Wageningen: Community and eco-squat ‘De Achtertuin’ squats a vacant lot

13 June 2024, Wageningen – Since Tuesday 11 June, Veerweg 121 has been inhabited by the community and eco-squat ‘De Achtertuin’ (The Backyard). The Wageningen group, together with dozens of activists, has squatted this new terrain to argue for a sustainable and socially just living model. This action is a direct response to the ongoing housing crisis, environmental crisis and growing social inequality in the Netherlands.

Squatting is legit

The squatted lot has been vacant for at least 17 years and is currently owned by a property developer. In the latest plans, which have not been approved, a construction project of expensive owner-occupied homes was proposed. To this day, there are still no concrete and accepted plans for the site. The activists therefore consider it justified to establish their right of residence on this vacant lot.

“We have lived in Wageningen in this way before with good agreements between residents, owner and municipality,” says Boris from The Backyard.

Housing crisis and need for social housing

The community and eco-squat ‘The Backyard’ is a diverse group of people who are struggling to find housing, partly due to a major shortage of social housing and an explosive growth in rents. In the Netherlands, there are at least 47 thousand homes available for habitation and yet vacant. 413 thousand dwellings are unavailable or not (permanently) inhabited. This is despite the fact that 437 thousand households are asking for a home. In addition, the share of social housing has also fallen to 25 percent and waiting times continue to increase to several years. All this leads to many people ending up on the streets or having to live in appalling conditions. Their slogan is “We squat for now and the future”. Boris adds: “Our children will struggle to find a place to stay, we will do this for them too”.

The ‘eco-squatting movement’

The people of the Backyard call themselves eco-squatters. They promote social justice and alternative and ecological living by squatting buildings and sites that they then build and maintain in a sustainable and ecological way. “This new terrain provides us with a unique opportunity to show how we can live with respect for nature and the environment while building a strong, supportive and socially just community. We are inspired by the ecovillage movement that shows how people can live sustainably and on a small scale, but we also think it is very important not to lose the story of social justice,” says Boris. In addition to housing, the residents will try to give a creative and social interpretation to the space. “We experiment and welcome alternative, social, sustainable and creative initiatives,” says Boris.

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