BPW Rotterdam in Nieuwsuur about vacancy

In the broadcast of May 26, 2023, Nieuwsuur paid attention to the vacancy of homes and visited, among other things, the housing and squatting consultation hours of BPW Rotterdam. BPW wants municipalities to make an active effort to make vacant buildings available for habitation as soon as possible and to be open to squatters.

News hour spent in the broadcast of May 26, 2023 paid attention to the vacancy of homes and visited, among other things, the housing and squatting consultation hours of BPW Rotterdam. In Rotterdam, more than 6,000 homes have been vacant for more than a year (CBS figures here), but the municipality has no approach to vacancy. Despite the housing crisis and the housing shortage, most municipalities have no plan for tackling vacancy.


BPW wants municipalities to free up capacity to make vacant buildings available for habitation again as quickly as possible. That starts with mapping vacancy: how many buildings are empty, where are they, who are the owners, why are they empty? A registration obligation can help here, but that is not enough if nothing is subsequently done with the reports. In addition, municipalities must also actively write to the owners and, if necessary, claim the buildings and make them available for habitation.


Speculation and gentrification policy

Long-term vacancy is partly the result of speculation by property owners. In Rotterdam and other cities, long-term vacancy is also the result of the gentrification policy. In neighborhoods where affordable homes are demolished to make way for more expensive homes, such as in the Wielewaal and the Tweebosbuurt, it takes years before all residents have moved, so that the vast majority of homes remain empty for a long time before demolition actually starts. Housing corporations and the municipality call in dubious 'vacancy managers' who profit from the vacancy through anti-squat rental and exploit the uncertainty of tenants. The people who live anti-squat are put back on the street after a while.


Martijn from BPW Rotterdam took Nieuwsuur to the Wielewaal, where dozens of empty houses have been made uninhabitable for fear that the houses will be occupied by squatters. Floors are removed, toilets and sinks are demolished and electricity, gas and water are shut off. The fear of 'anarchy' and 'do-it-yourself', in short, the initiative of people looking for a roof over their heads, is grist to the mill of companies that 'manage' vacancy such as K9, VPS and Maasstad Services, which using, magnifying and perpetuating irrational fear for their own gain. As a result, this lawless system is maintained. 


Despite the increasing demand for affordable housing, the municipality of Rotterdam sees "no reason" to tackle vacancy. In April, Alderman for Housing Chantal Zeegers inform the city council that the vacancy figures of Rotterdam are “conventional for the proper functioning of the housing market” because they would be so-called frictional vacancy (vacancy between two residences). But the figures from Statistics Netherlands show that more than 6,000 homes have been vacant for more than a year. The alderman told Nieuwsuur that she "does not see vacancy as such a big problem that it would justify the deployment of civil servants."


Every home counts

The municipality of Amsterdam has recently introduced an active policy to detect vacancy and to address property owners, under penalty of a fine. Alderman for Housing Zita Pels says in the Nieuwsuur broadcast that given the housing shortage "every home counts."


It is high time that municipalities see vacancy as an urgent problem. There is a housing crisis: homelessness has increased and many people are forced to live temporarily, insecurely or too expensively. The priorities must therefore lie with the right of residence and not with property rights or facilitating vacancy. Due to the enormous shortage of affordable housing, it is understandable that more and more people are squatting vacant buildings. It is inexplicable that municipalities are cracking down on squatters, but not the property owners who are responsible for vacancy. From the start, BPW has spoken out against the squatting ban and its increasingly strict enforcement. People looking for information about squatting and the squatting ban can contact the local residential consultation hours of the BPW.


BPW wants municipalities to actively tackle vacancy, provide permanent housing and housing security, and be open to squatters as a party to combat vacancy in a constructive way. Countless initiatives show that squatting is a valuable way of making properties available to the neighborhood and valued by local communities. In the middle of a housing crisis, we cannot tolerate vacancy.


look at the News Hour broadcast here. Earlier this year, OPEN Rotterdam also made a video about BPW Rotterdam and vacancy in the Wielewaal. Help BPW to make vacancy visible: on this map you can mark empty buildings.

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