Somewhere februari 1997 the wagenstraat 3 was squated. The house was first owned by ~Luske~ a brutal speculater but was than sold to Housingcorporation 'Het Oosten'. At the time of the squat the latter had the house in it's possesion for more than a year. When squaters entered the house it turned out to be a horrible wreck. There were several square meters of wholes in the roof through which the rain was heavily pooring in. Water had reached the first floor, the walls where soaked and wallpaper and carpet where rotting away.
The housingcorporation, whose duty it is to ensure cheap housing and make sure that houses do not deterirate, had put one piece of plastic of the roof in the front of the house. Not to keep the house from deteriorating any further but only to keep the water from reaching ground floor. Ground floor is rented by a nightclub who pays fl. 30.000 a month, afcourse 'Het oosten' saw reason enough to sort of keep them happy. In the back of the house you could still easily see the sky when standing in the attick.
When squaters entered the house it was not empty. A large colony of pitchens had settled themselves. Using the house (which has sort of a protected status) as their toilet and cemetary. The floors were covered with shit. The saltpater had eaten away the wooden floors. It took five weeks to clean the house. Aproximately hundred garbage bags of shit and corpses where taken out. The house was stripped to it's bare construction for all else was wet and rotting. Scary creatures were living between wallpaper and cardboard walls. New floors were put in. The first attampts were made to fix the roof. There was a long battle with the pitchens. They kept coming back in the house, assualting the new inhabitants. But eventually they stayed away.
At the same time another battle was taking place. 'Het Oosten' refused the electracompany people acces to the powerplant.Because of this it wasn't possible to have electricity. This is illigal for electricity is considered a necessary need. It needed to come to threatning with a lawsuit before they finally gave in.
Now, two years later, the house is finished. There are no more leaks in the roof, there is a hot shower, a good kitchen, a new electricity system, good sewaredge, heaters, real rooms in which people can live and there is an Internet connection.
The two main objections against the way things are going are directed against 'Het Oosten'. One specifically about Wagenstraat 3. The house was falling apart when squaters entered it. In later dialogs with 'Het oosten' they plainly said that they had no intension to do anything about the rapid deterioration. It was cheaper to wait till the final renovation. This would have meant that without the squaters the house would have been subject to rain, wind and pitchens for at least two more years. Probably it would be have deteriorated beyond renovation. Offering the owner a good excuse to tear it down all together and build something much more expensive.
In the cityplan the house has a status of a livinghouse. Nevertheless, on ground floor a nightclub is situated. Dispate the fact that the whole neighbourhood is being rearranged they do not have to move. (remember fl. 30.000 rent) On the contrary Wagenstraat 3 is considered unhabitable because the noise produced by the club is considered unacceptable by the planmakers. So even though that the nightclub is semi-illigal and the house has a living destination, the house's function will be subject to the club. The first floor will become a hallway, a toilet or something other usefull for which indeed you need thirty square meters. Second and third floor will become an appartment for one person. It is going to be expensive, because 'Het Oosten' paid fl. 147 million for the whole block and somehow they'll have to earn that back. So the house in which three people can live well, will become a one person yuppy place. (Does this sound familiar?)
The second objection is a more general about the workingmethods of 'Het Oosten'. As has been said, the function of a housingcorporation is to ensure good cheap housing. They own a lot of houses but the difference between them and speculaters is that they're supposed to be there for the public not for the money. It was therefore rather strange that a corporation like that bought so little amount of houses for so much money. Though through later actions they proofed that they themselves don't think it strange at all. In '98 they bought Oibibio, which is a New Wave Yuppy Agency: Rebirth now! for only fl. 1500,- and such. This was previously owned by the owners of ~Het Paard van Aemstel~ once again not altogether fresh people. Oibibio has never been very profitable which is probably why it was put on sale. Than 'Het Oosten' bought the place. This matter was picked up by the politicians and went all the way up to the parliament. Politicians justly asked what the hell this still has to do with ensuring good liveble houses.
But the seeming difference between 'Het Oosten' and speculaters tends to become even smaller. On 1th of october 1999 'Amstel 198' one the four squats in the Rembrandtplein neighbourhood owned by 'Het Oosten' was to be evicted. This house is by them destigned to become the letterbox of the neighbouring (once again expensive) houses. Early in the morning came five 'movers'. The house was barricated and they started very aggresively bash in the door. Naught is left of that door but hundreds of little pieces. They started screaming up to the people defending the house that if they'd get in they would kill them and like remarks. One started gathering stones and threatend to throw them. They came through the door but also the stair was barricated and thus they weren't able to get in.
This event was on the news. When the journalist asked the president of 'Het oosten' whether he thought it normal to evict houses with use of such violence, the man replied that he had not expected the squaters to resist. Indeed, this is not an answer to the question. Neither does it explain why five agressive sportschool beasts are hired to empty a house that was supposedly not going to be defended. Spokesman of the squaters stated for the camara that squaters indeed do not like to be evicted by the police but that they sure do prefer them above such reckless, uncontrolled 'movers'.
A housingcorporation spends 147 million to buy a block of houses in the centre of Amsterdam. Much more will need to be spend on renovation for many of the houses are in a deteriorated state. Of these houses maybe four will become social (low) rent. All houses on the Amstel will become exorbirant high rent. Amstelstraat will end up somewhere in between.
A toilet or a letterbox for the rich is worth more than habitable houses in which four people find their home now. All that money spend and the citizens of Amsterdam end up with four affordable houses. The rest is spended for the rich.
So what is social about a housingcorporation these days? They don't refrain from violence. They don't ensure cheap housing. They don't use their money to keep the houses of Amsterdam in good shape.