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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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Dutch government reaches deal to subsidise building 51,000 new homes

The Dutch government has made an agreement with provincial and local authorities about spending €620m to subsidise the building of 51,000 new homes in the short term.

The government agreed last year to put €1bn into housing in an effort to speed up developments because of the shortage of rental and owner-occupier homes. According to some estimates, the Netherlands will need 845,000 new homes by 2030.

In total, 27 projects have been given the green light, involving a number of Holland Metropole partners in the Amsterdam region, The Hague, Eindhoven, Rotterdam and Utrecht.


Some 65% of the new homes will fall into the affordable housing category, including some 6,000 cheaper owner-occupier flats and houses. Some will target seniors and starters on the housing market, and some will focus on students.

The subsidy amounts to € 5,690 per home. None of the projects could be built without extra financial help, for a variety of reasons, housing minister Kajsa Ollongren said. ‘Much of this is due to the investment needed to connect the project to public transport routes,’ she said.  ‘Almost all the projects involve far reaching measures to make the location suitable for building.’

Twelve of the projects involve redeveloping old industrial sites, such as the Binckhorst in The Hague, the Rotterdam Feyenoord City scheme and Utrecht’s Merwedekanaal zone. Work on most of the projects will now start next year.


Now the funding has been agreed, minister Ollongren said she hoped work on the projects would start as soon as possible. ‘We have to make haste in building more affordable homes to give starters and people on low incomes more opportunities in the housing market,’ she said. The government is contributing €290m of the total subsidy bill.

Local authorities had put forward 52 plans for consideration, and some of which will be resubmitted in October after adaptations are made, the minister said. She has set aside €225m in government money for the second batch of projects.

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Rotterdam starts permit-free house building

Rotterdam city council has launched an innovative project giving would-be home owners more freedom to build their own homes or redevelop existing housing in a project known as Architect aan Zet – which loosely translates as ‘over to architects’.

City officials hope that the scheme will speed up the supply of new homes in the city, by removing red tape and lengthy licencing permit processes, while putting architects back in control of small-scale projects. 

‘Lots of people want to live in Rotterdam and the Architect aan Zet scheme will let them build or rebuild a house that fits their needs,’ alderman Bas Kurvers said. ‘In this way, the concept is contributing to Rotterdam’s housing stock.’

People who want to build their own home, or add an extension or roof terrace, will be able to do so without a permit or special fees, as long as they use an approved architect to design and oversee the process, and the project meets city zoning rules. 

The plan, which is a first for the Holland Metropole region, has been approved by the cabinet on the basis of legislation brought into boost the Dutch economy in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. 

The scheme can be applied in large parts of the city, but not to listed buildings or in conservation areas and city officials will carry out ‘reality checks’ to make sure no rules are being broken.

So far 16 architects have signed up for the programme, which was launched on September 1 and will run for an initial five-year period. More architects are expected to join in October.

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Eindhoven may invest millions in city heating schemes

Eindhoven city council is considering investing millions of euros in developing city heating schemes in older parts of the city, in an effort to ensure residents are not confronted with high bills as the use of gas-fired heating is phased out.

City heating schemes, which use heat generated in biomass power stations or residue heat from industry, have a key role in the Netherlands’ plans to stop the use of gas in private homes by 2050.

Private companies and developers are likely to take responsibility for city heating schemes in new residential areas. But the high cost of laying pipes in the inner city make it crucial that Eindhoven itself has a role as a public partner, officials say.

Heat is currently provided by two biomass power stations, but officials agree that using wood chips to generate warmth is not a sustainable solution. The issue is also politically sensitive, and pressure has been mounting on national and regional governments to look for greener options.  

Unlike Holland Metropole partners Amsterdam and Rotterdam, Eindhoven does not have heavy industry producing heat which can also be tapped. However, research is also underway into the option of using thermal heat from either ground or waste water as a longer-term alternative.

The Netherlands is committed to phasing out the use of natural gas in private homes and industry in an effort to reduce greenhouse gases. New residential developments no longer have to be connected to the gas grid by law. Eindhoven officials expect city heating schemes to be an option for between 10% and 50% of the city’s homes.

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The Netherlands is affected less severely by the corona crisis than some other countries

The Dutch economy will shrink by 5% in 2020, assuming there are no more large-scale new restrictions needed to combat coronavirus, the government’s main forecasting agency said in its pre-budget report.

This contraction will be followed by growth of 3% in 2021, the CPB said in its summer forecasts, which form the basis of the government’s spending plans for next year.

Should large-scale physical contact restrictions be implemented again, the economy will also shrink in 2021, and unemployment will increase to 10%, the CPB said.

‘The Netherlands is affected less severely by the corona crisis than some other countries. But, make no mistake, the magnitude of the negative impact is unprecedented and, for the most part, still has to make itself felt,’ CPB director Pieter Hasekamp said.

Hasekamp said there will be a delayed impact in the form of unemployment and bankruptcies and that job and income security varies widely between sectors.

‘Moreover, now more than ever, it is important to look beyond GDP,’ he said.  ‘Neighbourliness, family visits and home schooling cannot be captured in economic growth figures. The corona crisis also has major consequences for things that affect quality of life.’

The CPB projections are based on government policy up to the end of July and so assume the government’s financial support policies will not continued in October.  However, some new form of support is very likely and prime minister Mark Rutte said earlier this month the cabinet is thinking ‘very carefully’ about what a third package of measures should include.

Ministers are currently finalising their spending plans for 2021, which is also an election year and the budget will be presented to parliament on September 15.

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Landlords are keeping housing rent rises under control, new figures show

There is increasing evidence that landlords are keeping housing rents in check, according to new research by Dutch property management organisation VGM.

The research shows rents rose by an average of 1.4% per m2 in the second quarter of 2020, compared with the year-earlier period. At the same time, there was a 13.5% rise in the number of new contracts being agreed in Q2.

Rental prices are going up less than they were, and ‘this is confirmation that institutional investors are adopting very moderate rental increase strategies in their long-term targets, without extra regulation,’ VGM chairman Eric Verwey said. Many Dutch private landlords, such as Holland Metropole partner Bouwinvest, have a strategy to moderate rent increases in the non-rent controlled sector, and have been taking tenants’ financial situations into account.

‘We do see that the square meter prices is going up slightly more than the ‘real’ rent, which shows more smaller units are being leased,’ Verwey said.  

Social housing rents in the Netherlands are already strictly controlled.  

Illustration: ‘For rent’ board on a property.

Caption: Landlords are moderating rent increases. Photo:


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Coronavirus crisis has no impact on residential deals

Investment in Dutch residential property has not been hit by the coronavirus crisis, and transactions to the value of more than €5bn were made in the first half of 2020, according to research by real estate news website PropertyNL.

The €5bn in transactions, up from €4.1bn in the same period last year, does not include investments in rental property by private individuals.

The total real estate market in the Netherlands reached €23.6bn last year, of which 34.5% –€8bn – was in rental housing. In the first six months of 2020, total investments were down, which indicates that residential property will have a larger share of portfolios, PropertyNL said, without giving exact figures.

‘The difference with the previous crisis is notable because then investments went down across the board, including in residential,’ PropertyNL’s editor Wabe van Enk said. ‘And less was invested in rental housing between 2008 and 2013 than in the first half of 2020. It could be that investors see rental housing as a safe haven.’

Dutch pension funds had an important role in new build projects in the first half of the year, PropertyNL’s research shows.

Foreign institutional investors such as Patrizia, Heimstaden, Round Hill and Catella are among the big foreign buyers of existing residential property, accounting for around one third of total deals.

Source: PropertyNL

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Coronavirus crisis has little impact on house prices in the Netherlands

The coronavirus crisis has had little impact on the Dutch housing market so far, estate agents and statisticians say. House prices rose by an average 7.7% in May, although fewer properties are changing hands year on year, according to the latest figures from national statistics agency CBS and the land registry department.

House prices have been rising steadily since June 2013 and have now reached their highest ever level, the CBS said. The number of million-euro homes in the Netherlands rose last year by more than a fifth to 65,000, according to property researcher Calcasa. Figures from the Dutch real estate agents association NVM reinforce the view that the coronavirus crisis has yet to have an impact on the housing market.

In the first month of the crisis, 12% of the homes being sold cost more than €500,000, but that percentage has now risen to 17%, the NVM said. ‘This data relates to the current situation, but on the basis of these facts, we would definitely distance ourselves from negative forecasts,’ NVM chairman Onno Hoes said in June. ‘When buying or selling a home, people think long-term.’ The NVM also notes that the number of properties available for rent has risen by some 13% compared with pre-crisis levels, as homes which are rented out permantly via platforms like Airbnb come on the market.

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Amsterdam agrees deal to build 2,000 new homes for the elderly

Amsterdam has reached agreement with developers, housing corporations and investors to build 2,000 new homes in special complexes targeting the over 55s.

City officials have identified 10 locations for the projects, which will be awarded to developers on the basis of best plans rather than highest price. Several Holland Metropole partners are involved in the agreement.

‘This is a good first step,’ said Erwin Drenth, director Dutch healthcare investments at Holland Metropole partner Bouwinvest. ‘The enormous demand for housing for seniors is a challenge for companies, healthcare groups and the city authorities. But the city has a key role. I consider it crucial that more local authorities make policy with concrete targets to deal with housing for the elderly.’

The decision to open the complexes up to the over 55s has been taken deliberately, in the hope that younger residents will assist their more vulnerable neighbours. Officials are also looking at the option of setting up shared living spaces, targeting people with the same cultural background.

Some 100,000 people in Amsterdam are over the age of 65 but this expected to rise to 150,000 by 2030.

‘Amsterdammers often live in homes which are unsuitable to grow old in,’ alderman Laurens Ivens said. ‘We know 14% of Amsterdam’s elderly population would like to move and 19% live in homes which are too big for them. If you build special housing for the elderly, that frees up a family home. It is a win win situation.’

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