On Friday first of February, the Mobiele Eenheid left Gedempt Hamerkanaal 86 and the adjoining Spijkerkade 2 following an eviction ruling from civil court proceedings. Six people have been made homeless and Amsterdam has lost yet another non-commercial social space.
The original eviction verdict was made on the basis of the property owner’s supposed plan to begin renovation works on the building for the purposes of building a hotel.
Though the owner has a permit from 2013 – prior to the city’s policy not to build more hotels – he has taken no further steps since this time, nor did he present any concrete plans or contracts in court demonstrating this intent. The contention of Mobiele Eenheid was that the owner has been speculating on the property for the more than 12 years in which it has largely been empty, since it was last squatted in 2006.
Mobiele Eenheid argued that the owner’s true intention was to await the municipality’s forthcoming development plan for the Hamerkwartier in 2020, whereupon it is anticipated that much of the area will be redeveloped for housing. At this point, the owner will attempt to sell his property at the higher land value commanded for a hotel, having played the system for his own benefit at a cost to the city.
This is a story of property speculation that has played out across Amsterdam numerous times. It is a story that the city authorities, including the judiciary, have actively encouraged.
The judge ruled on November 20 that the squatters must leave on February 1 2019 owing to an arbitrary date on which the owner said he would begin renovations.
In the period between the ruling and the eviction date, Mobiele Eenheid approached city officials to look into this specific case on the suspicion that the owner was speculating with his property and that there was no concrete plan to build a hotel, thus contradicting the city’s supposed policy of “no evictions for unjustified emptiness.”
The alderwoman of Amsterdam, Marieke van Doorninck, drafted a letter in reaction to questions asked by various council members that contradict a number of the claims made by the owner in court. The letter made clear that construction of a hotel was still in the negotiation phase and did not align with the future development plans for the area. The letter also drew attention to the fact that since the verdict, the owner has sought to “trade” his hotel permit with other businesses in the area.
This letter made it possible for Mobiele Eenheid to reopen the court case on the basis that new information had come to light. This was presented in court at which point the owner put forward a new plan, again with no concrete basis, to temporarily rent out the space as a ‘congress hall’ until the hotel plan is put into action.
The judge, once again, sided with the owner. The ultimatum for February 1 remained in place.
Mobiele Eenheid left the building in a much better state than which we found it.
Evicted for emptiness.
This outcome has become the new normal in Amsterdam. The free reign of speculants granted by city authorities to leave buildings empty does not only repress squatters. It is also the cause of the increasingly precarious and unaffordable housing situation throughout the city.
Mobiele Eenheid stands in solidarity with all those who suffer under and struggle against the takeover of Amsterdam by capital interests. We will continue the fight.