No need to toughen the law on squats, we must fight against poor housing

No need to toughen the law on squats, we must fight against poor housing

In a street camp of members of the South American community, after their eviction from a squat, in Saint-Ouen on August 6, 2019.

© Denis ALLARD
In a street camp of members of the South American community, after their eviction from a squat, in Saint-Ouen on August 6, 2019.

A few days before the final adoption of the bill, new so-called “anti-squat” provisions could lead to even more injustice for homeless people who are forced to “squat” for lack of housing available for them.

Tribune. The issue of squats comes back periodically on the media scene, either with regard to the occupation of vacant buildings by the homeless, or to illegal occupations of “other people’s homes”. In September, a debate was launched following the occupation of a second home in Théoule-sur-Mer. Some other media cases in the following days swelled the controversy and led the rapporteur of the Asap law (acceleration and simplification of public action) to present an amendment against the squatting of second homes with the support of the government.

No one would have found fault with it if it had only been a question of better protecting the home of others, including their secondary residence, and of strengthening the prefect’s obligation to act, that is to say activate an expulsion procedure in a few days and without judgment to resolve these very rare situations.

The vast majority of homeless people take shelter in vacant premises. How can we blame them when the public authorities leave tens of thousands of people in the street despite their legal obligations, that the housing crisis continues to worsen with at least 250,000 people homeless and that INSEE has identified 3.1 million vacant dwellings?

So-called “anti-squat” provisions

However, a few days before the final adoption of the bill – some very dangerous amendments of which may have been rejected – we remain gravely concerned about three aspects of these new so-called “anti-squat” provisions, because they can apply to occupants of vacant housing and premises.

The text adds a vague notion specifying that administrative or extrajudicial expulsion, that is to say without judgment and by decision of the prefect, can be used in the event of entry and maintenance in the home of others, “Even when it is not his main residence”. This formulation can lead to excessive interpretations and be diverted to the benefit of owners of vacant homes, unscrupulous landlords who rent their homes “in the dark” or sleep merchants who present their tenants as squatters to obtain an expeditious eviction.

These terms must therefore be strictly framed in order to limit as much as possible these extrajudicial expulsions, a real setback to democracy. Indeed, the absence of the judge in this procedure calls into question the fundamental rights of the occupants who will not be able to make their case heard before the eviction. The necessary instructions should also be given for the prosecution of those responsible for unlawful evictions of their tenants, offenses that are much more frequent and too often overlooked.

The text also allows “Any person acting in the interest and for the account” of the owner to ask the prefect for eviction without judgment and without delay. This formulation, again vague, allows a person who is neither the owner nor the usufructuary, nor the occupant in good faith, to act in the name of their interest even though they do not have chose to initiate this accelerated procedure. We are asking for the withdrawal of these two formulations, which are dangerous because they are too vague during the joint committee on October 21.

Criminal penalties tripled

Finally, we are extremely concerned about the tripling of penal sanctions targeting squatters, because it opens up the possibility, by decision of the public prosecutor’s office, of arresting all the occupants of vacant premises while waiting to bring them for immediate appearance before the criminal court. . This measure reflects the very aggressive climate towards the untitled occupants that surrounded this debate: over-media coverage of certainly worrying but marginal cases, calls for the criminalization of squatters in the National Assembly by some deputies …

Is it necessary to remember that some homeless people are forced to “squat” for lack of housing available for them, in a country where the number of homeless is exploding, and even though they have sometimes taken all the necessary steps? of their rehousing, or even that the State may have been ordered to rehouse them within the framework of the enforceable right to housing?

It seems absurd to us to toughen up legislation in the midst of a health crisis, when it has shown how housing is an essential determinant of health.

We expect parliamentarians and the government to work to resolve the housing crisis, a major cause of the difficulties that these legislative changes claim to address, to put in place real tools to fight against living conditions and increasingly unworthy housing in our country and that they apply and strengthen the laws protecting the homeless, the poorly housed and tenants, such as the Dalo law of March 5, 2007, the right to housing, the mobilization of vacant housing, rent control …

The 2021 finance bill, which will soon be debated in Parliament, offers our elected officials a real opportunity to fight poverty and the housing crisis much more effectively for those who have no other refuge than squats: build 200,000 social housing, including 60,000 very social housing, strengthen “Housing First”, restore APLs, tax real estate profits, finance a moratorium on evictions without rehousing, invest more in the elimination of slums, finance domiciliation … The mobilization of parliamentarians and the government on such issues would make it possible to begin to repair the problem rather than further aggravate the situation.

Signatories: Aitec, Secours Catholique, Médecins du Monde, League of Human Rights, Attac, Right to Housing (DAL), Association Dalo, National Human Rights Collective Romeurope, Collective of November 5 –Noailles en Anger (Marseille), Companion builders, National Coordination Pas Sans Nous, National Federation of Social Samu, Femmes Egalité, New Solidarity for Housing, Syndicate of Magistrates, A city center for all (Marseille).

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