Transvaal: Between The Hague Market and Zuiderpark

Transvaal was built as an urban-extension district of The Hague between 1890 and 1935. The name Transvaal is to be traced back to the Second Boer War in South Africa and the street names are also connected with this historical period. The district is situated in the centre of The Hague, bordering on The Hague Market and Zuiderpark. It is a densely populated, lively, multi-ethnic neighbourhood, 90% of the 14,020 residents are of immigrant origin (CBS (Statistics Netherlands), 2009).

In the fifties and sixties of the twentieth century the district, which was known as a more affluent working-class district, was largely occupied by small retailers. Geographically Transvaal was divided into streets with a predominantly Roman-Catholic population and streets where people of the Dutch Reformed faith lived. In the seventies the first foreign workers came. First Italian emigrants and Surinamese arrived, later Turks, Moroccans and Antilleans. By now the district comprises about ninety nationalities. Traditionally Transvaal has had a well-developed social network with active neighbourhood organizations and associations organizing numerous activities for the local residents.

The cheap housing supply, overdue maintenance, a high unemployment percentage and the arrival of semi- and unskilled foreign job-seekers intensified one another and caused problems in the socio-economic and social sphere. In 1999 the municipality of The Hague decided to restructure the district drastically, together with the housing corporations, over a period of twelve years with as final date 2014. This master plan entailed demolition of three thousand rented dwellings and new construction of sixteen hundred dwellings, of which only 30% rented housing and 70% owner-occupied housing.

Apart from improvement of the residential climate and the quality of life in the district, the municipality has additional reasons for this large-scale approach. By realizing the owner-occupied housing the municipality wants to adjust the 'distorted economic balance' within the city and mix groups with different income levels. Another argument for the supply of attractive, new rented and owner-occupied housing in Transvaal is retaining the second-generation foreign residents for the district. Finally, the authorities hope that the new house owners will feel greater responsibility for their dwellings and their neighbourhood than the former tenants.

The government policy is also connected with a change of objective of the privatized housing corporations. Whereas they used to have a social function, at present they operate as  commercially run companies. The profit to be made from the construction and sale of owner-occupied housing is larger than the income from rented housing. This new market situation and the plans of the four large Dutch cities in the long run, play an essential part in this urban transformation process. In order to be able to continue competing on the international market in the future as well, The Hague wishes to play the role of a city focused on information and communication technology: The Hague, the ICT city by the North Sea as part of the so-called Delta metropolis. Because of these developments and its central and attractive location the land price in Transvaal has risen considerably. For many present residents the transformation process has far-reaching consequences. Most of them cannot afford the new dwellings. Due to the shortage of cheap rented housing they are forced to find houses elsewhere in or outside The Hague. Residents who have lived in the neighbourhood for many years and were sometimes even been born there, will have to leave Transvaal and try and settle in elsewhere. In view of the large-scale demolition actions which hardly any Dutch city is spared, the question is even more where citizens with moderate budgets will still be able to live in the future.