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Holland Metropole partners are squaring up to circularity and sustainability

In total, 34 Dutch cities, companies and organisations make up the 2022 Holland Metropole delegation to Expo Real in October. Together, they are showcasing how Dutch developers, investors and local authorities are putting the circular economy, climate adaptation, sustainability and social cohesion high on their priority lists.

This summer’s drought and last year’s floods have brought home how important it is to tackle climate change and adapt urban environment to future needs – particularly in a low-lying country like the Netherlands.  And there is growing awareness throughout the country that the big problems facing it – carbon emissions, nitrogen-based pollution, water shortages and surpluses, the energy transition and a shortage of homes – are all connected in some way, and that working together is a key part in solving them.

Investor Bouwinvest, for example, is supporting the Red & Blue research project, a five year programme backed by the government, universities and private sector, which aims to establish ways to make the built environment climate adaptive. But the company is also active in its own right.

‘The  effects of climate change are part of our risk models, We include climate adaptation programmes in our portfolios and we have added these climate risks into our investment decision-making process,’ says CEO Mark Siezen.

The Holland Metropole alliance, first launched almost 10 years ago, aims to promote public private partnerships at a metropolitan regional level, making sure the issues facing urban areas are put on the agenda and that there is enough executive and investment power to make real change.

‘We are creating a city in which heavy rainfall does not damage our homes and roads, in which you can find a cool place to sit on hot days and in which greenery survives drought,’ says Rik Thijs, Eindhoven’s climate alderman.  ‘Climate adaptation is not just about technical solutions, but about making Eindhoven a better place to live and work.’

The Netherlands has drawn up a list of targets for reducing greenhouse gases and eradicating natural gas as a source for heating and cooking in homes. On a national basis, the government has pledged to cut greenhouse gas emissions by 49% in 2030 compared with 1990.

Developers and investors too are setting their own standards. Investor a.s.r. real estate works with strategic targets to ensure its portfolio is climate adaptive, taking four major climate risks into account: heat, flooding, drought and extreme weather

Ballast Nedam reduced the CO2 emissions of its owner occupier homes by an average of 69% last year, while Syntrus Achmea has cut the CO2 emissions of its residential portfolio by 40% compared with 1990. Others are working on innovative techniques.

‘As a family business we feel responsible for future generations, so we have opened a circular construction hub called Urban Miner. We focus on timber construction, invest in emission-free equipment and develop energy neutral buildings,’ said a spokesman for Dura Vermeer.

Architects bureau UNStudio, is developing new design strategies for adaptive reuse, transformation and extending building lifespan including smart, low-carbon and energy-producing building innovations.

Developers too are investing in new techniques and materials. While timber has now become the new standard, Ballast Nedam has branched further out and is using straw, a residual product from farming, as a construction material in its new ‘Nature Houses’ – with construction due to start in 2023. By using prefabricated straw panels, the company says it is able to build on a large scale and the resulting home is 95% biobased.

MRP has also turned to prefabrication. ‘We focus on modular building techniques and this means we can produce homes more efficiently and economically,’ said Bart Meijer CEO at MRP. ’This benefits both the planet and the consumer.’

To find out more about what the Holland Metropole partners are showcasing at Expo Real, visit A2.130.

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The Netherlands needs to really make work of shaking up the housing market

The Netherlands needs to increase taxes on home owners and boost the private sector supply of new homes in order to get the housing market moving again, according to the chief economists from the three biggest Dutch banks, and two professors of finance policy.

Writing in economists journal ESB, the authors argue that the government’s current strategy is based on ‘papering over cracks’ rather than boosting access to the housing market, reducing inequality between tenants and home owners, and tackling prices.

In particular, the government should focus on expanding the supply of affordable housing which falls outside the rent-controlled sector – which has a ceiling of €763 per month – and which is not owned by housing corporations.

They also suggest that local authorities and their residents benefit more from new construction by introducing a tax on the increase in the value of the land which takes place when zoning plans are changed.

This tax, payable by developers, would allow municipalities to finance social goals – such as more social housing – more directly than by setting quotas in development projects. This, they say, will make it easier for municipalities and project developers to negotiate with each other about land availability and sales.

In addition, more housing should be encouraged in areas where prices have risen the most in the past few years, because this is an indicator of future demand.

At the same time, the economists say more should be done to make sure the current housing stock is used efficiently. In particular, various regulations which ban home sharing by more than two adults who are not related should be overhauled, because this can ease the shortage of places to live in the short term.

They also propose making building requirements more uniform, in order to speed up the construction process itself.

Some aspects of the government’s current strategy, such as the plan to regulate the rent of a much bigger proportion of the rental housing stock, is not without risk they argue. ‘It may improve affordability in the short term, but it will not tackle the structural shortfall in affordable rental housing,’ they state.

Another area of concern is the fact that home owners pay relatively little tax, which is why the Dutch are keen to put so much borrowed money into bricks and mortar, the economists say.

This could be partially tackled by treating property as an asset to be taxed when the home is sold. To stop people borrowing beyond their means, which is also putting up house prices, the official recommendations on borrowing – currently 100% of the value of the property – should not be expanded and could even be reduced. Energy costs should also be taken into account in determining how much people can borrow.

‘These reforms are a break with the past and that is why they should be introduced gradually,’ the economists say. ‘But they offer long-term advantages. Home owners and tenants will be treated more equally, house prices will become more stable and the tax on work and other income will come down, so that households can spend more on other things beside their living costs.’

The article was written by Ester Barendregt (Rabobank),  Marieke Blom (ING) and Sandra Phlippen (ABN Amro) together with Arnoud Boot, professor of Corporate Finance and Financial Markets at the University of Amsterdam and Dirk Schoenmaker, professor of Banking and Finance at Erasmus University, Rotterdam.

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Climate proof property is central stage at Provada

Developing climate proof property is the key issue for Holland Metropole partners at the Provada real estate conference in Amsterdam, which takes starts on June 14.  

With climate change becoming ever more acute, and the Dutch government unveiling new measures to boost the energy efficiency of the country’s housing stock, Holland Metropole members will be showcasing their commitment to tackling environmental problems during the three-day Provada real estate event.

The theme of this year’s Provada is ‘Act now for a better tomorrow’ with a particular focus on climate adaptation and circularity. Several Holland Metropole partners, including Dick Boelen, director of Dura Vermeer and BPD’s Desirée Uitzetter who is also head of Dutch developers’ association NEPROM, will be outlining their views on the big issues during the conference programme.

This year the Holland Metropole partners again have a particular focus on timber-based construction. ‘Climate change is the biggest challenge of our generation,’ says architects practice MVSA. ‘We believe we must take responsibility, and using wood, which is a sustainable construction material, helps us to do this.’

In the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, for example, developers, investors and local authorities last year signed a new Timber Green Deal, based on a real commitment to the use of wood.

‘Awareness has grown across everyone involved in the real estate and development sector that building with timber on a large scale is essential if we want to meet the terms of the Paris climate agreement and speed up the supply of housing,’ says Bob van der Zande, programme director Houtbouw MRA.

Timber based construction is environment friendly as well. Experts have calculated that if the one million new homes which the Dutch government wants to see built by 2030 are made primarily from wood rather than concrete, it would save 50 megatons of carbon dioxide emissions.

‘The built environment accounts for 40% of global carbon emissions. By using more natural construction materials instead of concrete and steel, and focusing more on circularity, the CO2 emissions driven by new construction can be minimized,’ points out Ingrid Hulshoff, portfolio manager real estate at investor Syntrus Achmea.

Existing property is also being brought up to new standards. Investor Bouwinvest, for example, has improved the energy label of the World Trade Centre in Rotterdam from E to A in three years and has made societal returns a key part of its performance targets.

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.  In particular, city officials are looking upwards, to18 square kilometres of city roofs, which are being turned into gardens, water buffers and more.

This year, throughout June, intrepid visitors can even walk across a 600 metres rooftop walk built on scaffolding to find out more about what is being done. ‘We have almost 170,000 m² of solar panels; we have 360,000 m² of green on rooftops, but that’s still [just] 3% of the potential of that 18km² that we have,’ organiser Leon van Geest told DutchNews.nl. ‘We still have a lot of work to do.’

Check out the Holland Metropole partner stands

Find out which Holland Metropole partner experts are speaking and where

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Fewer rental properties added to Dutch housing stock in 2021

The number of new rental properties added to Dutch housing stock fell 9% last year, when compared with 2020, as the mounting cost of workers and material lead developers to delay projects, ABN Amro said in a new analysis of the Netherlands’ housing market.

While most new rental homes were realised in Amsterdam, the total in the capital was just 2,965, and in Utrecht, only 676 new rental properties came on the market, the survey showed. In the Netherlands as a whole, almost 23,000 new rental properties were added to the supply side.

ABN Amro analyst Casper Wolf says there is a link between the situation in the five Holland Metropole cities and smaller urban conurbations, where the amount of new housing is increasing more rapidly.

‘Rijswijk, Zoeterwoude and Dordrecht all show considerable increases in the amount of new rental property,’ he said. ‘Nieuwegein has become the alternative for people who cannot afford Utrecht.’

Skilled workers

Developers, who have been faced with delays and cancelled projects because of efforts to reduce nitrogen-based pollution, are now counting other costs as well, Wolf said. It has become more difficult and expensive to find skilled workers, building material has become more expensive and land prices are also going up.

‘The price of land rose to a record €530 per square metre in the first months of 2022,’ Wolf said. ‘That is up 9.5% on a year ago.’

Government measures, such as the increase in the property transfer tax for investors, are also making developers more reluctant to take the plunge, Wolf said. ‘Government policies that intervene in the housing market plus renewed competition from Airbnb is making investing and renting out in the non rent-controlled sector less attractive, or sometimes even impossible.’

Ownership restrictions

Other measures to help local councils boost the supply of affordable homes are also having an impact. Local authorities are now allowed to designate new developments as ‘owner occupier only’ and Arnhem, for example, has introduced this for properties valued at up to €325,000 in 20 of its 24 residential areas.

Rotterdam has introduced similar regulations in 16 residential areas, with a limit of €355,000.

‘This measure is advantageous to first time buyers but is a problem for people looking to rent in the free sector because investors are staying away,’ Wolf said. Investors are no longer competing with private buyers for cheaper property but this is resulting in fewer rental properties for people who cannot get a mortgage but who earn too much to rent social housing, he said.

All this, says Wolf, means rental prices are likely to rise still further in the short term.

‘If the government’s ambitions to build 100,000 homes a year are achieved, this will probably reduce the pressure on the free sector in the longer term,’ he says.

Rental increases

Last year, landlords operating in the non rent-controlled sector agreed to limit rent rises to the rate of inflation from the previous year plus 1%. This means rents are likely to rise 3.3% this year but could be significantly higher in 2023, because of the current high rate of inflation, the ABN Amro report showed.

However, housing minister Hugo de Jonge said in April that this strategy could lead to problems for tenants, given the soaring rate of inflation, especially when coupled with higher energy bills.

Instead the minister plans to set a maximum increase for so-called free sector rents – properties which are more expensive than the €763 per month social housing sector limit. He already has this right for social housing.

The government has pledged to increase the number of properties for rent outside the social housing sector, particularly mid-market rentals of up to €1,000 per month. Currently, 57% of the Dutch housing stock is owner occupied, 33% is rent controlled and just 9% is available for higher earners who wish to rent.

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‘The Netherlands has plenty of room to build new homes’

The Dutch government’s chief architect has said that hundreds of thousands of new homes can be built in Dutch towns and cities by boosting the density of developments, rather than expanding into green belt land.

Francesco Veenstra told the Telegraaf in an interview that many urban areas still have land available and that developing brownfield sites will ‘also improve the living environment, and keep the local baker and butcher in business’.

The Dutch government has set a target of building one million new homes by 2030 and many of them will be built in large new residential developments outside city centres.

‘Of course you also have to build new neighbourhoods, but you can also build and renovate in existing urban environments,’ Veenstra told the paper. The architect will have a key role in advising housing minister Hugo de Jonge as he puts his plans into action.

Shrinking households

One reason for the current shortage of homes is the fact that households are shrinking, even though the population is expanding. ‘At the beginning of the last century the average household was made up of five people and at the moment it is 2.1,’ Veenstra points out. ‘This means that more than twice as many homes are needed for the same number of people and this is a problem that will only get worse.’

The 2008 financial crisis was another problem because many building firms went bust at that time and the construction of new residential property almost halved. Today, the shortage of workers is a major issue, and the government has said prefabrication is likely to have a role in solving the current crisis.

Veenstra said he is hopeful that the building process can be made faster. ‘But we need to act on a wide front,’ he said. ‘We need to produce many different types of homes, using quality prefabrication and good craftsmen. We must also repurpose existing real estate such as office buildings, old school buildings and factories.’

Infrastructure

The government advisor also warned about repeating the problems of earlier mass residential building programmes, in which the infrastructure was dealt with as an afterthought. ‘I believe in densification of city districts,’ he said. ‘Over the past fifteen years, we have been able to realize a quarter of a million homes without impacting on green areas. It is a process that we must continue, because there is still a lot of space in our cities and towns.’

The Netherlands, he said, is still far from full. ‘There is plenty of room, but it is just in different places to where people are looking now,’ he said. The border region around Delfzijl in Groningen and Maastricht or Vlissingen have plenty of opportunity for development, as long as the jobs and the transport infrastructure is there, Veenstra said.

‘If we make plans to build outside the main urban conurbations, we will have to make sure there are jobs,’ he said. ‘And we might also have to travel a little longer between home and work.’

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The Netherlands needs one million new homes, or does it?

The new Dutch government plans to build 100,000 new homes a year – taking the total by 2030 to around one million. But where does the figure come from? The NRC newspaper has been finding out.

The NRC says the ‘one million’ figure was first mentioned in 2017 by a Delft research bureau which has for years analysed the housing market on behalf of the government. It was later used by the Holland Metropole group as an alarm call, to alert ministers to the growing problems on the housing market and the need to develop a coordinated approach to the problem.

Despite the warnings from developers little changed, and ABF Research said again in late 2021 that 936,000 new homes would be needed by 2030. At the moment, the Netherlands needs 279,000 new homes to meet demand, ABF said. That figure is based on waiting lists, the number of young adults sharing homes, students living at home and people who in their 30s who have been forced to move back in with their parents.

The rest of the total is made up of homes that will be needed in the future. The CBS estimates that by the end of 2040, over 19 million people will live in the Netherlands, largely due to immigration. That will require 436,000 new homes, ABF said.

Households are also getting smaller. By 2035, the average household will have 2.07 people, half the size of a household in 1950, according to CBS forecasts. That growth too will require 243,000 new homes.

In addition, 118,000 homes will need to be replaced because they have been demolished.

Expectations

The one million ‘is not cast in concrete’, housing market professor Johan Conijn told the NRC. ‘It is based on expectations about the future which may not come true.’ Social geography professor Jan Latten told the paper that prognoses are crucial because of the length of time it takes to develop new residential areas in the Netherlands.

He points out that immigration has consistently been under-estimated and that construction has failed to keep up with the changes. This means, he said, that the one million estimate could well be on the low side.

Conijn said long waiting lists, first-time buyers and renters who cannot get a foot on the housing ladder, and the high rental and purchase prices are all evidence of the problems facing the housing market.

‘The shortage of housing can grow or shrink, but it is extremely dependent on demographic developments and people’s housing preferences,’ he said.

In total, permits to build 74,000 new homes were approved in the Netherlands last year, a rise of 10% on 2020 and the highest number in more than 10 years, according to the CBS.

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Holland Metropole heads for MIPIM

The Holland Metropole alliance will be taking part in the MIPM real estate trade fair in Cannes from March 15 to 18, with a heavyweight delegation of top tier cities, developers and investors. Several leading Dutch architects’ bureaus and innovative start-ups are also part of the package – providing a complete cross section of the Dutch real estate sector.  

This year, the Holland Metropole focus is on climate change and timber-based construction and MIPIM visitors will be able to find out more about the cutting edge work by the 14 alliance partners at the stand (C19.E).

The Netherlands also has a new government, and MIPIM visitors can to catch up on the latest measures to boost the supply of affordable housing at a national level, and find out more about the implications of the plans for international developers and investors.

Climate

Last year’s floods in the Netherlands, Germany and Belgium brought home just how important it is to tackle climate change and to deal with excess water caused by increasingly heavy rainfall. After all, with some 25% of the Netherlands below sea level, the country as a whole is vulnerable to the impact of rising sea levels and excess river water.

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.

Timber-based construction is also top of the to-do list of every climate-aware developer and real estate investor.

Timber

In the Amsterdam Metropolitan Area, for example, developers, investors and local authorities have signed a new Timber Green Deal, based on a real commitment to the use of wood. 

‘Awareness has grown across everyone involved in the real estate and development sector that building with timber on a large scale is essential if we want to meet the terms of the Paris climate agreement and speed up the supply of housing,’ says Bob van der Zande, programme director Houtbouw MRA.

Timber based construction is environment friendly as well. 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.

Network

You can find out more about what Dutch cities and companies are doing in both these key areas by visiting the Holland Metropole stand.

As usual, the stand (C19.E) will also have a wide range of facilities on offer, from a bar and catering to charging points for mobiles and laptops, as well as plenty of room for networking and one-to-one meetings.

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Housing permits reach a record, as new minister ‘takes back control’

In total, permits to build 74,000 new homes were approved in the Netherlands last year, a rise of 10% on 2020 and the highest number in more than 10 years, according to the Dutch national statistics office CBS.

One third of the licences were given to build rental housing while the rest is made up of properties for sale – across all price ranges. Most new permits – 19,000 – were handed out in the province of Zuid Holland, which includes Holland Metropole partners Rotterdam and The Hague.

‘The number of permits is an indicator of the number of new homes which will be built in the coming years, but the average time to build after licencing is around two years,’ the CBS said. The total does not include new homes which are realised from repurposing other buildings, such as empty offices or schools.

Government plans

The figures were published just as new housing minister Hugo de Jonge outlined his plans to realise one million new homes over the next 10 years.

The minister told MPs earlier this month that he is currently working on a National Housing and Construction Agenda which will have six underlying themes: construction, housing for focus groups and the elderly, quality of life, sustainability, spatial planning and choices for the future.

‘This programmatic approach focuses more directly on concrete goals, monitoring and control so that the ministry can make sound agreements with everyone involved and to ensure everyone takes their fair share in solving public housing and planning issues,’ the minister told MPs.

Developers and investors have been calling on the government to take a more coordinating role in the provision of more residential housing for some time. De Jonge said earlier that he wants to speed up procedures and cut red tape. 

Coordination

The raw plan covering how the government intends to speed up construction will be presented in mid March, while in early April, the focus will be on housing for special groups such as the elderly and students. Later, attention will switch to affordable housing – both to buy and to rent – and the government is already committed to introducing more restrictions on private landlords. 

‘I want the government to take back control again with regard to this fundamental right to housing, as well as in the field of spatial planning,’ De Jonge said in a briefing to MPs.

The government’s role in recent years has become too small and for too long people have believed that the market would automatically provide a solution, he said. ‘It is all the more important to take control now because of the enormous shortage [of housing].’

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Supply continues to shrink as housing market pressures intensify

Figures from the Dutch real estate agents’ association NVM show that the supply of housing in the Netherlands continues to shrink, with 23% fewer houses changing hands in the final quarter of 2021, when compared with the year-earlier period.

At the same time, the average price of an existing home rose almost 21% to €438,000 while for new builds, the increase was 14%, to €466,000. Some 80% sold for more than the asking price.

‘Homeowners are not putting their property up for sale without the prospect of finding another suitable one,’ NVM chairman Onno Hoes said. ‘The completion and realisation of new construction is stagnating… which is why we need to increase the volume of new construction quickly.’

According to NVM figures, just 8,800 new homes were put on the market in the final quarter of 2021, down 22% on 2020 and the lowest figure since 2013. Of them, 40% cost more than €500,000 and around one thousand more than €1m.

Consultation

Hoes called on new housing minister Hugo de Jonge to set up what he called a “Construction Stimulation Team” which would include a wide range of organisations from across the real estate and public sector, and which would support the minister constructively with advice and help accelerate the construction process.

The new cabinet has set a target of building 100,000 new homes every year in an effort to meet demand. ‘People have to be able to count on the security of having their own home,’ De Jonge said in a ministry video message.

Economists point out that even if the government’s plans are realized, new homes are not built overnight and there will be little impact in the short term.

Pensioners

Real estate agent Lana Gerssen, who heads the NVM’s residential section, said that certain groups are already being blamed for the current shortage of homes. ‘Pensioners are being told [they are a problem] because they do not want to move,’ she said. ‘But that is too easy. There are no homes on offer which are suitable for this group.’

Gerssen said there is a role for the real estate sector in solving this, by mapping supply and demand. ‘This will enable us to help local, regional and national government with their housing policy issues,’ she said.

Dutch developers’ association NEPROM has already welcomed the new government’s plans, saying the resources earmarked for housing will make it possible for the new minister to be effective, as long as he has a proper coordinating role across all the government departments involved in the process.

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Dutch housing market challenge has ‘no quick fix’, says new minister

New Dutch housing minister Hugo de Jonge has described the challenge he faces to increase the number of affordable homes in the Netherlands as ‘considerable’ and says that there is no quick fix.

De Jonge, the first minister appointed to focus purely on the housing market in 10 years, told MPs during his first debate on the government’s plans that he intends to take a coordinating role in solving the problem.

‘For too long we have thought that the market can solve things,’ he said.

The new government has pledged to increase the housing stock in the Netherlands by one million units by 2030 and to take a number of other steps to boost the supply of more affordable rental and owner-occupier homes.

‘If we are convinced that the government should be more involved, then we have to have the instruments at our disposal to realise more housing,’ he said.

Red tape

First of all, the government plans to make it easier to actually build a house. It currently takes around seven years from start to finish, with planning and permissions taking an average of five. ‘We have to do something to speed up the procedures,’ De Jonge said.

Prefabrication and standardization will also have a role to play, he said. ‘It might sound boring, to have all the same sorts of houses, but that is no longer the case.’.

Research by construction sector lobby group Cobouw and the Follow The Money news platform suggests that many of the housing units scheduled to be built up to 2025 will never materialize because there is no uniform overview of which plans are realistic and which have not yet been approved.

Only 400,000 of the 1.2 million homes currently being planned are actually confirmed because of the different definitions used by local authorities, FTM said.


For example, in Noord Holland province, a project is considered to be ‘hard’ if the local authority votes in favour of the zoning plan. But in Overijssel, a project is only confirmed if the zoning plan has been declared to be final.

Coen van Rooyen, director of residential construction lobby group WoningbouwersNL told the regional paper De Stentor that all housing projects should be collected together in a single website.

‘Then you can see what plans there are, from those at the very early stage to completion,’ he said. ‘If nothing happens on a project for six months then an alarm should go off and the minister should be able to contact the local planning chief and find out what is going on.’

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