This week, Minister Blok introduced his plan for a one-year lease. His proposal is in line with reforming the housing market to a neo-liberal model. Everyone for himself and the market for all! Block means:
1. Reducing the public and social rental sector
2. Expand and benefit the private rental sector.
It is proposed that after 1 year the lease automatically expires. Afterwards, you can reapply for your own rental home or leave it. When you leave the house, draw a chance card for another flex home or continue to start. Landlords can “see what kind of meat they have in the tub during the probation period”. In this way tenants risk being mercilessly played off against each other in a rat race to the bottom where everyone eventually loses.
In an earlier response, the BPW already said it was adamant against the elaborate plans to limit rent protection. Flexibility and insecurity threaten to become reality for more and more tenants.
Minister Blok has been working for some time to realize all the wishes of private landlords and visited 14 landlord organizations in a round to convert their wishes for more temporary letting into laws. But not everyone is convinced of the idea of less rent protection and more insecurity as a solution for the failure of the neo-liberal public housing policy. That's why you hear the following argument more and more “A dynamic economy requires a flexible housing market”.
Housing insecurity good for the economy
Everyone wants one dynamic and thus an assumed good economy, no one can argue with that? But what exactly is the supposed dynamic economy and for whom does it work well? Not the economy of burnouts, stress and uncertainty as FNV recently presented?
No, that is not the ideal we have of dynamism and flexibility. We think of a life in which we end up happy and carefree from one situation to another living or working situation. A cash safari on the residential and labor market that we look forward to with never waning enthusiasm. “Change is the only constant,” the Greek philosopher Herclitus once said. Market enthusiasts and PR managers are happy to take the slogan to heart for everything that doesn't want to move dismissed as old-fashioned and conservative. But is all change good? The breakdown of social rights is also change. Tenancy law is also always in flux and subject to change. But the logic of going back to the situation where tenants could be mercilessly exploited, exchanged and evicted is not a good change. After all, evictions after temporary contracts without social rights cause a permanent musical chair dance on the housing market, which means that everyone is constantly under relocation stress. That is not conducive to personal life, nor to productivity and the economy. It is therefore quite curious to frame this as positive and progressive change.
Nevertheless, this vision of flexibility in the labor market now also appears to be leading for the reform of public housing. Barbara Baarsma recently argued in Het Parool for more flexible housing: “The mobility demanded by the labor market is not supported by the housing market”. The high share of social rent hangs like a millstone around the Amsterdam economy”. Middle-income tenants are branded in this debate as crooked tenants that are ripe for the expensive private sector and have to be rushed to pay more rent. A temporary contract helps with this. “Then we can also manage with less social housing” is the reasoning.
Do you live in a house with rent protection? Then you "impede" the economy. The argument goes as follows, by “occupying” (instead of just living comfortably) a social rental home, young highly educated high potentials cannot go to the city. Because it people cannot flow through she not accept that dream job. Other, less qualified people then do the work, but with less quality and added value is assumed. Creatives, high potentials and young urban professionals then shake their heads in amazement and leave for New York, Berlin or Paris and leave cities like Amsterdam en masse behind them.
The “mediocre” remains behind in cities such as Amsterdam. BV Netherlands misses the boat. “It could have been so much better, we could have made so much more money and redistribute it socially,” it sounds. A sour feeling should take over us at such a moment, we miss the boat and are overtaken on all sides in the economic race by competitive cities who does opportunities grab. And “then also those low-skilled asylum seekers come to live in our scarce homes”. At the same time, entire parliamentary debates are filled with the question of how to further restrict the social/public rental sector through sales and liberalization and additional levies. This replaces the question of how to organize broadly accessible public housing (financially). Subsequently, the scarcity is the fault of politically welcome scapegoats, such as the crooked resident and the refugee. Existential fears about basic necessities (no work/income, no home) are politically exploited to reform the housing market to a neoliberal model. Paradoxically, that's right that model has caused the scarcity and expensive prices
The housing market follows the labor market, which has already been shaped according to the neo-liberal capitalist model. A large gap has meanwhile been created between the army of the precarious on the one hand and people with social rights on the other. Even the right-wing Elsevier has now concluded: no flex, permanent work please! But the economics and logic of the free flow of capital should guide all facets of life. So also for the housing market.
In fact: 'A dynamic economy requires a flexible housing market.'
can be read on page 40 of the bill of millions and in Blok draft bill. Minister Blok will soon present his plan to further limit rent protection through all kinds of temporary contracts. Cities are no longer places where all types of population live together, but increasingly exclusive places. The goal is not to accommodate all population groups, but to attract the “right” target groups. In short, attracting a highly educated middle class who can afford private rent or purchase is the goal of the city. The rest can figure it out on the periphery. Our imagination of the city as a place that accommodates ALL population groups is making way for policies that promote segregation. Residents become temporary assets of the city. Long live the economy!
Competitive position of the Netherlands BV in danger
Labor rights and rent protection are rigidities that we can no longer afford in a perfect neo-liberal market (with scarcity of jobs and housing). The paradox is that the same “free market” is precisely responsible for this artificial scarcity.
Barbara Baarsma, economist, sings in her article “One-sided housing supply hampers the Amsterdam economy” participate in the cabinet's ideological gospel. Everything flexible! That this is not that flex is evident from too many testimonials and experiences of current people who already live and work flexibly. Above all stay you especially report to the BPW with stories about your experiences. Together we will pierce through these delusions. Through bottom-up struggles, we can reverse flexibilization and regain control over our lives.
More and more people are voluntarily obliged to sign flexible contracts without social rights. The government pays countless lip services that give rights to flexworkers and residents, but time and again legalizes the lawless practice, invents new forms of flexibilities and at the same time curtails state social security. Tenants, workers, people are no longer in charge of their house, work or world, but are kept in check by the discipline of the market and landlords. The new person in flexible living-working relationships in a state of constant dynamics. It is assumed that living and working “careers” naturally lead upwards. Well-paid flexible work leads to a place in the free rental sector in this social vision. With an average rent of 2100 euros for an Amsterdam free sector home and flex work that is paid on average 35% less, this dream vision is far from reality.
Once the individual has chosen an arbitrary flexible arrangement, social pressure is exerted to make this choice part of your own identity. Issues? Then it is your own fault, it was after all your own choice. Many internalize this choice, when it was the circumstance and political choice to curtail and take away rent and workers' rights. It is a pitfall that many “individuals” fall into, the gray zone between free choice and seizing opportunities in a market of scarcity and housing shortage. At the BPW, we say, don't be personally pressured by the choice you and others in a precarious position have made. Your situation is only an expression of the existing balance of power in which you lose your rights, that has nothing to do with individual choice.
Collective struggle is justified where individuals collectively lose their rights!
In the discussions about restricting tenancy law, you would almost forget that the government has the constitutional task of ensuring sufficient housing. Housing is a right. The idea of 'a flexible labor market requires a flexible housing market' erodes this right and puts the market itself at the center. Of course, that can never be the goal of an economy. An economy is not there for the people the other way around.
Paradoxically, precarization in the field of work and housing is intertwined and presents itself as an “opportunity”. Opportunities that come at the expense of a society with social security. The neoliberal utopia is becoming increasingly authoritarian. Participate or you will harm the economy! It would be laughable if it wasn't meant seriously.