Amsterdam gets tough on squatters
Amsterdam has recently toughened its stance against squatters in the capital.
Although up to now the city council has opposed an outright squatting ban, the closure of a squatter nightclub and a call by the mayor for legislation to secure the right of police to evict "illegal" squatters indicate a subtle departure from its soft approach to the practice.
On Thursday, the city council announced that it will continue to evict "illegal" squatters in the capital following a ruling in its favour by an appeal judge. The appeal judge reversed an earlier verdict by a lower court which ruled that there was no legal basis to evict this category of squatters, effectively forbidding evictions by court order.
During the 1970s and 1980s, the squatters' movement in the Netherlands won a number of rights to prevent property speculation and buildings remaining empty for several years. As a result, squatters are allowed to take over a property if it has been empty for more than a year. They also have to furnish the property with a table, chair and bed.
For decades Amsterdam has evicted squatters by court order who do not adhere to these rules, but well established "legal" squats have largely been left alone. Nevertheless, city mayor Job Cohen recently ordered the closure of Vrankrijk, a bar and nightclub run by squatters in the center of the capital following an incident which left one of the nightclub's guests paralysed.
Now the council says it is important that home-owners are protected by the law and that police can evict "illegal" squatters.
The mayor of Amsterdam Job Cohen has urged Justice Minister Ernst Hirsch Ballin to prepare a change in the law, in case the Supreme Court reverses the appeal court decision.
This is the latest in a series of attempts in recent years to clamp down on squatting in the Netherlands. In 2006 then housing minister Sybille Dekker and the then justice minister Piet Hein Donner proposed banning squatting altogether. Last February MPs Jan ten Hoopen from the Christian Democrats, Arie Slob of the Christian Union and Brigitte van der Burg of the conservative VVD put forward a bill to the same effect which would make squatting a punishable offence. A parliamentary majority supports the bill which is likely to be dealt with close to the summer recess.
The squatters' movement began shortly after the Second World War in response to the acute shortage of housing in Dutch cities. In the 1970s and 1980s, the movement became popular among a broad range of people as successive city councils failed to resolve the housing crisis. In the 1980s, rioting broke out in the capital in protest against evictions and the demolition of historic buildings.
During Queen Beatrix's coronation in 1980, protesters demanded housing with the slogan 'Geen woning, geen kroning', which loosely translates as no housing, no coronation. Since 1985, the popularity of the movement has dwindled and squatting has largely been left to anarchists, students and artists in search of studio accommodation.