Squatters living in a fairytale
In the Netherlands surprising properties have been turned into homes. Thousands of people are benefiting from legalised squats – even to set up a new business.
How would you like to live in a pink castle with a drawbridge? In the Netherlands, people are renting rooms in an amusement park. Het land van ooit shut down in 2007, but later became a legalised squat available for residences and offices. Other buildings on offer include an abandoned train station, a brothel in Brabant and a police station. The crisis may have brought bankruptcy, but it has also given homes.
Currently, over 50,000 people in the Netherlands are benefiting from these unoccupied buildings, paying just EUR 180 per month – including gas, water and electricity. The lodgers are aware that the arrangement is only temporary. Organisations like Camelot, HOD and Ad Hoc have turned these buildings into squats and are renting them out. Even entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the setup to run their businesses from these vacant properties.
Camelot, the market leader for the protection of vacant buildings in Europe, made record profits in 2009. The company, which also operates in Belgium, France, England, Ireland and soon Germany, experienced a growth of 40 percent. Market manager, Bob de Vilder, said the outlook for 2010 is positive. He explained that squatters are always aware of the risks of leaving their valuables unattended, but his properties—with their own security and cleaning services—are safe for temporary lodgers.
Lieke (20) and Rutger (26) who have settled in De Wissel, an old school building in Amsterdam, are certainly not in doubt of the benefits. Lieke said Amsterdam apartments are unaffordable and EUR 300 buys you no more than a cage. But now she is paying just half of this for a school gym and classroom as her apartment, according to Rutger.
From Dutch newspaper Metro, 11 February 2010
[English text by Elinor Gittins]