Britain’s Squatters Movement

Give Us Space

Directed by Claudia Tomas (2015)

Film Review

Give us Space is about the grassroots movement which has formed in response to the British housing crisis. It features fascinating interviews with squatters and other housing activists. All are extremely critical of Conservative policies that make it virtually impossible for working people to find affordable housing in London.

In addition to the current recession, which has driven down wages, the mortgage/foreclosure crisis and the government sell-off of subsidized housing, British workers also confront skyrocketing house prices and rents due to speculation by foreign buyers (who purchase homes they don’t intend to live in as assets).

As one activist points out, Asian countries charge foreign buyers a 15% tax to discourage speculation in their property market. In Britain, in contrast, the government actively encourages developers to market their property to foreign buyers.

For me the most interesting part of the film was the history of Britain’s squatters movement, which first began after World War II. At the time, there were insufficient homes to accommodate soldiers returning from the front.

In 1946, squatting in vacant buildings was so widespread that the government permitted local councils to charge squatters rent.

The movement experienced a resurgence in the late sixties with the release of the Ken Loach film Cathy Come Home and again following the 2008 economic downturn.