RADISH RADICAL ACTIVISM ZINE
Anti-squat, not a solution but a problemIt seems like cheap housing: anti-squat. However, as
always, there’s a catch. And quite a catch it is.
First of all, anti-squat is not cheap housing. As a matter of fact, it’s not housing at all. An anti-squatter doesn’t live in the
building they stay in, they guard it. Anti-squat companies are not housing corporations, they are security companies andthey don’t
rent out spaces, they rent out people. Those people are known as anti-squatters, but in reality they are security guards, guarding
the empty buildings to prevent them from being squatted. As an anti-squatter, you are not a tenant, but an employee of the anti-squat
company. But instead of paying you, you have to pay them for the usage of gas, water and electricity and often for the necessary
tools like a fire extinguisher and a first aid kit. Meanwhile, they also get money from the other side: the owner of the building pays
the anti-squat company to have them put people in their building.
The contract an anti-squatter signs when reaching an agreement with the anti-squat company always states specifically
that the anti-squatter is not a tenant. This is necessary to make sure the anti-squatter does not have legal rights tenants normally
have, such as the right of “house peace”, meaning that nobody can enter the building without permission from the person who lives there.
In a normal situation, the tenant has house peace, meaning not even the owner of the house can enter the house without permission from
the tenant. Since an anti-squatter is not a tenant and legally doesn’t live there, inspectors from the anti-squat company can (and do!)
enter the building at will to see if the anti-squatter doesn’t make a mess, holds illegal parties or has subletted the place to someone
else. Sometimes, the antisquat company announces when an inspector will visit, but usually not, as announced visits can of course lead
to the antisquatter quickly cleaning up the place or asking the illegal housemate to go out for a day. But unannounced visits can come
very inconveniently, like when you are trying to sleep in or do certain other bed activities.
The anti-squat contract also usually states the intention - but never the guarantee! - to let the anti-squatter know at
least two weeks in advance, when the building needs to be evicted. In a country like the Netherlands, where there has been a housing
crisis for decades already, finding a new house within two weeks is a near impossibility, especially with a lower income. Moving to
another anti-squat building is then often the only option, again living with no housing rights, not knowing how long you can stay.
Moreover, anti-squat companies are not obliged to offer the anti-squatter a new place, so chances are the anti-squatter will become
homeless. And if that isn’t risky enough, regularly this eviction notice doesn’t come two weeks in advance, but much sooner, sometimes as
short as one day in advance. Reasons for this can vary from the anti-squatter breaking the rules (this can be unintentional such as a
partner who happened to be in the building multiple times upon inspection without actually staying there) to the municipality deciding
that the antisquatter’s stay looked too much like a residence in a building that doesn’t allow residing (such as a school or office building).
Anti-squat is also morally reprehensible. As the name says, it is intended to stop the building from being squatted. Squatting
is an important tool of preventing vacancy, keeping freezones alive and thus keeping the town or city vibrant. Squatting is making sensible
use of property. Thanks to squatting, people have a place to live and accessible space is available for alternative cultural activities for
which it is difficult to find accommodation. Often squats are a springboard for highly appreciated cultural spots and events. Paradiso and
the Melkweg in Amsterdam, Tivoli in Utrecht and Paard in The Hague are each sprouted from the squatting scene, and now form important pillars
for the culture offer of these cities. Squats offer a home to students, workers and pensioned, like the B in Maastricht does. And don’t forget
that squatting keeps the cultural heritage alive. The old Roman Catholic hospital in Groningen, the water tower of Zwolle and a large portion
of the Jewish blocks in Amsterdam are good examples of the monumental buildings which, without the squatters, would have been demolished
long ago. Anti-squat is meant to prevent all this from happening. Predominantly, in a building where a dozen people could live, one or two
anti-squatters are located to guard the building. This way, antisquat contributes to the housing crisis and prevents people from finding a
place to stay.
So instead of falling for the trap that is anti-squat and thereby making it difficult for people to find a place to stay,
just rent a place the normal way or grab a crowbar and squat something, and share it with others who need a new home. Anti-squat is
contributing to the problem, squatting is contributing to the solution!
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