Housing protest: ‘Help! My rent is higher than EEMCS’

Loudly and with amusing protest signs, dozens of demonstrators raised their voices on Sunday afternoon in Delft.

Stip members with their protest signs. (Photos: Marjolein van der Veldt)

Less than one hour before the start of the demonstration, buckets of rain fell from the heavens. That did not stop dozens of people gathering in the Poptapark. With protest signs and flags, they spoke out against the housing crisis loudly and clearly. They included members of the Stip political party. Their board saying ‘Help, my rent is higher than EEMCS’ stood out. 

Don’t let students suffocate
While the last visitors were finding a place in the soggy grass, Jim Jansen, one of the organisers of the Woonactie, took the stage. He explained that ‘we’ are here today as the whole of the Netherlands is facing a housing crisis, including Delft. 

The waiting lists for council housing are long and the affordable housing stock is shrinking. He cites one example and that is the new housing complexes in Nieuw Delft that are unaffordable for students and people on low incomes. The houses here – a stone’s throw from the protest – mostly consists of houses for sale and rent in the middle and high income brackets.

As other housing protests in the country, the TU Delft housing protest supports the Woonmanifest (housing manifesto, Eds.). It contains points of action for central Government to deal with the housing crisis. Jansen sums up the points amid supporting shouts and applause.

It goes further than this though. He specifies demands for the Municipality of Delft while the flags of the Bij1, GroenLinks and Stip political parties flap noisily in the background. Jansen looks at some of the politicians present. “Municipal Council, are you listening? Stop gentrification, Delft does not need to be made more attractive for the overspill of Rotterdam and The Hague, but needs to be liveable for the people that live there now. Protect council housing, improve accessibility and don’t let students suffocate. Make sure that everyone that wants to study here can also live here. Build enough shared accommodation for students, not only studios. Communicate the housing problem more clearly to future domestic and international students and start building more accommodation on campus.”

He ends with a direct call to the Executive Board of TU Delft. “Take responsibility for the students that TU Delft attracts and make student housing a top priority.”

While the demonstration was mostly about the losers in the housing crisis, the ‘winners’ also addressed the public. One of them is Nina from Delft. Born and raised in a family below the poverty line, buying a house was never realistic. That said, she now lives in a private property. “I married rich,” she explains. “My husband comes from a wealthy social class, he left university with no study debt and his parents could give him a jubelton (tax free gift of max EUR 100 thousand) when we were looking for a house.”

Dozens of people were present during the Delft housing action in the Poptapark.

“You may have a comfortable roof over your head, but you can still help out of solidarity.” Nina talks about her neighbours, three international students who share the EUR 1,970 rent every month for a house for which she pays a EUR 650 mortgage. “My husband sent the pandjesbrigade (an organisation that monitors the safety of buildings and houses in the city, Eds.) along and advised the students to go to the huurloket (the Municipality’s rent control desk, Eds.). In the end they got a slight rent decrease and the maintenance was finally done. You can do this too. Until the Government takes action, let’s steal the profits from greedy landlords through solidarity and helping friends and neighbours whenever possible.”

“What time is it?” she asks the public.
“Solidarity!” they shout back.

The demonstration ended in a march to the city centre. The group attracted a lot of attention along the way. Some residents of Nieuw Delft watch curiously from their balconies as the parade of demonstrators walk past the new housing complexes.

The march towards the centre was accompanied by police and enforcement.

News editor Marjolein van der Veldt

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