This afternoon a building was squatted at Singel 356 in Amsterdam. The canal house, which has monument status, was last sold in 2014 to a British hedge fund banker based in Switzerland. Prior to the sale, the building was uninhabited for a number of years, with planning permits denied, and only minor works carried out by a now bankrupt construction firm. Since acquiring the property in 2014, the current owner has continued the trend of his predecessor: leaving the building vacant.
Like the majority of these typical Amsterdam canal houses, the property has been deemed monumental. Generally, this status is given to structures and buildings of significance in particular to preserve an area’s historic architectural value. Future plans for this property remain unclear, and we strongly believe that unique, significant monumental buildings such as this should not be left empty to deteriorate over time – particularly when the reasons behind this likely involve some means of speculation. As a group we intend to look after this property, which its current wealthy owner appears to be unconcerned with.
The continuing housing crisis in Amsterdam shows no sign of improvement anytime soon. The accommodation shortage we are witnessing is driven by surging prices in both real estate and rental accommodation. At the same time, increasing numbers of social housing properties are being switched into the free sector or even sold, with very few being added to the social sector. Understandably, waiting lists for social housing have ballooned in recent years – 15-20 years on average across the city.
This scenario has led to many of the city’s residents being forced out in search of affordable alternatives in the outer suburbs or even further afield. Indeed this is not a suitable option for all, and nor should residents be made to leave. Increasingly people find themselves in precarious living situations (e.g. temporary rental contracts, anti-squat, illegal subletting, sofa surfing etc.) as they are left with no alternative. Recent developments purported to cater to those like ourselves promise an equally unacceptable arrangement – e.g. a studio in the North Orleans development is 1050 – 1250 euro per month exclusive, with a fold out sofa as the bed.
At the same time, there is a great deal of empty real estate in the city. Whilst the reasons behind the vacancies are varied, we can identify several common themes:
On the one hand, the AirBNB concept has been widely abused in Amsterdam. Properties fit for housing are instead being used solely for this purpose, with the profits rarely seen reflected in the community itself.
On the other hand, a great deal of properties are owned by (foreign) investors – many of which are left vacant for years. The property at Singel 356 falls into this category and as the city has a severe housing shortage, this property and others like it could go a long way towards remedying the crisis.
We believe that in the current climate, buildings such as this should not be left vacant to deteriorate. We have squatted this property for the purpose of housing and with the goal of adding value to the local community.
Houses for people, not speculation!