fort van Sjakoo: http://www.xs4all.nl/~sjakoo
Jodenbreestraat 24 on the street
900% rent increase
The internet werkplaats, ASCII, has received, along with their bookshop neighbours, notice of a rent increase of more than 900%. Our landlords, the Woningbedrijf Amsterdam (Housing Corporation Amsterdam), find this to be a “reasonable proposal”. A letter received from them began, “The Housing Corporation Amsterdam wants the rent from their commercial spaces adjusted to the market price level”. This startling rent increase is to start on Sept. 1 and go from f 580. to f 5100. per month.
Though The Housing Corporation finds this to be a reasonable proposal, ASCII members, the volunteers of the bookshop Fort Van Sjakoo, and the volunteer-run Window to Europe, with whom we share our space, cannot come up with this kind of money. Once this money is demanded, the volunteer-run non-profit organisations sharing this space will be forced to find new premises, and face the loss of these initiatives. Not only can we not pay, we also find the thrust of the Housing Corporation to be unconscionable and excessive, pushing, as they are, more and more non-commercial, idealistic initiatives out of the city centre and towards extinction.
We need support
We beseech you now to support us in our struggle. ASCII started life in a squat on the Herengracht, and moved into the basement of Jodenbreestraat 24 in January 2000, to become the neighbours of the Fort van Sjakoo, and the Window To Europe. We are run entirely by volunteers, and survive in an entirely autonomous way. We supply the people who could not otherwise afford it with free internet access, and we support the activist community with computer access and a space to communicate. We have an online radio news hour once a week, with live streaming and incisive interviews, and every Sunday we have experimental jazz. We also run courses, including the popular Genderchanger Academy, teaching women computer hardware basics. We run popular courses in Linux and basic HTML. We have regular workshops that explain a range of technology related subjects, from PHP programming to monitor hacking. ASCII is also a meeting point for programmers and IT workers with a social conscience, who get together in the spirit of open source and share ideas, start new initiatives to support projects such as indy media, and give support to open source software such as Linux. The internet werkplaats is run entirely on Linux, with one computer running Free BSD, and the chance for volunteers to delve into other open source operating systems. Most of the hardware is recycled and donated. ASCII strives to prove that outdated, no longer fashionable computer hardware is perfect for low-end computer tasks such as internet surfing, and things thrown away by some can be used by others.
The Fort van Sjakoo has been at Jodenbreestraat 24 since 1977. The building was squatted 2 years earlier as a protest against its planned demolition to make way for an office building. The squatters made the building liveable and on the ground floor a successful bookshop was started. Thus the squatters’ resistance was successful and the building was saved. In 1989 the city bought the building for next to nothing; the residents and the bookshop became renters. The Housing Corporation was then still a part of the municipality, and they got possession of the building. Since then the company has become privatised. The bookshop supplies people with all sorts of information that they can’t easily find elsewhere. The collection consists of a wide range of left-wing political, social criticism, avant-garde, artistic, rebellious, odd and environmentally friendly books and magazines, often impossible to find else where.
Also housed in Jodenbreestraat 24 is the foundation Window To Europe, created in 1989 with the goal of promoting the cultural consciousness and mutual understanding between people who were for a long time separated by the Iron Curtain. They have through the years concentrated on the traditional musical cultures from the different ethnic groups who live in the former Soviet Union. Lately they’ve added a form of electronic music. In the bookshop is the office from the foundation European Juggling Association, who organizes, among other things, a yearly festival which attracts more than 3000 jugglers.
These four initiatives are all non-commercial, non-profit and vibrantly contribute to the life that makes Amsterdam the unique city that it is. If the Housing Corporation is successful in its push to make more and more money, they will be responsible for the sterilisation of a famously artistic city, a *dumbing down* of a city that prides itself on its creativity and social inclination. The Housing Corporation is not allowed to raise its rent for living space but is legally within its rights to raise the rent for buisnesses to the market level. This thinking comes from the assumption that businesses by default turn a profit. And The Housing Corporation Amsterdam isn’t legally bound to differentiate between rent increases for different types of businesses and organizations. But there are many non-commercial idealistic organisations which are purely altruistic in nature that are being turned out on the street with the gentrification of the city centre.
The commercial space in Jodenbreestraat has recently increased to absurd levels as its level of popularity has increased. For decades the street was full of unpopular ugly buildings, which were falling apart, and construction sites. The last few years the city has been busy with fixing up the street. First they took away the terrible buildings. Then came new buildings and the pavement was redone with fancy stones. The junkies were kicked out of the area, and since recently there is an alcohol ban. The policy of the city hall was successful: tourist attractions like the Holland Experience, big chain stores like Blokker and Albert Heijn wanted to be on the now upscale street. And the price per square metre increased in record time to 10 times higher. As these non-commercial and social organisations are under pressure because of the enormously inflated rent increases, the only way to stop the trend is to have a non-profit rent catagory for social and non-commercial initiatives.
We, along with our neighbours Het Fort van Sjakoo, the Window To Europe, and the European Juggeling Association, want the Housing Corporation Amsterdam to withdraw their rent increase. Support from the people who believe in what we all do is warmly welcome. We would really appreciate it if our supporters began their own actions in support of us. If you want to know what’s going on you can put yourself on a couple of mailing lists:
Please send your opinion about the rent increase to the directors of the Woningbedrijf Amsterdam (Housing Corporation) and send us a copy too.
Woningbedrijf Amsterdam Muntendamstraat 1 1091DR AmsterdamPostbus 94278 1090GG Amsterdam Fax 020-6630829 e-mail: ASCII Jodenbreestraat 24 sous 1011NK Amsterdam e-mail: http://www.squat.net/ascii