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.