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Amsterdam to redevelop city centre naval depot

One of the last undeveloped parts of central Amsterdam will be turned into a mixed use residential area and park, with plenty of room for innovative industry, under new plans drawn up by the city council.

The Marineterrein area, close to Amsterdam’s main railway station, has been used by the navy since 1655. The armed forces are now moving out, clearing the way for the redevelopment of a large city centre site which is almost entirely surrounded by water.

The plans include 800 homes – a mixture of social and non-rent controlled housing and owner occupier properties – plus small firms and educational institutes. Most of the buildings will be no higher than 30 metres, but there will be an option for two landmark constructions of 40 metres high.

Some 70% of the 12.8 hectare site will not be built on and original buildings, such as the gateway and the commander’s mansion, will be renovated and repurposed. A small part of the land, including a heliport, will remain under navy control.

Amsterdam has now opened up the project for consultation until the end of January. A final decision on the plans will be taken next summer.  

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Amsterdam acts to stop property speculators snapping up homes

Amsterdam has become the first Dutch city to set out how it will stop speculators buying up existing property to rent out, when new legislation allowing them to do so comes into force next year.

City officials plan to ban anyone from buying housing costing less than €512,000 without a commitment to live in it for at least four years. The sales ban would not apply to property which is already being rented out, as long as that was for at least six months prior to the sale.

Some 30% of homes in the Dutch capital are currently in the hands of private investors – both developers who build and rent out property and those who buy existing homes as an investment.

But landlords say the new measure, expected to come into effect on January 1, will not help ease the shortage of affordable housing in the Dutch capital.

The private landlords association Vastgoed Belang says the proposal will lead a greater shortage of rental homes, particularly in the mid-market sector. ‘Councils are prioritizing people who want to buy above newcomers on the housing market and people who can’t or don’t want to buy,’ the organisation said in a reaction.

Housing ladder

The new legislation is one of several measures the government is bringing in to try to help first-time buyers get a foot on the housing ladder. The cabinet has already increased the property transfer tax for investors from January this from 2% to 8% and this would appear to be having an impact.

According to preliminary research by the Dutch land registry, or Kadaster, private landlords bought 10,384 homes in the six months to the end of June, the lowest figure since 2013, and the equivalent of 7.4% of all properties to come on the market.

One third of all houses sold in the four big Dutch cities of Amsterdam, Rotterdam, The Hague and Utrecht last year ended up in the hands of private landlords.

In total, 8.6% of the Dutch housing stock is in the hands of private investors, defined by the Kadaster as organisations or private individuals who own at least three properties, and this is the lowest percentage in Europe, according to Vastgoed Belang.

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Provada 2021: Holland Metropole partners highlight climate change

Climate adaptation and circular construction are central issues at the three-day Provada property trade fair in Amsterdam which starts on October 26, and the Holland Metropole partners are showcasing their own approaches.

In Rotterdam, built around a major river delta, the role of climate change and the transition towards green energy are central themes across all planning decisions, given that the pressure on every square metres in the city is immense.  

The city has recently embarked on a programme to make better use of 18 square kilometres of city roofs, which are being turned into gardens, water buffers and more. Even the roof of the new Doelen entertainment complex will become a ‘green oasis’, says the city’s planning chief Bas Kurvers. ‘The roof will collect rainwater during heavy rainfall and contribute to cooling if it is hot. Everyone benefits,’ he says.

In Eindhoven too, measures to absorb water and boost the amount of greenery are incorporated in every street maintenance project. Project developers are also required to include water management in all new projects through changes to local planning laws.  ‘Climate adaptation is an essential part of our residential housing strategy,’ says Eindhoven’s climate chief Rik Thijs. ‘It is not simply about the technical solutions for the challenges presented by climate change but a way of strengthening Eindhoven as a pleasant place to live and locate.’

It is not just the Netherlands bigger cities that are putting climate change at the heart of their strategy. Holland Metropole developers and investors are also taking a lead in sustainable project development.

Bouwinvest, which aims to meet the Paris targets by 2045, has made social returns as important a part of its investment approach as the financial ones. ‘Investing in reducing energy usage is not only a question of taking responsibility for the energy transition. We see it as a pre-condition to ensure long-term returns for our clients,’ says Bernardo Korenberg head of Sustainability and Innovation.

Vesteda has developed a tool to provide insight into the six most important risks climate change will bring to the Netherlands, ranging from a breach of the flood defence system to heat stress.

‘We integrate the sustainability performance of potential new acquisitions and large renovations into our investment decision process,’ says chief investment officer Pieter Knauff. ‘This is not only good for our tenants and society, but also encourages our people to come up with creative, tailor-made solutions in every project, to optimize sustainability performance, living comfort and financial returns.’

Syntrus Achmea, in turn, has drawn up road maps covering different scenarios for making its portfolios Paris proof, in order to help investors make more informed choices. ‘Our ambition is to become carbon neutral,’ says Jos Sentel, manager of Strategy & Research. ‘On average the carbon dioxide emissions which can be attributed to our residential portfolio are 34% lower than in the reference year of 1990, and our target is a 50% reduction, no later than 2030 and fully neutral in 2050.’

At VORM, too, the impact of the company’s role as a project developer when it comes to social themes is an increasingly important part of its future. ‘We have a responsibility to organise this properly,’ says concept developer Wouter Disseldorp. The company has, for example, been using wadis and water buffer zones as well as more low-carbon building materials to both head off and mitigate climate change.

This integrated approach is being taken across the development chain. AM, for example, sees water management as an integral part of area development. ‘If you include it at an early stage, water can be used to add quality, and not simply be seen as a hazard,’ says chief executive Ronald Huikeshoven.

‘As planners, we are facing responsibilities that go beyond delivering single solutions for single issues,’ says Irma van Oort, partner at architecture bureau KCAP. ‘We work with an integral approach to sustainability and draw up comprehensive concepts which will have a strong effect at every level, from climate-adaptive urban and landscape design to sustainable mobility solutions and construction details that lower the carbon footprint of our buildings.’

By incorporating climate adaptation into their projects, the Holland Metropole partners say they are benefiting both clients, tenants and investors, as well as society at large.  ‘In developing in a climate adaptive and nature inclusive way, we can make new projects resistant to climate change and contribute to biodiversity as well,’ says Edward Zevenbergen, director of projects BPD North-West. ‘We go for solutions which improve both the quality of the building and the location.’

Check out the Holland Metropole partner stands

Find out which Holland Metropole partner experts are speaking and where

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Rotterdam is home to the world’s biggest floating office

Rotterdam is home to the Global Centre on Adaptation, an international broker for climate change and housed in the world’s biggest floating office, which has been largely constructed from timber.

The GCA’s new home is a massive timber ark, which is completely off grid and self-sufficient in energy. The south facing roof is covered with 900 square metres of solar panels and the ark uses a water-based heat exchange system for heating. The north-facing roof is green to store water and help keep the construction cool.  

Everything used in the ark is reusable and recyclable, which means the construction can be taken apart and moved to a new location. The GCA office, which is ranked BREEAM Outstanding, even has its own herb garden.

‘I am delighted that GCA will be housed in a building that showcases pioneering climate-resilient office design and I hope it will inspire others to future-proof their infrastructure,’ said GCA chief executive Patrick Verkooijen. ‘Taking suitable steps before disaster strikes not only makes economic sense but can also help us to mitigate against climate change.”

Rotterdam’s Rijnhaven is currently being redeveloped into a new city centre with a floating park covering 18 hectares and high-rise with a total of 2,500 new homes.

The project to develop the floating office was backed by the city of Rotterdam.

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Holland Metropole alliance heading for Expo Real

The Holland Metropole alliance is heading for the Expo Real real estate trade fair in Munich with a team of 24 partners, plus five start-ups in the real estate sector.

This year, the use of timber in modern construction, as well as the importance of climate change and adaptation, take centre stage on the Holland Metropole stand over the three days of the fair.  

The recent floods in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium brought home just how important it is to tackle climate change, adapt to it and to deal with excess water caused by increasingly heavy rainfall.

Across the Dutch real estate sector, climate change targets are becoming increasingly important and the themes of circular construction, carbon emission reduction and water management are at the forefront of the Holland Metropole approach, whether local authority, developer or investor.

‘We integrate climate adaptation into the area, not at the level of individual buildings. Water, for example, is not a threat but an opportunity to devise and realise distinctive environments with the ability to capture and buffer water,’ says Ronald Huikeshoven, chief executive of developer AM.

Timber too has an important role to play in construction of the future. Experts have calculated, for example, that if the one million new homes which the Netherlands will need by 2030 are made primarily from wood rather than concrete, it would save 50 megatons of carbon dioxide emissions.

‘Industrialisation allows the construction sector to offer a speedy way of making sure the housing supply meets demand. Wood is light and easy to work with, making it extremely suitable for such processes,’ says Wouter Disseldorp, concept developer at VORM.

Much too depends on people seeing the advantages of timber. ‘We try to persuade our clients to go for wood, and while lots of people talk about it, they have to actually take the plunge, rather than say it is all too difficult. Of course, a building is never 100% wood, but it would be an enormous step forward if we got most of the concrete out of a building,’ says Edward Schuurmans, a partner at architects KCAP.

This year, Expo Real runs from October 11 to 13, offering a networking platform to some 1,200 exhibitors and thousands of visitors from all over the world.

The 23rd edition of the trade fair is taking place against the backdrop of the coronavirus pandemic and the climate crisis, both of which have a leading role across the conference programme. In total, 121 discussion panels, speeches, forums and other events will take place across the seven halls of the Messe München venue during the three-day fair.

To find out more about the way the Holland Metropole partners are tackling climate change, as well as the great range of investment opportunities on offer throughout the region, please visit them at stand A2.130.

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Dutch government to invest €1bn in new housing over 10 years

The Dutch government is to spend €1bn over the next 10 years to stimulate the supply of new housing, to reduce the shortage of affordable rental housing and create more options for first time buyers.

The plan was included in the coalition government’s 2022 spending plans, which were published on September 21, and highlights the urgency of the current situation, ministers say.

Details of how the money will be spent have not yet been published and it is likely that the next cabinet will take the lead. The current cabinet is operating in a caretaker capacity while a new coalition is put together following the March general election.

Action

Caretaker home affairs minister Kasja Ollongren said that despite advances made in the past year – such as agreements to develop major residential areas in 14 separate locations nationwide – much still needs to be done to boost the housing supply.

Research is currently underway, for example, into extending the points-based system for calculating maximum rents to cover property outside the current rent-controlled sector, Ollongren told MPs in a briefing.

However, she warned, ‘tough regulation will lead to greater affordability in the short term, but will reduce investors willingness to invest, and therefore impact on the availability of homes in the mid to long term.’

Debate

During two days of debate on the 2022 spending plans, MPs also voted in favour of slashing a further €500m from the extra tax which social housing landlords pay. There is, however, majority support to see the tax scrapped altogether and that too will be an issue for the next cabinet.  

Report

Despite the cash injection for new housing, it may not be enough to get housing development up to speed. In June, a report commissioned by Ollongren said that the next Dutch government will have to invest almost €20bn to facilitate several major housing and infrastructure in the coming years.

Without a significant contribution from the state, new homes may not be built at the rate required and they will be more expensive than planned, the report, by the Rebel research group, said. Several of the projects are located in the Holland Metropole region.

In total, the 14 projects in the study involve building 436,000 new homes around the bigger Dutch cities, of which 210,000 can be completed by 2030 and 70% will be classed as ‘affordable’.

One million homes

In February, an alliance of developers, construction companies, lobby groups, housing corporations and tenants associations said that one million new homes need to be built in the the Netherlands in the next 10 years to meet demand.

The organisations said at the time they hoped their plans will form the backbone of the next government’s strategy on housing.

Lagging supply

So far new building is lagging behind government expectations. Construction industry economic institute EIB says that it expects 63,000 new homes will be completed this year, which is well below the government’s target of 75,000 new build and conversions.

Nevertheless, the number of permits granted each year is going up, and has risen 30% since 2019, when new home construction reached a low point, the EIB said.

Earlier in September, thousands of people took part in a demonstration in Amsterdam, calling for more investment in housing.

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‘The elderly form a diverse group who don’t want to move’

One way often mooted to help solve the housing crisis in the Netherlands is to encourage older people whose children have left home to downsize and free up large property for a new, young family.

However, it is proving difficult to set this in motion because developers, housing corporations and local authorities are not actually talking to elderly residents about their needs, according to Groningen University researcher Petra de Jong.

De Jong, an economic geographer specializing in housing demographics, has researched the issue of housing for the elderly for her PhD thesis. Persuading the elderly to move home requires alternatives that actually meet their needs, she said: ‘They need to be attractive and affordable, and people usually want to stay in the same neighbourhood.’

Urgency

While older people are often described as ‘occupying’ large houses, ‘as long as they don’t feel the urgency to move because, for example, of their physical limitations, then they don’t see the need,’ De Jong told NOS Radio 1 news.

‘Yes, the house might be a bit large and the garden a bit difficult to manage, but people are often attached to both their home and their locality,’ she said. ‘It has been the stage for many precious memories.’

In addition, elderly home owners have often paid off their mortgages, so the costs are low. ‘And aside from this, moving demands money and creates upheaval, so it gets put off as long as possible,’ she said.

This means the standard approach to housing for seniors is not enough to have an impact,’ De Jong said.  ‘They should be involved from the start of the development process. Talk to them and find out what their demands and preferences are,’ she said. ‘But don’t pretend to know what the elderly want, because they are an extremely diverse group.’

Housing targeting seniors in the Netherlands is often marketed at the over-55s.

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Cut the housing shortage by better use of current stock: report

The Netherlands could offset some of the shortage of housing in the short term by making better use of its current housing stock, according to a report by research group Platform31.

Some 40% of dwellings are currently lived in by one person, and the average amount of space is around 65 square metres each – almost 20 square metres more than in Germany or Belgium, the report points out.

The report highlights three areas where action can be taken: putting more people in the same space, more housing in the same space, and encouraging the elderly to move to smaller homes.

Living alone

Although some people choose to live alone in big apartments, there are ways to encourage a better use of space, Platform31’s Frank Wassenberg told broadcaster NOS. ‘Living with more people should be rewarded,’ he said. ‘The more people who can share the current space, the less you have to build.’

One way in which people could be encouraged to share is stop the financial penalties facing people who do. For example, banks and other mortgage providers can be difficult about allowing home owners to rent out a floor.

Tough rules on tenants rights may also deter people from renting a room or floor to another person, Platform31 said.

Social security laws are another factor, the researchers say. For example, two pensioners or two people claiming welfare benefits are given hundreds of euros less in state support if they share a home.

Friends contracts

Allowing young adults to share properties – using so-called Friends contracts after the popular series – would also reduce the pressure on starter homes, the researchers say.

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The Netherlands has eight million homes

Despite the shortage of housing in the Netherlands, the national housing stock has increased by one million to eight million over the past 16 years, according to August figures from national statistics office CBS.

In total, the supply of housing increased by 39,000 units in the first six months of this year, including both new build and conversions.

The province of Zuid-Holland, home to Holland Metropole partners Rotterdam and The Hague, has most housing – a total of 1.7 million homes. Noord-Holland, which includes Amsterdam, has 1.4 million of the total.

Single people

Given the national population is now around 17.4 million, the eight million figure means there are 2.2 residents for each home, compared with 4.8 people 100 years ago. Nevertheless, there is still a major shortage of properties, because of the surge in people living alone, the CBS said.

Amsterdam for example, now has 464,000 homes for its population of some 860,000, or fewer than two people per property.

One million new homes

In February, a consortium of 34 developers, construction companies, lobby groups, housing corporations and tenants associations formed a massive alliance to tackle the housing shortage in the Netherlands.

In total, they say that one million new homes need to be built in the Netherlands in the next 10 years to meet demand.

The organisations hope their plans will form the backbone of the next government’s strategy on housing.

Current government strategy involves realising 75,000 new homes a year through new build and converting other buildings.

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Empty retail space could become 6,500 new homes

Some 6,500 new homes could be created by converting long-term redundant retail premises into housing, according to research by NVM Business, the commercial real estate arm of real estate agents’ association NVM.

The future of some types of Dutch retail real estate remains uncertain, given the impact of coronavirus on people’s shopping habits and the surge in online sales. According to national statistics office CBS, the online retail sector saw sales shoot up 86% in the first quarter of 2021, compared with 2020.

While supermarkets and food shops in busy neighbourhood shopping centres, for example, are doing well, the picture is less bright for inner city high streets which focus on non-food, NVM Business says.

As with offices, the high vacancy rate in some retail sectors offers opportunities for residential housing. Some 800,000 square metres of retail space have been vacant for more than a year and transforming redundant shops into homes is, says NVM Business chairman Sander Heidinga, ‘a very interesting challenge’.

NVM Business estimates that converting retail real estate could reasonably generate 6,500 homes in the coming years, but points out local zoning plans will have to be changed to make this possible.

‘However, many local authorities now realise that they need to change the retail landscape, because of the changes and impact of coronavirus,’ NVM Business says. ‘They are more aware of the need to tackle the problems.’

The finances do need to be carefully worked out because redevelopment is expensive and housing generates lower rent than housing. Daylight can also be a problem in dense retail areas, the organisation points out.

Last year, retail estate advisory group Colliers said that 10,000 apartments could be developed by converting empty shops in the 70 biggest towns and cities. And although there are problems with shape and size, 40% of empty retail properties do offer opportunities for conversion, Colliers said.

The province of Noord-Holland is also looking into the options. It estimates, for example, that up to 400 homes could be created in central Hoofddorp by converting redundant shops.

The office market is also facing a coronavirus-driven shake-out. Last year, some 420,000 square metres of redundant office space was either given a new lease of life or demolished, and 53% of it was converted into housing.

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