Today (August 18), there was an attempt to resquat the Watertoren on the Amsterdamsestraatweg in Utrecht (Netherlands). This water tower has been squatted many times already. Today, squatters unfortunately failed. The water tower, a designated national monument, has not been in use since 1986. The real estate developer who bought it in 2014, has not succeeded yet in developing anything. At the same time, alternative uses are not tolerated and eviction for emptiness has been the systematic answer. This while the monumental building is falling into disrepair.
Originally published by Squat Net. Image above: Archive image from October 2017.
Today’s squatting action was intended as a protest against the plan of the CDA and VVD to tighten up the law against squatting. The aim of the 2010 law was to tackle both squatting and vacancy. In recent years, squatters have been the main target of prosecution, while only a few cities have been acting against emptiness. The new proposal gives squatters hardly any time and space to defend themselves. The right of residence of people who take matters into their own hands, is so further eroded.
The new law fits into a time marked by the demolition of social housing and renters rights. The renewal of neighbourhoods in the centre of (middle) large cities such as Amsterdam and Utrecht is bringing a change in the housing market, which is increasingly focusing on the wealthier middle class. The waiting lists for social housing are growing and rents are rising. Larger and owner-occupied houses are being built and social housing is being sold or demolished. This can be seen for example in Kanaleneiland where the less fortunate are forced to leave their neighborhood because of a million-dollar deal. The fact that renters rights are under pressure is also evident, for instance for the people refusing to move in Rotterdam. They refuse to leave social housing in order to make way for a smaller number of luxurious apartments.
While in 2010 the plan was to tackle both squatting and vacancy, so far hardly anything has been done to reduce vacancy. Owners are not punished. In the future, it will be made even easier for them to leave properties empty and to make a profit on the backs of people looking for housing. Squatting is a form of protest to tackle emptiness and housing shortages. In a society in which ‘participation’ and self-reliance are valued, those who create more homes instead of housing needs are criminalized. The water tower is one of the many examples of a building that is vacated time and time again, without tackling the vacancy.
The lack of (social) rental housing or adequate housing is not the result of people, but the market. A means to tackle squatting already exists, a new law against squatting is no solution. So government, tackle speculation and vacancy, and let alternative forms of housing exist!
Press release, Sunday 18 august 2019, Utrecht.
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