The Bond Precaire Woonvorm supports the Convention on the Use of Space, the first example in the Netherlands of bottom-up housing legislation. We call on everyone – individuals, collectives and organizations – to sign this Treaty as well. The more signatories, the greater the support for the document.
It Convention on the Use of Space is a legal instrument, which was drafted in the Netherlands between March and May 2015. The writing process took place during a number of publicly accessible work sessions by participants from different backgrounds: lawyers, activists, academics, squatters, researchers and cultural workers.
The Treaty responds to the increasing liberalization of our housing system and the legal protection of private property. This development is reflected, among other things, in the squatting ban that was implemented in the Netherlands in 2010, but also in the way in which the housing system is currently being prepared for investors in an accelerated washing program. It is no longer the use, but the market value – or rather: market value – that is the decisive characteristic of a house. Gentrification, real estate speculation and the sale of public property to private investors are symptoms of this crisis. In this way the carpet is being pulled away from the right to housing and the open city.
Protection of the commons
'The Treaty aims to resuscitate these social rights,' say the initiators. 'It is a bottom-up legal instrument that shows that another way is indeed possible.'
Space is becoming scarce, especially in the city. That is precisely why space is not a 'good' that can be traded on the market, but a social commons: available to all, regardless of ownership, and managed on the basis of democratic principles. This applies in the first place to living space, but also, for example, to other non-commercial uses. The city must also be able to offer space – literally – for things that cannot be expressed in euros, such as cultural production, social and political debate, the cooperative sharing of knowledge and skills, etc.
The aim of the Treaty is to provide a legal basis for this type of non-economic use of space. This is necessary, because the pressure of the market is increasing. In the words of a participant in one of the writing sessions: 'Space can be used to create an alternative to the logic of profit and exploitation and the individualization in our society.'
'For years we have spoken out against the progressive precarisation of our housing system, against the exploding rents and the dismantling of tenancy law,' says Abel Heijkamp of the BPW. But these are symptoms of a wider housing crisis. That is why it is important now to form a broad front of organizations and individuals. Only together can we ensure that people are once again central to policy, instead of profit!' Several members of the BPW were involved in the drafting of the Convention.
The Treaty is a good example of what is called 'movement-perspective legislation': legislation that acts as a correction to the dominant discourse and is written explicitly from a different perspective. In this way, the legislative process is broken open and democratized again. The legitimacy of the document is derived from its support: the more affinity-based organizations, associations, collectives, houses, unions, groups, individuals and municipalities sign the Treaty and subscribe to its content, the greater the legal weight of the document. in the existing institutions.
The Convention has been drawn up in Dutch and English. Developments such as gentrification, real estate speculation and vacancy exploitation are not only taking place in the Netherlands, but also in neighboring countries. Future publicly available reviews will therefore be held in several European countries, in the hope of achieving a European Convention on the Use of Space.
On the website useofspaceconvention.org can you sign the treaty to download and/or sign. There you will also find the accompanying document Guidance to the Convention on the Use of Space which provides more information on the background of the Convention. You can also read because there are other ways to support the Treaty.
Reading tips about the Treaty and the current housing crisis:
Lucy Finchett Maddock, “Their Law: The New Energies of UK Squats, Social Centers and Eviction Resistances in the Fight Against Expropriation,” Critical Legal Thinking, 2015
Abel Heijkamp & Roel Griffioen, “For sale: social housing in the Netherlands (price: more inequality,” De Correspondent, 2015
Abel Heijkamp & Roel Griffioen, “Everything flex: how flexible leases can lead to permanent uncertainty,” De Correspondent, 2015
Note for editors
For more information about the Convention, please contact the promoters at the email address c0nventi0n( at ) riseup.net. For information about the BPW's statement of support for the Convention, please contact Abel Heijkamp (tel: 0647686543, email: firstname.lastname@example.org).