Residents and activists blocked access to the Sint Bernadettewijk social housing estate in Ghent with mattresses on Monday to oppose evictions and press demands for a phased renovation of the homes there instead of a complete demolition.
"Is it responsible to demolish 250 houses in the midst of a housing crisis? The works will only start in 2026," they said. "Moreover, there is still no plan for the district."
"The original inhabitants could have stayed three more years and come up, during that time, with a plan for a new garden neighbourhood with the participation of and supported by the government and the community," they argued.
The protest action comes on the eve of the planned demolition of the neighbourhood to make way for the new garden neighbourhood which, according to WoninGent, the company responsible for the project, will be more compliant with the norms set by the Flemish Social Housing Agency, VMSW.
A feasibility study had also shown that building a new social housing project would be cheaper that renovating the existing homes, WoningGent argued in a press release issued on 8 August.
The company added that it would start the demolition in the second half of August, having obtained an "irrevocable" demolition permit and a court ruling authorising it to evict anyone refusing to leave the neighbourhood.
However, Monday's protesters vowed to continue resisting.
"This neighbourhood is a social neighbourhood. It's not a shanty town, it's a resistance neighbourhood. That's how it started and that's how it will end," they said.