Squatting of Steve Bikoplein 19
In the summer of 2004, the ground , second, third and fourth floors of Steve Bikoplein 19 were squatted after many years of abandonment and decay. The ground floor didn't have a floor and in the rest of apartments, the lack of basic facilities like a space to shower showed that the last inhabitants had primitive living conditions.
The building was bought by Testa in 2000. Testa was a retired real-estate agent and the brother of Anton Testa, well-known as the former owner of the GVB. The years of his ownership are characterized by a total lack of maintenance of the building. The municipal authorities summoned Mr. Testa in 2004 to act on the 52 points of necessary repair to adequately maintain the building. The renter on the first floor could not even stand on her balcony because it was so unsafe. Between the renter nearly beggging for help, the efforts of the squatting movement, and intense pressure from the Department of Housing, Testa finally renovated the balconies. However, the, the Housing Department has failed to force Testa to act upon rest of the safety and maintenance points. For example, the housefront is nearly separated from the rest of the house and about to fall off.
Investment in building and neighbourhood
The squatters in the meantime have done everything possible to make the house safe and livable. They rebuilt the floor on the groundfloor, installed a toilet, and fixed broken windows. The squatters installed better and safer electity, heaters, running water, and showers, as well as other improvements. In addition, the squatters in the house are actively involved in organizing neighbourhood activities like movie screenings on the Bikoplein, a giveawayshop and a neighbourhood restaurant and people's kitchen. Meanwhile, throughout these years, the owner showed no interest in renovating the house, making it livable and safe, nor in investing in the community.
The arrival of the speculants and bullies on the Bikoplein
In March, 2007, the squatters were visited by Mark Visser, who claimed to be an intemediary from the owner, Testa. Visser, who initially pretended that he was a friend of one of the living group members in order enter the house deceptively, was greeted suspiciously by neighborhood squatters. He claimed to have squatted in his youth and to understand 'our cause'. He was vague about who he was and who he represented. He proposed vague offers of financial settlement to the squatters, claimed to have spoken with the Gemeente Amsterdam, and sport a portfolio of thank you letters from grateful and satisfied renters who he had relocated. Upon investigation, the squatters found that all his claims were lies.
Nawar Hussein: real estate pirate and the ultimate sleazy landlord
A couple of weeks later, the squatters group found that Nawar Hussein had purchased the right to buy and sell the house. Nawar Hussein is infamous in the real estate market of Amsterdam. According to Het Parool, during the renovation Da Costastraat 43---, Utopit, a company run by Hussein and the aforementioned Mark Visser, had to remove asbestos. Utopit contracted workers who did not wear special suits to protect themselves during the toxic asbestos removal process. They also failed to dispose the asbestos properly. Instead of putting it in special tubes and containers, they disposed the asbestos into the open-air.
Asbestos, environmental pollution, and Oud West
Beyond environmental hazards, Nawar Hussein's harassment of the social housing renters of Da Costastraat furthered his notoriety. He informed the renters on Christmas eve that they would have to move out. He used strong arm tactics to pressure the renters to leave, in some case promising them money that they never received, for others, not even providing the minimum of 5000 euros moving costs determined by the Gemeente. The project has been full of delays. It should have been renovated in a year and a half, instead, its been nearly 3 years and the building still remains a construction site. The renters who have stayed despite Hussein's harassment have had to undergo the difficulty of living in a construction site, having to leave their housing temporarily during the relocation, and having to constantly negotiate with Hussein, who has proven to be untrustworthy. Hussein's plans are to sell these social housing apartments as high priced condominiums, further yuppifying Oud West.
Direct Housing: Taking advantage of students, temporary and illegal contracts paid in cash
In addition to the infamy of the Da Costastraat project, Hussein's student housing company, Direct Housing notoriously exploits students. It features prominently on the black list of a student housing website, full of stories by current and former renters. The basic story is the following: a student, desperate for housing, finds a room through Direct Housing. They offer a dubious temporary contract with few rights. Its unclear if the students are illegally subletting the rooms or if they are renting the rooms legally, which would give them rights. The most important feature of the arrangement is that students have to pay their rent every month in cash at Direct Housing's office on the Middenweg. Thus, the students cannot prove that they rent from Direct Housing enabling Direct Housing to evict students with two weeks notice or doing other disturbing and illegal practices, such as keeping rental contracts in a safe in their office without providing a copy to the renter nor providing a key. The stories of students who rent from Direct Housing are full of abuse: intimidation, lack of maintenance, and a general bullying and exploitative attitude of Hussein towards the student renters: people who feel disempowered by the expensive housing market in Amsterdam and are desperate for housing.
Nawar Hussein: computer science, money launderer, bully
Based on these stories, Hussein is clearly a disturbing and shady figure. He prefers to deal with cash and enjoys bullying people who are in a more vulnerable position. Who then, is this Nawar Hussein? A few facts are known. First, he often goes by a second name, Noah Laith. Also, he was born in Bagdad, Iraq, has a Master's degree in Algorithmical Computer Science from the UvA, and has been involved in a number of software and real estate companies, such as Perfect Housing, Derubi, Manner Vastgoed, as well as the aforementioned Utopit and Direct Housing. He has financial relationships in the Middle East. Utopit offers itself as a link for Middle East investors into the European housing market and another company, Lightsource, specializes in creating software for real estate markets in the Arab world. Yet, despite the plethora of companies with whom he works, he seems to be financially unstable, shown by his aggressive tactics to bleed money from students and his harassment of the tenants of Da Costastraat, in order to profit from his investment. Where, then, does his money come from?
Sterk Trading: TO BE CONTINUED
Approximately two weeks after Hussein purchased the right to Steve Bikoplein 19, he then sold it to Sterk Trading. Officially, Husein purchased the building for 493,000 euros from Testa. Two weeks later, he then sold it for 650,000 euros to Sterk Trading.