Utrecht: Derelict buildings squatted out of housing shortage and protest against vacancy

Since last weekend, a group of young people have been living in the long since vacant houses at the Burgemeester Reigerstraat 48-53 in Utrecht.

The occupation is both a direct approach to a need for life – the young people are looking for housing – and a protest against the current housing policy. The action, part of a national wave, criticized Squatting and Vacancy Act from 2010 and the intention to tackle squatting even harder. “The residents are of the opinion that not squatting, but vacancy and housing shortage must be tackled”, according to a spokesman. The buildings on Burgemeester Reigerstraat have been vacant for more than five years. Owner Marcel Paping plans to demolish the four buildings and build four new buildings and retail space in their place. A parking garage is to be built under the buildings. He has the permits for his plan, except for the entrance to the basement. Many neighbours are of the opinion that a large underground car park will seriously disturb the peace and quiet in the street. Paping plans to nail up the empty buildings if the Municipality does not grant him all the permits. Half a year ago, the buildings were also squatted. Then the police went on a wrongful eviction. “Hopefully this time the police will be wise enough not to go for the owner’s trolley and go the right way”, says one of the squatters.

Update 18:42 – The police seem to be making preparations to evict entering through the back, out of the sight of bystanders and media. Water bombs are being thrown from the building.

18:50 – Several people on the roof in lock-ons and several people in the building in lock-ons.

19:56 – The BraTra and the fire brigade are preparing for something and inside they are looking forward to it!

23.15 – Burgemeester Reigerstraat still closed for traffic.

02/10/2019 – 07:47 – All the detainees are still in custody. The people who were arrested yesterday and last night at the resquat action in Utrecht are still in custody. Nine people are already through the cancellation procedure, the rest not yet. The lawyer is now trying to figure out what will happen next. So everyone is still in jail.

(1)The Squatting and Vacancy Act was introduced exactly 9 years ago today to both tackle squatting and combat vacancy. In recent years, vacancy regulations have only been introduced in a number of municipalities. Research commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior and the Ministry of Security and Justice shows that the vacancy rate of office and retail space has increased in recent years.
(2) In Oudenrijn, 16% of office buildings are vacant, and in Lage Weide even 20%.
(3) Research by Nibud shows that a quarter of the tenants are financially trapped.
(4) In the city of Utrecht, the average waiting time for social housing has increased from 7.7 to 9.7 years in the past five years.
(5) Although the number of rentals increases slightly, the chance of success for house-hunters decreases. This is because the demand for social housing in Utrecht is increasing faster than supply.
(6) “The chance that you successfully crack something is higher than the 3.2% success rate for a social housing. What are you waiting for?”

1 AD. 2019. Eigenaar lege panden Reigerstraat dreigt met dichtspijkeren ‘als gemeente dwars blijft liggen’. https://www.ad.nl/utrecht/eigenaar-lege-panden-reigerstraat-dreigt-met-dichtspijkeren-als-gemeente-dwars-blijft-liggen~a89ea27e/
2 RIGO Research en Advies. 2015. Van ontruimen naar inruimen. Evaluatie van de Wet Kraken en Leegstand. Via https://www.tweedekamer.nl/downloads/document?id=029049a3-595d-4412-b33c-a2201ea6dc3f&title=Rapport%20%27Van%20ontruimen%20naar%20inruimen%27.pdf
3 Utrecht Monitor. 2018. Kantorenmarkt. https://www.utrecht-monitor.nl/economie-inkomen/vastgoed/kantorenmarkt
4 Nibud. https://www.nibud.nl/beroepsmatig/nibud-luidt-noodklok-kwart-van-de-huurders-zit-financieel-klem/
5 AD. 2018. Wachttijd sociale huurwoning regio Utrecht stijgt explosief: gemiddelde duur 10 jaar. https://www.ad.nl/utrecht/wachttijd-sociale-huurwoning-regio-utrecht-stijgt-explosief-gemiddelde-duur-10-jaar~ab2ae8f0/
6 Utrecht Monitor. 2018. Sociale huur. https://www.utrecht-monitor.nl/fysieke-leefomgeving/wonen/s

Some squats in the Netherlands: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/country/NL/squated/squat
Groups (social center, collective, squat) in the Netherlands: https://radar.squat.net/en/groups/country/NL
Events in the Netherlands: https://radar.squat.net/en/events/country/NL