This year, October 1st marks the ten year anniversary of the Squatting Ban coming into effect in the Netherlands.
Much like what we saw in the UK following the criminalisation of squatting in 2012, the repercussions have been drastic for our community and our movement. We’ve been pushed out of city centres, drastically reducing our visibility and contact with the public outside our own community. The number of squats across the country has been divided by ten, and the legal risks surrounding squatting have risen. Perhaps most damaging of all, our community is sorely lacking in participation from a “new generation”. A large number of people in that age group are totally oblivious to the concept of squatting.
Since the squatting ban came into effect, homelessness has doubled. Simultaneously, waiting lists for social housing have grown enormously, the average waiting time being nine years. The total lack of affordable housing constitutes a housing crisis which, since 2020, is being referred to as a housing emergency.
From the late 1960s through to the ’80s countless protests, occupations, and media campaigns were waged by an ever-growing community of predominantly young people, in one of the last great social struggles of Dutch history. As a result, the government and police concluded that squatting would have to be tolerated — a policy which came to be known as Squatter’s Rights.
This period was a reaction to a housing crisis of similar proportions to today. If we want to reclaim our hard-won (and bitterly lost) Squatter’s Rights, then a mobilisation of similar proportions is also necessary. Reclaiming these rights can once again offer an alternative to thousands of lower income people facing poor housing conditions.
However what we lack today, in comparison to decades gone by, is numbers. The media has had great success in vilifying us, and our lack of visibility makes it hard to have enough contact with the public to convince them otherwise. As well as this, much as in the UK, Dutch culture has grown steadily more individualistic, and less community-driven since the 1980s. As such the squatting movement, and other socio-political movements, receive far less support now than 30 years ago.
In previous years squatters have commemorated the anniversary of their own illegalisation by doing marches and high-profile squatting actions of visible and significant buildings. This year we chose to initiate a more sustainable campaign focused on reclaiming visibility and our position and function within society, and to invite a new generation of squatters to join the movement.
In Amsterdam, Den Haag, Utrecht, Ede-Wageningen, Hengelo, Enschede, Groningen, Rotterdam, Nijmegen, Zwolle, Emmen, Leeuwarden, Leiden, Wassenaar and Zaandam (to name a few), posters were put up and banners hung from abandoned buildings. The posters advertised buildings as empty and ready to squat, highlighting how many empty spaces still surround us. The banners held messages reminding the public that “you cannot live on a waiting list,” that “squatting is still an option”, and that “squatter’s rights are housing rights”. There were performances in the city centre of Utrecht, which incorporated these messages, to reach out to members of the public who would not normally see us.
This was also a mass publicity action to launch a new website and social media platform, through which we hope to explain squatting to the public, as well show positive examples of the squatting lifestyle, and direct people on where to find practical information about squatting. We hope that like this we will be able to gain contact with sections of society which could greatly benefit from participation with the squatting movement, but just haven’t yet been introduced to it.
If you’re reading this and you’re interested in showing solidarity, please visit our website and follow us on social media:
If you’d like to upload your own content related to squatting, please use the hashtag:
And if you live in Holland, and you’d like to get more involved in squatting, please visit one of our pages to find more information on how to contact your local Squatting Info Hour.
~ KSU Utrecht