High rents for theaters and community centers? Prioritize the interests of the public

Marisa Monsanto

For a long time it was a dirty word, a longing uttered in vain by detractors, now a hesitant sense of impotence: sight. How do you develop an enticing and secure future for all citizens of our country, how do you see the society you want to build? For a long time we were governed by a stuffy mantra that dictated that social welfare equals economic growth; that value equals money. For a long time, soft values, values ​​that are binding on our society, were denied to us as human beings.

One of the important sectors of our society that suffered from this narrowing of vision is culture. After a cautious start under the previous minister, a minister has now joined who fundamentally understands and loves the full breadth of culture’s value to a society. State Secretary Gunay Uslu (OCW) announces energy compensation for cultural institutions facing staggering price increases that threaten public accessibility.

About the author

Marisa Monsanto is an independent consultant in the cultural sector and chairman of Theater voor Keti Koti. Before that, she worked as a civil servant for twenty years. Monsanto is a guest columnist for . In November de Volkskrantwhich every month invites someone to publish a series of columns on volkskrant.nl/opinie.

Marisa MonsantoStatue Marisa Monsanto

Slavery Museum

Uslu promotes higher wages for cultural freelancers, contributes to the development of a slavery museum and a national history museum and gives an extra boost to youth culture. Her most important and striking achievement: the strengthening of libraries with an amount that rises to almost 60 million euros in 2025. With this, she embraces a widely supported PvdA proposal, which wants to guarantee access to a fully developed library for every Dutch person.

In doing so, the state secretary once again lays a foundation in our socio-cultural system. Interestingly, it also imposes a duty of care on the municipalities to ensure long-term accessibility to the library. Now there is one circumstance that drives cultural institutions—libraries, theaters, museums, arts centers, as well as community centers—to endlessly increasing costs, resulting in higher price tags for the public: rent.

Fictitious market values

These institutions usually occupy council-owned properties whose rents continue to rise due to prices set by estate agents based on fictitious market values. Grants increase in line with these higher market values, but not to the same extent as the rent increase. Partly as a result, many institutions become impoverished and find it increasingly difficult for them to work on their primary material mission: to bring art, to buy books, to be a meeting center, to be a learning environment, to be a bond in the community.

Like fish in a bowl, we have been swimming in circles in this stupid dogma for years. After all, who decides the price of institutions that normally have no function other than the one they were built for? And are you basing that price on the fictitious maximum market value? Or on the social added value? Absolutely no one benefits from rents based on a so-called maximum market value for a building that has a clear social function – except perhaps the estate agents who derive prestige from the high prices.

Broad concept of prosperity

IN The end of BV Holland the new SER chairman Kim Putters is in favor of implementing a broad concept of prosperity. It is essential for (municipal) politicians to understand his prayer. Politicians have a choice and a responsibility. Which interest do you prefer? And what harm does one do by swimming around in real estate dogma? It is very important that the politicians realize the destruction that has been done and that they restore it within a vision of what kind of society we want to be. These fictitious market prices are not a natural phenomenon. They are conceived.

In addition to impoverishing cultural institutions and closing around a hundred libraries, countless community center buildings, spiders in the social web of human life, have also been sold. As a result, precious social connection points have disappeared. A good sale price could be won as a notary’s office, as a shop or as a restaurant. The site Geenmarktwaardemaarmeerwaarde.nl – developed by LSA Residents and Democracy in Progress – shows in a clear animation how the mechanism works, where market thinking keeps us imprisoned and what the social damage is.


The ball is now in the court of the Association of Dutch Municipalities (VNG) and municipal politicians. Stop this. At least declare a moratorium: ban the sale of all buildings with a social function for five years and freeze rents. At that point, you must develop a price policy based on the broad concept of prosperity and then determine the price level to which the rent can be reduced. In this way, we keep culture and meetings affordable and accessible to all citizens. And cultural and social institutions can work on what they are for. For us.

It brings vision back into politics. Vision of what is of value to a society. Well-being, development, art, bonding, citizenship. How special it is that a state secretary for culture takes the lead in this.

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