In the Notenbuurt in The Hague, several flex tenants were forced to leave their homes on 1 October. Because no resettlement had been arranged for them, many of them, including onder Jean Pierre (hereafter JP), no way out. Homelessness was imminent. However, this was no reason for owner Staedion to consider suspending their renovation plans. Because no one deserves to just end up on the street, especially not during the housing and corona crisis, BPW organized a demonstration and handing over of demands for the Staedion office last Tuesday.
Rightsless Flex Rent
Flyers were distributed and speeches were given by flex tenants JP (57 years) and Merel (19 years), councilor Peter Bos (HSP), Member of Parliament Sandra Beckerman (SP) and Abel Heijkamp (BPW). Then JP, together with Merel, handed over the package of requirements (which had been drawn up together with the BPW to negotiate a constructive solution for the residents) to a Staedion area manager and a representative of VPS. They informed us on the spot that they would not waive the evictions. ''You mustn't forget that you have signed a temporary agreement'' — as if JP and Merel had anything to choose apart from rightsless flex-rent and homelessness! Of course, these residents want nothing more than an affordable home with housing security. No delay or relocation guarantee: Staedion and VPS refused to take responsibility for the situation.
We immediately require from Staedion and VPS:
1. Stop Jean-Pierre's eviction and prevent homelessness
2. Provides dignified rehousing and housing security
Living is a right
We can and will never accept that people are put on the street through no fault of their own. According to the BPW (and Article 25 of the Universal Declaration of Human Rights) we all have the right to (good and affordable) housing. In addition, any eviction without a court order is illegal. In reality, however, we have slipped further and further into an every-for-himself society, headed by a government that has made the current housing crisis policy-making possible. Sadly, if we want to prevent even more innocent people from being put on the street, we have to take care of that ourselves. The BPW was on hand to ensure that JP and others were not forcibly removed from their homes without resettlement.
The morning of the evictions, however, was different, because 3 national parties (Groenlinks/Groenlinks/SP/PVDA) following our actions on September 30th parliamentary questions about these and other evictions during a second corona wave. JP was suddenly offered shelter, in the form of another temporary home, for 6 months — which he was forced to sign. Merel was told by VPS that they would do 'their best' for her. Many residents turned out to have left before 1 October, without rehousing. Some are now homeless, others have found overpriced housing elsewhere. Because of this disastrous 'residential chair dance', many residents remain in situations of housing uncertainty for a long time, constantly being chased from one place to another.
BPW The Hague is happy that JP has not been put out on the street, but has, at least for the time being, forced a roof over his head due to housing struggles. Unfortunately, a real solution has not yet been reached for him and others in precarious living situations. It offers hope that these kinds of actions will nevertheless yield results, although we still have a long way to go to definitively dismantle the current system of flexibilisation and the robbery of housing rights. While anti-squat companies are raking in millions over the backs of home seekers, more and more people find themselves in situations of housing insecurity, with all the (housing) stress and consequences that this entails.
As far as we're concerned, the time of housing associations that continue to play hide-and-seek behind dubious management constructions is over. It is not appropriate to play public housing provider at the front, but meanwhile to use home seekers at the back as disenfranchised pawns against the risks of vacancy. Only by giving visibility to the housing crisis, and building strength from the bottom up, can we make housing security the norm again. For starters, housing associations and the government must finally take responsibility for the housing crisis and come up with solutions. It is high time for the much-needed social legislation that really protects all tenants and not just a shrinking group.