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Councils, developers urged to act on senior housing

The shortage of suitable housing for seniors is a major issue across the Netherlands, and many people are finding it difficult to move to smaller or more age-appropriate accommodation.

According to pensioners association Anbo, the country has a shortage of some 80,000 homes targeting older residents, the Financieele Dagblad reported earlier this month.

Anbo says the housing market is currently too geared towards family homes. ‘Society is getting older, people are living longer and that means their housing needs are changing too,’ says spokeswoman Atie Schipaanboord.

One example of the sort of housing which could be brought back are hofjes – mini developments of small homes around a central courtyard, which were popular in the Netherlands in previous centuries.

Other aspects to consider include ensuring bathrooms are big enough to accommodate both resident and a nurse, and that floors are all the same level, Anbo said.


‘Many older people want to move to an apartment, but there is often very little available in terms of location, affordability and amenities,’ Delft University professor Marja Elsinga told the paper.

This means, for example, that people remain living in family homes, reducing the availability of property for young families. ‘This is slowing down the entire housing market,’ Elsinga says. She wants local authorities to give more priority to developing affordable and suitable housing for older people.

‘And that means [councils] accepting lower land prices and developers making compromises as well,’ she says. ‘If they really want to, they can do it.’

Dutch housing minister Kajsa Ollongren told the Provada real estate fair in November that the Netherlands needs to create 845,000 new homes over the coming 10 years.

‘In 2021 there will be more government money to innovate and invest,’ she said.  In particular, the government is working to speed up decision-making about 14 major locations for residential developing, which will involve 60,000 new homes.

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Rotterdam gets creative with cereal factory site

Plans have been launched in Rotterdam to redevelop a former cereal factory on the harbour front into a lively urban area with shops, offices, cultural units and cafes, as well as 1,500 new homes.

Part of the massive factory building, considered to be an important part of Rotterdam’s industrial heritage, will be transformed into housing, while a new residential skyscraper, 220 metres high, will be built close by on the 1.8 hectare site.

‘An important part of Rotterdam’s industrial heritage will be given a wonderful new function and the area will become part of a new, lively Katendrecht district,’ city housing chief Bas Kurvers said.

Half the housing will be affordable – that is with a monthly rent of up to €1,000 or a purchase price of €310,000.

The green cube, which is lit up at night on the roof of the factory, will remain a key part of the city’s skyline after the project has been completed.

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Work starts on Titaan project in The Hague

Work has started in The Hague on building a new creative company hub on a former 146 hectare industrial area, which is being transformed into a modern urban district.

The Titaan project involves the development of over 11,200 square metres of offices, workshops and community spaces – enough to house 70 companies and 350 shared desk placements.

When completed in 2022, the Titaan will be almost energy neutral, with solar panels on the roof and it will be warmed via a district heating system.

City economic affairs alderman Saskia Bruines at the industrial area

‘The Titaan will strengthen the attractiveness of the Binckhorst district as a business location and helps meet demand for working space,’ says city economic affairs alderman Saskia Bruines. ‘Entrepreneurs are the driver of our local economy so this is essential.’

The Binckhorst is a former industrial area which will have a mix of homes, offices and shared workspaces focusing on innovation and creative companies when completed. Close to the HS railway station, it offers a wide variety of opportunities for developers.   

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Rotterdam brings affordable housing back to the city centre

An initiative has been launched in Rotterdam to develop 1,300 new homes on the Hofplein in the centre of the port city. The project, which is backed by the city council, involves redeveloping the south eastern part of the square with homes in a variety of price classes, plus a hotel, offices, cafes and public areas.

‘Lots of people want to live in the city centre and this plan brings housing back to the heart of Rotterdam,’ said city housing chief Bas Kurvers. ‘Half of the homes will be classified as affordable, and will be available for police officers, teachers and nurses.’

Over 200 rent-controlled homes will be demolished as part of the RISE project and their current tenants will be able to return to the location once the new project is completed.

The Hofplein forms an important entry to Rotterdam and the redevelopment project also includes giving more space to pedestrians and cyclists. The current roundabout, which features a large fountain, is also being redeveloped into a city park as one of seven key projects helping to solve some of the green challenges facing Rotterdam.

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Amsterdam prison redevelopment project Bajeskwartier includes incubator for artists

Bajeskwartier, a new residential area on the site of a former prison on the outskirts of Amsterdam, will include a special ‘incubator’ for artists who are finding it increasingly difficult to find affordable studio space within the city boundaries.

As Dutch inner city areas are redeveloped and upgraded, the old industrial spaces loved by experimental artists are becoming increasingly short in supply. But developer and Holland Metropole partner AM was happy to ensure the Bajesdorp artists village, first established on the site by squatters in 2003 could remain, albeit in a different form.

The incubator development is now at the planning stage and once the green light has been given, a new building will be erected on the site of the former director’s home. The ground floor will have a café, theatre and music studios and a space for performances. The three upper floors will offer housing and ateliers of 15 to 25 square metres to 10 artists in residence.

The cost of the project is put at €2.5m, of which 65% has been covered by a mortgage by a German cooperative bank. The rest of the funding is being raised via a ‘crowd-lending’ campaign. The 10 residents will each put €5,000 into the fund but will not own their homes. Instead, the building will remain in the hands of a cooperative to preserve the space for future generations.

Once completed, the complete Bajeskwartier district will have 1,350 new homes, offices, commercial functions, shops, restaurants, a hotel, urban farming and workshop space, in addition to the incubator for art and alternative lifestyles. Bajeskwartier will be energy neutral, with heat pumps to provide winter heating and all organic waste created in the district will be used to produce electricity.

‘Sustainability and climate adaptive development are key in this project,’ AM chief executive Ronald Huikeshoven told Holland Metropole magazine earlier. ‘In fact, 98% of the building material salvaged from the demolition work will be reused. We want to respect the site and its history.’

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Rotterdam park projects will help tackle climate change

Planning chiefs at Rotterdam city council have published a list of seven key projects which are creating attractive public places for people to meet, socialize and exercise, while helping to solve some of the challenges facing urban development in the Netherlands.

The total cost of the investment in the seven projects is put at €233m and work on them should be completed by 2030, city officials say.

The new parks, squares and open spaces, filled with plenty of trees and greenery, will help reduce heat-related stress, absorb excess rainwater and provide new places for residential development by tackling noise and air pollution. They will function, planners say, as green lungs for the city.

In addition, the projects will provide years of work for a large number of people, Bert Wijbenga, the city’s planning chief, told the NRC earlier. ‘They will contribute to our mobility strategy,’ he said.  ‘They will make it possible to build more homes and make the city greener and more sustainable.’

The seven projects are being approached in an integrated way and will also act as a driver for further neighbourhood improvements.  Together, the projects involve planting 700 trees, creating green spaces the size of 20 football pitches and planting 10,000 square metres of green roofs. The overall impact will also boost property values in the area by 15%.

One of the projects involves creating a new park in the former port area on both reclaimed land and old industrial sites. The Rijnhaven park plan includes developing floating green spaces to sit and socialize as well as plans to build 2,500 new homes.  

The Hofbogen is another city park development, situated this time on a two-kilometre stretch of a former railway viaduct that crosses several residential areas.

In all, the seven plans mean a further 17,000 Rotterdam households will live no further than 200 metres from a green space.

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Housing crisis calls for greater cooperation, says home affairs minister

Dutch home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren has told this year’s Provada real estate fair that local authorities, housing corporations, construction firms and developers need to work more closely together to make sure that enough new homes are being built.

 ‘We need to create 845,000 new homes over the coming 10 years,’ Ollongren said in a video message. ‘Like this year, in 2021 there will be more government money to innovate and invest.’

 In particular, the government is working to speed up decision-making about 14 major locations for residential developing, which will involve 60,000 new homes,’ she said.

At the same time, eight of the 12 Dutch provinces are on target to develop enough homes, ‘and that is good news’, the minister said.


Nevertheless, the challenges ahead will require a stronger real estate sector, Ollongren said. ‘Local and provincial authorities should do more to allocate land for development more quickly. Investors and housing corporations should ensure there are enough affordable homes. Developers will have to do their best to create sustainable and attractive locations while builders will have to build both quickly and to innovate.’

Henk Jagersma, who heads the spatial planning department at Amsterdam city council, said in a video debate following the minister’s speech that the current government has worked hard to put housing on the agenda.

‘But are they doing enough to restore the balance in the housing market?’ he said. ‘Can we do more to speed up the processes and solve issues such as nitrogen compound pollution and noise?’

Peter Kievoet, Director of Economic affairs, Mobility and spatial planning in The Hague told the debate he and other local authority officials would like to see more tailor-made solutions for particular housing crisis problems.

‘This is not just about the home affairs ministry, but about other ministries, about national government in general,’ he said. ‘I have completely different discussions at the home affairs ministry than I do with farm ministry officials.’

The need for the big Dutch cities to work closely with developers and investors is one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Holland Metropole project.

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Converted offices create thousands of new homes

Developers created 12,500 new homes in empty schools, office blocks and retail spaces in the Netherlands last year, according to new figures from the national statistics office CBS.

Together they accounted for 13% of the 71,000 new homes realised in 2019. Almost half the conversions came from transforming redundant or outdated office blocks.

Holland Metropole partner Rotterdam was top of the list – conversions accounted for 37% of the new homes on the market in the port city last year. In The Hague, 23% of new homes were conversions and in Amsterdam 17%.

In Eindhoven, the repurposing of buildings is also beginning to gather steam. In the city centre, for example, the former V&D department store is being converted into a mix of retail and residential property.

The upper floor is also being taken over by Microlab, a flexible working space company which will include studios, meeting rooms and a sky bar with views over the city.

The trend of converting shops and department store premises into residential and mixed use complexes is likely to continue. A recent report by real estate research group Locatus said that more retail space is likely to remain vacant in the coming period, as the coronavirus epidemic continues to boost the shift to online shopping, and fewer tourists visit popular holiday destinations such as Amsterdam.

It estimates the vacancy rate will grow from almost 8% to 10% next year, and that medium-sized cities, not the big urban conglomerations like Rotterdam and Amsterdam, are likely to be hardest hit.

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Public and private sector must work together on affordable housing: ULI

The relationship between the public and private sector must be improved to make sure there is enough housing for people in the Netherlands with average incomes, according to a new analysis by the Urban Land Institute (ULI).

The report is further evidence of the need for alliances such as the Holland Metropole project, which was set up to highlight the development and investment opportunities in the Netherlands’ five biggest cities and to boost cooperation between government and the real estate sector.

The report says people with average incomes continue to be squeezed out of the housing market in the Netherlands’ bigger cities, and the main reason is the chronic lack of building land available for affordable home construction. This is an issue Holland Metropole members continue to highlight.

‘National, regional and local governments play a key role and have to start developing a long-term vision,’ the report, Promoting Housing Affordability states. ‘Then there will be certainty for developers who have to be encouraged to build mid market homes.’

‘The only way to guarantee a proper housing supply for people on average incomes is to make sure everyone involved understands the risks and the level of certainty. Only then can long-term relationships flourish which lead to change.’

One simple problem area highlighted in the report is that of regulations about how many parking spaces need to be provided for each property – which can mean more land is given over to parking than housing.  But changing this requires changes to zoning laws which have to be negotiated with local councils.

Mobility is a key part of the Holland Metropole approach and many projects involving Holland Metropole partners include commitments to replace car parking with car sharing and other mobility schemes.

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Rotterdam goes for better balance

Rotterdam has drawn up a long-term plan to improve the balance of the city’s housing supply, to reflect the changing population, which has become richer and better educated in recent years.  

‘We will improve the balance between cheap, mid-market and expensive homes, so that Rotterdammers can move within the city itself,’ says city housing chief Bas Kurvers. ‘Rotterdam needs to be a great city for people from every income group to live in, so we are working with housing corporations, developers and construction firms to make sure this happens.’

Despite the pressure on the Dutch housing market in general, Rotterdam remains a fairly affordable city to live in, but more needs to be done to boost the housing supply. Over the past two years, work has started on projects to provide 7,252 new homes and 6,100 units have just had the green light from national government for extra subsidies.

In particular, the city authorities plan to focus on more housing for young families and youngsters starting out on the housing ladder. This means, for example, that 40% of the homes being built in the Feyenoord City project will fall into the €720-€1,000 a month rental sector. The city has also reached agreement with the developers to make sure the rents remain low for the next 15 years.

In addition, officials are drawing up extra measures to encourage the elderly to downsize, and to help people whose income is above the social housing threshold to move into slightly more expensive property. This, they say, will free up more social housing for people on low incomes. Nevertheless, the proportion of social housing in the city will still be around 57% in 2030, which is more than needed for the number households who actually qualify for rent-controlled properties.

Meanwhile, Rotterdam is also starting a pilot for tiny houses and has opened applications from groups of private individuals who want to build up to 15 of the eco-friendly properties in a green part of the city’s Zuidwijk district. 

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