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An outlook on the squatting situation in the Netherlands.

These days despite being officially criminalised in October 2010 squatting is definitely not over in the Netherlands but is just somewhat shorter lived. Nearly every weekend a squatting action takes place.


SchNEWS went along to one of the actions and got talking to Annabeth, one of the people who has shown up to help crack a building. “It's not necessarily, in my opinion, the best thing, to do it so in the open but this is how they've always done it here. They [the squatters] show up en masse during the day, a few people go in, the rest stay outside and get seen by the neighbours. This is what they used to do before the squatting ban but things were different then”.


The call-out asked for people to gather on Sunday (9th) at 13:00 at one of Amsterdam's social centres. On the day, we wait to make sure there are sufficient numbers to go ahead with the action.

Without enough numbers the action would have been abandoned. When there are enough people present (around twenty to twenty five), everyone jumps on their bikes and cycles to the chosen property, an abandoned post office. On arrival there is a rush of activity whilst people transport materials in, that will be used to block other entry points. A few stay inside to secure the building; everyone else gathers outside to watch for police or other undesirables and guard and protect the people inside.

Ten-fifteen minutes later and the first cop car trundles around the corner. They approach the protesters and swap the usual pleasantries. Whilst on the action there are two designated spokespeople, everyone else has been asked not to engage in conversation with police. Another cop car joins the first, soon followed by a third.

Squatter B: “If a fourth police car shows up, start worrying.”

It doesn't. The coppers stand around, consult each other and then leave. The building is secured, everyone that took part in the action inspects the new gaff, congratulates the new residents on their lovely new home and says their goodbyes.

Since the squatting ban has come in these actions have become the norm. In this instance the whole thing was accomplished in a matter of hours and was relatively easy and hassle free. The downside is that people can be evicted and back on the street in a matter of days. According to our sources the whole thing is a gamble as some new squats stay below the radar while others don't.

The Netherlands was suffering from a severe housing shortage in the sixties whilst many buildings stood empty, this led to an increased tolerance for squatting. In 1971 the courts ruled that if a property had stood empty for over a year and the property owner could not show he would start using the property in the immediate future then squatting would be tolerated until the owner went through court proceedings to have the property returned. Squatting became even more popular in the seventies and early eighties. The Dutch capital, Amsterdam became a hub for squatters with over 20,000 in residence as part of the wave of the kraakbeweging (squatters movement- in dutch kraken means to crack or to squat). A Amsterdam Busters.

Post ban property owners have sought different ways of repelling squatters and anti-squatting companies have been created due to the demand in the market. Anti-Kraak BV, Camelot and Ad Hoc are some of the anti-squatting businesses that flourished, taking advantage of people's homelessness and desperation to make some quick euros. Companies such as these place occupants in the empty properties for rent that amounts to half the going rate, giving occupants 2 weeks notice to get out. Companies like Anti-Kraak BV make money through the rental fees the tenants pay to them with no contracts involved. For the property owners it is payment enough that no squatters have occupied the property.

Annabeth we met earlier is not convinced... “They stop people from squatting and take advantage of tenants that can't afford rent prices. They give them a room for a month and then throw them out. Its just long enough to get rid of squatters, how is that helping someone, are you kidding?”

In these times of austerity – despite the criminalisation of seeking shelter – Amsterdam's squatters are still up to the challenge.

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Twitter: @SchNEWS