A squatter among those forced out of Harwood House last month says new laws will force more people to occupy commercial properties.
From midnight last Friday, squatting became a criminal offence in residential properties, carrying a prison sentence of up to six months, a £5,000 fine, or both.
But the 24-year-old man, who did not want to be named, told the County Times that he was living in a new commercial squat in Horsham.
Working full-time in Southwater, and walking to work every day, he hopes to save up enough money to be able to rent his own place.
He said around 20 people were living in the former day-care centre, in Kings Road, with heating, electricity, but no running water, until they moved on before Sussex Police enforced a repossession notice from West Sussex County Council in late August.
“Flat prices are too expensive, we can’t afford to live somewhere like that,” he said.
“There are schemes that help people find flats, but I have been on the waiting list for quite a while.”
He added: “The buildings are just sitting there doing nothing at all. That’s 20 people in the building that’s not being used. Now 20 people have a roof over their heads rather than 20 people out on the streets.”
While he respected new laws, he thought the punishments are excessive, and would drive squatters from residential to commercial properties.
Having lived in West Sussex for most of his life, he says that it would not be right to burden his friends and family with his presence for more than a couple of nights.
“We are not trying to get away with anything, we are just trying to have a roof over our heads and a normal life,” he explained.
“I hope to get my own place because it’s not pretty.”