The Hague : Short Stay? No Way! Nothing’s over, we’re just getting started!

Today, Monday the 8th of June, we left the building at the Waldeck Pyrmontkade 872 (WP872) in The Hague. After a month of occupation as a protest against the planned construction of luxury short-stay apartments in the Zeeheldenkwartier, the Court of The Hague has given permission for the eviction of the building. We have therefore decided to leave the building within the aforementioned period of three days, not out of good-will nor out of understanding, but with our eyes looking at the future.

The squatting of the building on the Waldeck Pyrmontkade was a first step in the fight against short-stay apartments and gentrification in The Hague and in the Zeeheldenkwartier in particular. At the basis of this struggle lies the issue of ownership and housing law. As a group we had decided to break ownership and claim our right to live. This is a necessary step since real estate companies do what they want with (potential) homes under the guise that “they are theirs”. We are not talking about private property here, but about ownership, the property right that is going crazy and is unleashing a dictatorial dynamic in many neighborhoods of our city. It is built for profit and not for needs, real estate is a profitable thing. Neighbourhoods are sold out and the houses that are built are sold and rented for the maximum price. The possibilities to raise this issue in an administrative or legal way are almost non-existent. In a courtroom there is little to gain from the start: the judge always judges in favour of the owner, no matter how awkward the situation is. Possession, ownership and corporatism outweigh a fundamental human right, the right of residence. Such a ground is written in the law book, it is written in black and white. A problematic case.

After weeks of research, it became clear that everything had gone wrong on the administrative level as well. We have published articles about this several times, had contact with the municipality and with local politicians including the alderman for housing Martijn Balster (PVDA). Only at the end of last week we received a response. A long mail to provide a simple answer to our demand to build affordable and social housing on the Waldeck Pyrmontkade: “no”. The argumentation for this was that there wouldn’t be enough parking spaces for the construction of houses (the social aspect was left out). A lame excuse that reflects the political unwillingness to tackle the housing shortage. The alderman also bases his argument on an outdated idea that the city and the car go hand in hand. Once again the PVDA has let itself be stretched in front of the cart of the VVD* along the lines of “I want to be able to park my fat BMW in front of the door”. Possibly the cries of “houses for people, not cars!” will pop up.

In the past month we, as an action group, sought dialogue with RE:BORN real-estate, approached the municipality to have a say in our city and wrote to the alderman for housing to discuss the housing shortage that prevails among many. Because we had decided to use all the means at our disposal, we also fought a legal battle in the courtroom against the project. All these attempts were in vain or were ignored: the “socially conscious” RE:BORN responded to our demands with a fine of 100,000 euros, the municipality did not want to know anything about it, the alderman considered parking spaces to be more important and the judge opened the law book again on that old faithful page.

This does not mean that all our actions were in vain, not at all! As a group we joined many in the neighborhood and city. People who usually shake their heads when they see a squat now backed the message of Short Stay No Way, the council felt the pressure to start asking questions and yet another case of favouritism at the DSO. Thousands of neighbourhood letters have been distributed in the Zeeheldenkwartier to write to the alderman, something that many have responded to. We received e-mails and calls from people in the neighbourhood who wanted to do more against the construction of the short-stay apartments and the gentrification of the neighbourhood and expressed indignation because they didn’t know anything about the proposed plans before we squatted the building. The first seeds of resistance have been sown.

Now that we have left WP872, our resistance will also take a different form. Since the building has been vacated and is back in possession of the capital, our resistance will also move more to the streets of the Zeeheldenkwartier. A crackdown is in fact one of the many ways of protest in which the variations are great. The fact that a building has been vacated does not mean that the project for short-stay apartments can now simply be carried out quietly, the project remains unacceptable. Also, the fight against the short-stay apartments was mainly fought by the WP872 and its occupiers, now the fight will expand with more opportunities for people to participate. So we call on everyone to continue to speak out against the gentrifying project on the Waldeck Pyrmontkade and to take action. Who else but us? The judges, real estate bosses and aldermen are not going to stop the gentrification of The Hague by themselves. Only together can we stop the sale of the city!

Until next time…
Short Stay? No Way!
short_stay_no_way [at] riseup [dot] net

*Alderman Boudewijn Revis (VVD) manages several portfolios related to real estate and urban development, and therefore has a strong involvement in granting the permits for the short-stay apartments.

Some squats in the Netherlands:
Groups (social center, collective, squat) in the Netherlands:
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source: Short Stay? No Way!