Squatting in the Netherlands
Squatting in the Netherlands refers to the occupation of unused or derelict buildings or land without the permission of the owner. The modern squatters movement (Dutch: kraakbeweging) began in the 1960s in the Netherlands and became a powerful housing movement in the 1980s. At its height the squatters movement regularly came into conflict with the state, particularly in Amsterdam. Notable squats include ADM (evicted 2019) and Vrankrijk in Amsterdam, the Landbouwbelang in Maastricht, Grote Broek in Nijmegen, the Poortgebouw in Rotterdam, ACU in Utrecht and the Ruigoord village. Squatting was criminalised in 2010 and continues in diminished form.
Squatting in the Netherlands in its modern form has its origins in the 1960s, when the country was suffering a housing shortage whilst at the same time many properties stood derelict. Property owners kept buildings empty in order to speculate and drive the market price upwards. Squatting was seen as a political, anti-speculation move, influenced by the Provo movement. Property owners often neglected to repair buildings in the hope of obtaining demolition permits. Squatting gained legal status under a landmark Supreme Court ruling in 1971 which stated that the concept of domestic peace (Dutch: huisvrede), requiring permission from the current occupant to enter a building applied to squatters as well as any other occupant. This meant that property owners could only evict squatters by taking them to court.
The squatting movement took on an increasingly anarchist tone during the 1980s. In the Vondelstraat Riots, police moved to evict residents from a squatted building on the corner of Vondelstraat in Amsterdam, but it was immediately reoccupied and barricades erected. Street fights ensued between riot police and the squatters, with the building only being cleared when a military tank demolished the street barricades. Queen Beatrix's coronation later that year saw more riots when squatters chanted No home, no coronation (Dutch: Geen woning, geen kroning). In Groningen the eviction of the WNC squat in 1990 led to 137 arrests and the mayor called it war.
In the past, squats sometimes went through a process of legalisation. This is the case with the Poortgebouw in Rotterdam, which was squatted in 1980. In 1982, the inhabitants agreed to pay rent to the city council. In Amsterdam, OCCII, OT301 and Vrankrijk are examples of legalised social centres. The Grote Broek in Nijmegen was squatted in 1984 and legalised in the 2000s. The Vrijplaats Koppenhinksteeg in Leiden was occupied in 1968 and eventually evicted in 2010. ACU in Utrecht was squatted in 1976 and bought by the squatters in 1994. It provides many different activities. There are also squats which refused or were unable to legalise such as De Blauwe Aanslag in The Hague (evicted 2003), Het Slaakhuis (evicted) in Rotterdam, ADM (evicted) in Amsterdam and the Landbouwbelang in Maastricht.
ORKZ or the Old Roman Catholic Hospital (Dutch: Oude Rooms-Katholieke Ziekenhuis) is located in Groningen on the Verlengde Hereweg. The hospital was squatted in August 1979 and legalised in 1986. Nowadays, 250 people live there in 235 apartments. Another 150 people make use of the ateliers. A derelict parking lot was taken over and made into a guerilla garden. Herbs and vegetables were grown in raised beds, fruit bushes were planted and an apiary was set up. The garden was legalised by the city council in 2012.
There are also some squats in the countryside such as a squatted village called Ruigoord near Amsterdam. Fort Pannerden (a military fort built in 1869 near to Nijmegen) was occupied in 2000 by people concerned about the state of the building. It was evicted on November 8, 2006, by a massive police operation which used military machinery and cost one million euros. The squatters then re-squatted the fort on November 26 and have since made a deal with the local council which owns the fort. The deal stated that the squatters would receive a large piece of land to start a community in the rural area in between the city of Nijmegen and Arnhem. In exchange, the fort was handed over to local authorities, who turned it into a museum, with help provided by the former squatters.
There are still residential squats in most Dutch cities. The Dutch use the term krakers to refer to people who squat houses with the aim of living in them (as opposed to people who break into buildings for the purpose of vandalism or theft).
In 1987, the law was changed so that an owner could take anonymous squatters to court, rather than being required to know their names. Then, in 1994, a law was passed in 1994 which made it illegal to squat a building which was empty for less than one year. After this, it became conventional for squatters to call the police after occupying a building and if the police were satisfied that the building had been empty for a year and that the squatters were living there (as shown by having a chair, a table and a bed) then the owner would need to make a courtcase to regain possession. Thus, squatting became a tactic to provide housing and also to fight speculation, conserve monumental buildings, provide groups with spaces and so on.
Squatting in the Netherlands, particularly in Amsterdam, became a rather institutionalised process, although the squatters movement continued to evolve with one development being the occupation of large office buildings by refugee collectives. One such group, We Are Here was established in 2012. In a different development, squatting was used as a tool to contest the construction of the Betuweroute, a freight railway route from Rotterdam to Germany. GroenFront! and other environmental protestors occupied several houses due to be demolished. This included a failed attmept to squat a building in Angeren.
Squatting in the Netherlands became a criminal offence on 1 October 2010. In 2016, a report was published by the Dutch Government which stated that between October 2010 and November 2014, 529 people had been arrested for the new crime of squatting, in 213 separate incidents. Of these 529, 210 received convictions and 42 were found not guilty.
Following criminalisation, in Amsterdam an estimated 330 squats were evicted in two years. Contested evictions included ADM, the Tabakspanden on Spuistraat, the Valreep and Villa Friekens.
In Utrecht, a disused watertower has been occupied repeatedly in protest at the criminalisation of squatting. In 2019, a resquat was unsuccessful.
Table of notable squats
|Name||Location||History (green=ongoing, pink=closed)||Reference|
|ACU||Utrecht||squatted 1976, legalized 1994|||
|ADM||Amsterdam||squatted 1997, evicted 2019|||
|ASCII||Amsterdam||various squats 1999-2006|||
|Blauwe Aanslag||The Hague||squatted 1980, evicted 2003|||
|Fort Pannerden||Near Nijmegen||squatted 2000, evicted 2006, resquatted 2006, legalized 2006, renovated 2009|||
|Grote Broek||Nijmegen||squatted 1984, legalized 2000s|||
|OCCII||Amsterdam||squatted 1984, legalized 1989|||
|OT301||Amsterdam||squatted 1999, bought 2006|||
|Ruigoord||Near Amsterdam||squatted 1972|||
|Slaakhuis||Rotterdam||squatted 2003, evicted 2011|||
|Tabakspanden||Amsterdam||variously squatted 1983 onwards, all evicted 2015|||
|Vrijplaats Koppenhinksteeg||Leiden||squatted 1968, evicted 2010|||
|WNC||Groningen||squatted 1985, evicted 1990|||
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De afgelopen jaren is Amsterdam een aantal van zijn vrijplaatsen binnen de stad kwijtgeraakt: het Slangenpand aan de Spuistraat werd ontruimd, de Valreep in Oost moest plaatsmaken voor woningbouw en Villa Friekens in Noord werd verlaten voordat de ME eraan te pas kwam.
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Een poging om de watertoren aan de Amsterdamsestraatweg te kraken is zondagmiddag mislukt.
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