“We want to get rid of our garage, which was thoughtlessly rammed into our beautiful facade 42 years ago.” An Antwerp couple wants to get rid of their indoor garage during renovations to their house in the Stuivenberg district, but apparently has to pay 5,000 euros to the city for this. To say they are angry now is an understatement. “We just give back a parking space, and we are punished?”
Matthieu Van Steenkiste (47) and his partner bought a middle-class home from the early twentieth century in the Stuivenberg district of Antwerp in 2015. The couple does not have a car, and does not want to have one in the future. The indoor garage, which – admittedly – contrasts sharply with the beautiful facade, is therefore a thorn in the side of the couple.
Matthieu and his partner quickly wanted to get rid of the garage and then restore their facade to its original state. But when they presented their renovation plans to the Urban Planning Department of the city of Antwerp, their jaws dropped wide open. They were allowed to carry out the work, but had to pay 5,000 euros. “A bullying fine,” Matthieu calls it plainly. “And a serious one at that: ten percent of our renovation budget disappears down the drain.”
In a response to the Mediahuis newspapers, the cabinet of Antwerp’s Alderman for Mobility Koen Kennis (N-VA) emphasizes that this way of working “has now been applied for nine years”. “The philosophy is that people park their cars on their own property as much as possible, and not on the street, where we want to see fewer parked cars.”
(Read more below the photo)
The cabinet informs our editors that it is not a fine that Matthieu and his partner had to pay. “It’s about a tax. The city uses the proceeds to build neighborhood parking lots.”
Because Matthieu and his partner absolutely wanted to start their renovation, they decided to cough up the sum of 5,000 euros – much against their will. They did submit a — in their own words: “heavy” — notice of objection, but it was rejected.
“The injustice cannot actually be put into words,” says Matthieu. “We are just giving a parking space back to the community. Until now, no one has been allowed to park in front of our garage – to the frustration of all local residents, no doubt – but we generously say: ‘Here, we don’t want that garage. Just put your mind to it.’”
The couple also toyed with the idea of creating a small bicycle shed behind the current gate. But that also clashed with a ‘ny’ from the city. Matthieu: “The building permit department was unrelenting. This was not allowed, because they want contact with the street to be maintained.”
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