Friday, July 17, 2009

It's not squatting, it's much more interesting

I was chairing the CIEH’s excellent empty homes conference yesterday, when at lunchtime I turned on my mobile to be confronted with “you have 16 new messages” all of them it turned out from journalists. ITV had tracked me down and were waiting outside. What on earth had provoked this?

The answer it turns out is this. Squatters in Bishops Avenue.
For those of you not obsessed with the self-absorbed world of London real estate, Bishops Avenue in Hampstead is said to be Britain’s most exclusive address. Houses have changed hands here for £80million. So news that squatters were here got the property correspondent’s pulses racing.

The story it turns out is much more interesting than that. Calim Ciufudean and his colleagues are not squatters at all. They are licensees or as he puts it caretakers. The crucial difference is they are here with the owner’s consent. Their company Prep ltd offers to look after properties that have been abandoned. The concept proved a bit difficult for some newspapers to understand but the Sun got it, so did London Tonight on ITV. Although some of their viewers came out with the old lines “why don’t they get a job and rent” Apart from the fact that Calim and his colleagues do have jobs, the prejudices just don’t work here. Calim is a resourceful man who is sorting out his own housing and preventing a property falling into wrack and ruin.

There really is something new here. As the local estate agent in Hampstead said: "There's squatting on Bishops Avenue in every recession but it's becoming more organised and gentlemanly. It was more anarchic in the 70s when squatters used to take possession. It's now more organised than squatting, it's more like house sitting”


  1. Is this not a way of providing security at a cheap rate with unlicensed Guards and calling them Guardians?

  2. Estate agents calling squatters gentlemanly?

  3. The difference between squatting and PREPPING is : you are cutting through all the red tape, stimga and misconceptions involved in dealing with an empty property, and provide a viable temporary solution to people needing accommodation who are willing to work in return , and only with the owner`s consent and agreement. It works for the owner, for the neighbours, for the council and the society in general,etc.. if the preppers look after the property, pay the bills, do repairs, provide security,deal and communicate with all those involved in this, such as estate agents, possible buyers, council officials, so it is a lot of unpaid work that goes into living rent free. Anyone interested in trying it out ? I reckon after 1 week you will go back to paying rent, because it is much easier. Also, has anyone thought of the impact something like this can have on reducing the number of people on social housing lists, who need to work and have a roof over their heads , and are stopped by legal after legal proceedures who forces them to rely on handouts, how about allowing them to get back their self-respect and independence, working hard to improve their building and social skills .

  4. good on yer calim