (AM): Yes. You are absolutely right. You mentioned earlier that the homelessness is at its lowest level for many years, but there still are many vulnerable people in London that are either homeless or in unsatisfactory living conditions, and I am pleased that you, and everyone in this Assembly, will urge that those people are supported and helped in future.

Boris Johnson (Mayor of London): Absolutely.

Darren Johnson (Chair): Thank you. We will now move on to the next question on the order paper. That is in my name, but Assembly Member Jenny Jones is going to pursue the question. It is asking about your plans for the Olympic Park Legacy.