On Sunday, November 28, housing rights groups and other progressive sections in the Dutch city of Groningen marched under the banner #Woonstrijd to protest the acute housing crisis in the city. Various groups including Shelter Our Students (SOS), International Socialists Groningen, New Communist Party of the Netherlands (NCPN), Communist Youth Movement (CJB), RED Groningen, Young Socialists Groningen, Democratic Academy Groningen, Groningen Feminist Network, and others, participated in the march while adhering to COVID-19 safety protocols. The protesters demanded a radical housing policy from the authorities which will be beneficial for all residents of the city.
Major cities of the Netherlands have been facing an acute housing crisis marked by higher rents, skyrocketing property prices, evictions and homelessness. Various progressive groups in these cities have formed coalitions for housing rights and affordable and dignified living. These include #Woonstrijd in Groningen, #Woonprotest in Amsterdam, #Woonopstand in Rotterdam and #Woonverzet in Hague. Major protests took place in Amsterdam on September 12, in Rotterdam on October 17, and in Hague on November 13.
Progressive sections in Groningen have launched the Shelter Our Students (SOS) campaign, a couch surfing initiative to help homeless students in the city. In September, youth/student groups under the banner of SOS Groningen had occupied the academy building of the University of Groningen to protest the acute housing crisis faced by students in the city.
The housing rights coalitions in the major cities of the Netherlands have also joined forces and released a Housing Manifesto with various demands to solve the housing crisis. These demands include reinstating the ministry of housing, which deals exclusively with policies aimed at realizing the right to housing, combating homelessness as a top priority, ensuring broadly accessible, affordable and secure public housing, expropriation of vacant and unused spaces, and curbing the financialization of housing.
In the Housing Manifesto, the housing rights groups state that “these days in the Netherlands, the availability and affordability of housing are under severe pressure. The number of homeless people has doubled in ten years and the housing shortage has exploded. People with low incomes are affected by social housing being sold, liberalized or demolished on a large scale. Especially for people with disabilities, the elderly, young people and starters, there is a shortage of affordable housing. While social renting is marginalized, the free-rent sector has become expensive and insecure, which means that middle incomes are now also falling between the cracks.”
“More than 800,000 households in the county do not have enough money left over for daily expenses after paying the rent. After renting has become more flexible, many people are forced to live temporarily or insecurely: for many, housing insecurity has become the norm. Every year we see a group of (international) students who are homeless at the start of the academic year. The social inequality between renters and homeowners is still increasing enormously, due to the disproportionate benefits that homeowners enjoy. In addition, financial benefits for buyers and homeowners drive up house prices enormously, making owning a home unattainable for many or people are stuck with sky-high mortgages,” added the housing rights groups.