The Hague’s Alderman of Housing: "Art can help finding solutions to housing crisis"

23 maart 2022

Three photography students expressed that in addition to data, statistics and law, art can play an important role in contributing to solve the housing crisis in the Hague. They did this during a meeting with Martijn Balster, the Hague’s Alderman of Housing, Neighbourhoods and Welfare. According to the students, art helps making people more conscious about this issue.

As a follow-up from the exhibition 'I miss you, home' that was hosted at the KABK galleries in November, the three photography students, Ben Maier, Lina Selg and Dario di Paolantonio, together with students from Leiden University, met with Martijn Balster. By showing the human side of its consequences, art can rally people together, they think. It could help creating the political environment needed to facilitate the changes that are necessary. “The exhibit was a life experience where visitors got an idea of what it's like to live in an alternative way,” Ben says.

Lina Selg, Dario di Paolantonio, Ben Maier (Photo credit: Floris Meijer).

Empty houses
Ben, Lina and Dario showed images from their exhibition ‘I miss you, home’ that show the living conditions of international students, who had turned to squatting as a last desperate resort for finding a home in The Hague. They spoke about the difficulties that came with this life, as well as the misconceptions surrounding it. The students also called on the city to do all that is possible to make currently empty houses available for students.

Martijn Balster, the alderman, was thankful for the contribution that Ben, Lina and Dario have made to this issue, yet cautioned that the problems are ‘not easy’ to solve. He spoke about some of the challenges that exist to create the conditions needed for solutions to the crisis to emerge, as well as the ‘social duty’ of landlords within these questions.

Balster: “I am optimistic about the role that art can have to support politicians and policy makers in finding solutions for the housing crisis. I will enforce regulations that already exist and making it easier for renters to report problems in the process to the municipality.”

Mees Wassenaar and Doris Bukman, two students from Haagse Hogeschool and Leiden University respectively also attended the meeting and presented their research on the housing crisis. They highlighted issues of scams (this happened with international students), the lack of transparency for the rights of renters as well as the accountability of landlords and different systems that could enhance that dynamic.

Ben, Lina and Dario will continue to collaborate with the municipality as well as the organisation ‘Student and Stad’ to reach new audiences with their work that continues to show the magnitude of the issue at hand.

One of the images from exhibitionn of Ben, Lina and Dario, ‘I miss you, home’.

About the exhibition
Ben, Dario and Lina have been following the squatting community for a long time. “We are very close to this community and have had first hand experiences,” says Dario. “The people we followed are our friends,” adds Ben. “That way we could make intimate portraits.” It was also the only reason they could make these images at all. “In general, these people have a great distrust of the medium of photography and social media,” says Lina. “If you're not part of their community, you won't even get a camera inside. But we didn't go there for a photography project, but because we feel involved. We only started taking pictures from there.”

Podcast on Spotify
Would you like to know more about 'I miss you, home'? Ben, Dario and Lina tell more about their project in this podcast (podcast made by third-year photography student Hanna Burgers).