Brussels. May 7. 2021. A hundred residents are mobilising to avoid eviction: the building has been empty since 2017 and belongs to Belgium’s second largest fortune.
Originally published by Squat Net.
The building was squatted by the “Solidarity Requisition Campaign” in March. Following the occupation, negotiations were started in order to reach an agreement and sign a temporary occupation agreement with the owner, Viscountess Caroline de Spoelberch. Despite encouraging beginnings, the latter is now backing down and has obtained an eviction order. The residents are mobilising to avoid being thrown out on the street in the midst of a social and health crisis.
A hundred or so people have been living for over a month in the gigantic building , which overlooks both Rue de Livourne and Avenue Louise. Purchased in 2018 for 18 million euros by Caroline de Spoelberch, it has remained unoccupied since then. For this reason, the “Solidarity Requisitioning Campaign” took over the building at the end of March and several groups of homeless or badly housed people, including the Voice of the Homeless BXL and the Voice of the Homeless Family, quickly moved in.
On 28 April, Erard de Becker, the building manager and representative of the owners, announced his intention to evict the residents, despite ongoing negotiations. This decision is incomprehensible and brutal for the collective occupants, mainly undocumented families, including many women and children.
“The owners expressed their agreement to sign an occupation agreement, mentioning their demands. As these were respected, we do not understand why they now want to evict us”, says Henriette, one of the building’s residents.
The residents also quote a report from the city of Brussels – via its Public Security Unit: “safe occupation is possible […] it is an office building, empty since 2017. The owner is in the initial stages of developing a project (informal discussions with Urban and the City of Brussels), including the demolition of the property. To date, the application for a permit has still not been submitted. ”
“Finally,” they conclude, “the legal steps taken by the owners assume that they do not know the identity of the people occupying the property, yet we have been negotiating together since the end of March. We deplore the owner’s desire to evict and recall the critical housing situation in Brussels. Through this occupation, we are organising a concrete (re)housing solution for a hundred people and we denounce the non-respect of the right to housing for all in Brussels”.
The owner, Caroline de Spoelberch, belongs to one of the richest families in Belgium. They are, among others, the majority shareholders of the AB InBev group, the largest brewing empire in the world and recently mentioned in the Panama Papers.
The residents are now launching a campaign to mobilise with them over the next few weeks to avoid eviction. A website http://stopexpulsionlouise.be/ has been made public, as well as a video explaining the situation. The residents are also proposing that citizens and associations sign a petition to ask the owners to reconsider their position and to allow the occupying individuals and families to remain in shelter until the work is completed. Rallies and actions are also planned, depending on how the situation develops.