More and more tenants are getting into trouble due to the curtailment of social rent and the flexibility of renting. On October 1, a fledgling family with a baby in Amsterdam threatens to be evicted from their flex rental home and end up on the street. They have a campus contract and are not offered replacement accommodation by the landlord, housing corporation De Key. The Bond Precaire Woonvormen (BPW), Breakthrough, Not for sale and others try with a campaign to prevent the family from falling victim to the flexibilization policy of which De Key is a strong supporter.
In recent years, De Key has been busy developing homes on a large scale vbuy,(1) to liberalize (to rent out in the expensive free sector) and to make them more flexible. Permanent living space is made temporary. This threatens livelihoods for more and more tenants. This shows the living situation of mother Busra, father Zoubair and their child Souhaib, living on H. Cleyndertweg. Busra completed her SPH studies in 2016. She has a campus contract, which means she has to leave the living quarters once she has completed her degree. She thought she would get a permanent contract at her work in mental health care, but that didn't happen. As a result, she did not receive a mortgage and the purchase of the house that she and her husband had in mind could not go ahead. In the meantime, she became pregnant and they had a child in a flex home of 32 square meters. “I really tried everything to get another house, but we can't find anything,” says Busra. “All authorities shirk responsibility. People even question why we started a family. But that is our right, our freedom.” Remarkably enough, many institutions referred her to the municipality, but it turned out that they did not want to help the family either. So they were sent from pillar to post.
More and more homeless families
The family is not eligible for urgency, assistance schemes and shelter locations, because they do not have addiction, debts or psychological problems. Cities have more and more families without a home.(2) In Amsterdam, the number of families who became homeless and ended up in emergency shelter rose by 30 percent in 2016 to 217. This concerns 374 children. Another 960 families are at risk of eviction. Emergency shelter can also be in shelter hotels that the families have to finance themselves, if they have an income. Partly as a result of the termination of flexible rental contracts, the number of homeless people throughout the Netherlands has grown from 17,800 in 2009 to 31,000 in 2015.(3)
Room for movement
On June 19, Busra and the BPW once again asked De Key to come up with a social solution for the family. The Key director Leon Bobbe indicated that he could do nothing for them. Previously, the family only received a postponement of eviction. During a debate at the Social Housing Festival some time ago, he stated about De Key's policy: “You have to evict someone to accommodate someone else. In this way we give outsiders a chance”. De Key is working on making all its rental properties more flexible and temporary. They only want to focus on young people, students and starters. Busra is also a starter, but her family is in danger of being evicted by De Key. In order to be able to further expand the flex policy, the corporation has even amended its articles of association (4), against the wishes of, among others, members of the Arcade tenants' association and SP alderman Laurens Ivens. “Room for movement”(5), De Key calls this eviction policy in policy terms.
Through Max van Engen, director of Housing, the municipality of Amsterdam stated during the Social Housing Festival debate that the policy is "not to put families on the street in Amsterdam". In concrete terms, however, the municipality has agreed to further flexibilization of renting through cooperation agreements.6) The question is therefore who will take up social responsibility when housing associations such as De Key deliberately run away from it. Or should more and more tenants, including children, become homeless first?
The BPW strongly criticizes De Key's flexibilisation policy: “It is absurd that a housing corporation that was set up to provide stable housing for people, to provide livelihood security and thus to elevate them socio-economically, has so lost its core task. With this flex policy, it creates more outsiders with fewer (rental) rights. That group is growing fast. In this way, younger tenants will never have security in their home again and will be forced to move from flexible housing to flexible housing. From anti-squat and campus contract to youth contract and temporary contract in the free sector. Everything is made flex and insecure.(7) Paying the rent properly is no longer a guarantee for keeping a roof over your head. (8) When even families are (threatened to) be put on the street, an absolute lower limit has been reached for us.”
A child? Not for a while '
The BPW receives more frequent reports from families with problems related to temporary housing. (9) (10) Flex tenants are often confronted with a “own fault, big bump” attitude on the part of landlords.(11) "It's your own responsibility" and "See that you save yourself", those are the neo-liberal mantras that flex tenants get thrown at their heads.(12) That also happened to Busra. “Why did you start a family, while you are in a flexible housing?”, she was told. "First you have to have your sheep on dry land with a fixed income and a stable home, and only then can you start thinking about expanding your family." And: “Can't that family wait a little longer?”, “Soon you will be on the street and saddle your child and society with the risks. That's not fair." Such comments typify the debate about flexibility.(13) People with flexible jobs in flexible housing are expected not to have children for a while.
But what if that "just" takes longer and that stable living and working situation may never come? Shouldn't the precarious and flexible of society have children? Family formation thus becomes a privilege for those who are still protected and who still have sufficient social security.
Right to family formation
According to statistics, more than 50 percent of the paid working population under the age of 35 has insecure flex work.(14) A growing number of people are also forced to live “flexibly”. Figures from the Amsterdam Federation of Housing Corporations show that last year more than 50 percent of all new leases in Amsterdam were of some form of temporary nature.15)
Anyone who allows this to sink in should realize that the “own fault, big bump” attitude is actually very hard and feels like a slap in the face to flex tenants. As the housing situation of the Busra family also shows, the right and freedom to form a family is becoming more and more conditional and linked to the socio-economic position of those involved. So it is highly class-determined. The more vulnerable and flexible the living and working conditions are, the more difficult it becomes to form a family. The well-to-do with a steady job, a stable home or rich parents can afford it, others cannot "yet". How long that "a while" will take is completely unclear. Certainly because the share of permanent contracts in the area of living and working is rapidly evaporating and being supplanted by flex contracts.
Tenants in the flexible society are always expected to be “mobile” and “dynamic”. Having children is not part of it if you only 'may' build a temporary bond with the neighborhood and region where you live. You can only rent until you are expected to leave, without urgent interest, and to make room for other flex residents. Sometimes having a child is even a reason to cancel flex rental contracts.(16)
Flex renting: Step up or step down?
Livelihood insecurity is sold to people in a vulnerable and precarious position as a “personal choice”. But there is hardly anything to choose from. There is no free choice, at most between growing waiting lists for social housing and temporary, insecure or too expensive housing.(17) This is the result of a rigorous demolition policy that increases social inequality and makes waiting lists longer. The scarcity and reduction of social rent has been deliberately created by policy and is maintained by, for example, the tax on social rent.18) For many people who are condemned to flexible living, this situation does not offer the promised stepping stone to a permanent home, but rather an actual step towards an existence as a flex nomad or homeless person.
The flexibility of renting does not offer a solution for scarcity.(19) The risks are unilaterally placed with the tenants. This leads to a lot of stress and uncertainty for them and to problems with social care. A homeless family, perhaps split up into various temporary shelters, is firstly a human tragedy, and secondly has major financial and other social consequences.(20) With De Key's “Room for movement” policy, such risks are piling up more and more.
Now she, tomorrow you!
Making work and living flexible works as a preventive contraceptive. Many flex tenants postpone having children because of persistent insecurity. Tenants with a flex contract who do start a family are insufficiently protected. That is a radical form of population policy.
Today Busra, Zoubair and their child are affected by the flexibilization policy and the eviction policy. Tomorrow it's your turn. Together we can make a stand against insecurity. Join the action campaign #FuckFlex now.
We ask housing association De Key.
Let this family live in their house. Stop the eviction and offer them housing security.
Change policies that are creating more and more flex nomads and homelessness.
Stop making our social rental homes more flexible. Offer permanent leases.
Equal rights: on eviction, resettlement. Also for flex tenants.
Stop dumping social responsibility. As a social housing association, De Key is responsible for stable housing for all its families and tenants.
This action is supported by.
Bond Precaire Woonvormen
Not for sale,
East tenants' association