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Rotterdam expands eastwards with 30,000 new homes

Rotterdam city council has drawn up new plans for a 30,000 home expansion on the eastern side of the city which officials say will make inroads into the current housing shortage.

The strategy to redevelop an area stretching between the Prins Alexanderplein and Zuidplein has been made possible by the decision to build a new bridge and fast tram service over the river Maas. Good public transport connections are an essential part of Rotterdam’s expansion policy.

The Oostflank development will also include shops, health centres, schools, sports parks and plenty of greenery. City housing chief Chantal Zeegers says that the project will help an ‘awful lot’ of people looking for a home. ‘But that is not the only aim the city administration has,’ she said. ‘It is also about having a pleasant place to live.’

Most of the residential development will take place on brownfield sites around four existing public transport links – Rotterdam Alexander, metro station Kralingse Zoom, the yet to be build station Stadionpark and the Zuidplein metro station close to Hart van Zuid.

Several existing residential areas, including Het Lage Land, Prinsenland, De Esch, Bloemhof and Hillesluis will also be expanded and renovated. In addition, the plan includes two new residential neighbourhoods, both of which will have plenty of room for water and trees.

“Building homes cannot take place without incorporating other functions and this is why the city is investing in creating parks and gardens as well,” said outdoor planning alderman Vincent Karremans.  Several sports clubs and three allotment complexes will have to move when building work starts but all will be found new locations in the same area.

The plans are currently out to public consultation and everyone is being invited to have their say. After the summer, the city council will take a definite decision about the new zoning plan. 

Read the details (in Dutch)

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.

Interview with minister Kasja Ollongren

‘Meeting housing targets is a challenge’

Kasja Ollongren, minister

The main challenge facing the property sector in the Netherlands is to ensure everyone can live a pleasant and comfortable life in rented or owner-occupied accommodation, Dutch home affairs minister Kasja Ollongren said at the presentation of the government’s budget for 2020 in September.

The plans include setting up a €1bn fund to help the six big city local authorities speed up housing construction by preparing more land for building and so meet the target of 75,000 new homes a year. A further €50m has been allocated to develop a clean air agreement with local and provincial governments

‘Not only must we build more houses more quickly due to the housing shortage, but we must also guarantee affordable, sustainable homes now and in the future, often in locations where space is already at a premium,’ the minister told Holland Metropole Magazine in an interview.

 

Challenge

At the same time, however, the Netherlands also faces the challenge of implementing a huge energy transition in the framework of climate change, which, the minister points out, will have a major impact on the housing market. In particular this involves phasing out the use of gas for heating and cooking in private homes.

In other words, not only must we give priority to house building but also to making existing homes more sustainable,’ the minister says.

 ‘The eventual outcome must be a sector that is even more resilient, in which corporations and developers, builders and the housing authorities work together in harmony in a housing market with fewer excesses and in which eventually everyone lives in a sustainable manner.’

In order to achieve this, the minister argues, it is very important that the public and private sectors work together. ‘Only by working together can we face up to the challenges facing the housing market. There is a clear role for investors, builders, municipal authorities and myself.’

Download Holland Metropole Magazine (for Expo Real 2019)

The Hague publishes design plans for new waterfront district

A former industrial area in The Hague is to be transformed into a residential district with 9,000 homes and city officials have just published their vision for the new development.

Laakhavens is a former urban port area adjacent to the main railway line and the Hollands Spoor station, which was once part of a bustling inland waterway network. With its factories and warehousing largely abandoned, the area is now about to be turned into a new urban district with a mixture of housing, retail, and other amenities.

The Hague city council has now put its design plans for the area out to public consultation, with work expected to start on the first project in 2025.

Older buildings considered to be part of the city’s industrial heritage will be repurposed and the design for the new development includes a series of apartment blocks which, at between 150 and 180 metres high, will be the tallest in the city. The waterfront will also be transformed with new housing, according to city council plans, which go into great detail about the design elements, from the use of traditional brickwork to the skyline.

“I have always said that if you want to add tens of thousands of homes to a city, then you have to do it properly,” city development chief Robert van Asten told the AD newspaper. “So we are going to get it right in one go.”

The plan not only includes a focus on striking architecture, but also on the outdoor spaces. “We have to make sure all these people live in a pleasant place,” Van Asten said. The project includes a large park on top of an underground car park which will be partly funded by €40 million from the national government. 

The aim is to ensure 55% of the area is either green or water, 25% is built up and 20% is paved or devoted to roads and footpaths. 

The Laakhavens neighbourhood forms part of the Central Innovation District, a project to redevelop large parts of the city between the three main railway stations. In total, 20,500 new homes will be built in the CID.

Artist’s impression: Gemeente Den Haag

Research highlights opportunities to make the Dutch housing market more attractive to (international) institutional investors

New research by Cushman & Wakefield, on behalf of the Holland Metropole alliance, provides tools for the Dutch Home Affairs Ministry to make the housing investment market more attractive. Improvements, the research suggests, should be based on the following four aspects: 

Level playing field: Fiscal rules and regulations should not differentiate between private and Dutch institutional investors on the one hand and international institutional investors on the other; 

Stable investment climate: Regulations, government policy and the tax regime should be both constant and predictable for a longer period, from the development to the operational phase; 

Optimal cooperation: improve lead times and permit processes to speed up development and improve the relationship between the public and private sectors, based on trust; 

Fiscal and legal measures: Research, and possibly improve, recently amended tax measures such as transfer tax, the REIT regime, and value-added tax on investments in new build, repurposing and existing buildings. 

The ministry aims to realise 981,000 new homes in the coming years to reduce the shortage of housing. This will require investment of at least €400 billion. However, interest from international institutional investors has declined in recent years. This is worrying, given the need for capital to reach targets. 

Dutch institutional investors are an important source of capital but this is not enough to meet the challenge presented by building enough affordable, mid-market rental homes. International institutional investors can have a considerable role as providers of complementary capital on the Dutch housing investment market. However, they have a choice about where to locate in Europe and this increases the need to ensure the Netherlands has a strong, distinctive profile.

The Cushman & Wakefield research analysed the wants, requirements and willingness to invest of a number of international investors. These results were then projected on the current Dutch investment climate to highlight potential improvements that would benefit the Netherlands when compared with other European housing markets. 

Cushman & Wakefield then translated this into 11 concrete, achievable determinants prioritised according to their expected impact. This selection offers the Home Affairs Ministry concrete tools to research what options are realistic and to develop a cohesive strategy to improve the investment climate for foreign residential housing investors and attract capital for the national house building programme. 

A first step has now been taken. The ministries involved are actively pursuing dialogue with the sector in structured consultations, which has already resulted in a briefing to parliament focusing on improving the climate for residential investment. This will benefit everyone involved in production chain. The scope of the research focused on the institutional market and it would be beneficial to expand it to other main players in the housing market who also have a part to play in meeting the challenge.

You can read the entire report here (Dutch).

Contact Holland Metropole

Nicolette Klein Bog

n.kleinbog@bouwinvest.nl

Contact Cushman & Wakefield

Barbara Voskuil-Geerlings

Senior Marketing & Communications Manager

E: barbara.voskuil@cushwake.com

Housing minister publishes plans to speed up house building, cut red tape

Housing minister Hugo de Jonge has published finalised and long-awaited legislation aimed at cutting red tape and speeding up the Dutch house building programme.

The draft law will give local, provincial and national government more powers to steer planning procedures and meet government targets of creating 981,000 new homes in the Netherlands by the end of 2030. 

“For too long we have thought that the market will bring supply and demand into balance,” De Jonge said. “But we realised that all the local decisions do not add up to what we need… this legislation will bring back our tradition of public housing.”

Location, location, location

One problem facing investors and developers at the moment is the lack of suitable locations to build the nearly one million homes needed. The new legislation requires all layers of government draw up zoning plans for a pre-determined number of properties, some of which will cater for specific groups such as students or seniors. 

Some two-thirds of these homes will be classed as affordable rental or owner-occupier properties and housing corporations, which own most of the Netherlands’ social housing, will also have a key role in this, the housing minister said.

Councils with relatively little social housing will have to ensure at least 30% of the new homes within their boundaries fall under rent controls. Those with a lot of social housing will have a target of 40% affordable rentals (currently up to around €1,100 a month) or owner occupier (up to €390,000) for new developments. 

The legislation also tackles red tape and simplifies and speeds up legal procedures and protests about developments. “You will still be able to protest… but at the moment the right to a view is considered more important than the right to a home,” De Jonge told the AD newspaper. “And that is absurd.” 

Village homes

There will be a specific emphasis on small locations on the edge of towns and villages which, De Jonge said, will ensure the country’s rural areas remain attractive places to live. In particular, projects involving fewer than 50 units will be less complex to get off the ground. 

People will also have to get used to living in smaller homes, De Jonge said. “Some homes will be smaller but houses in our busy little country are, on average, bigger than those in Germany and France. And we have an increasing number of single person households, when we primarily build family homes in the past.”

De Jonge hopes the legislation can pass quickly through both houses of parliament and come into force on July 1. 

Real estate sector urges government action, agrees to accelerate house building plans

Holland Metropole partners are among the 12 real estate sector groups which have called on the government to take urgent action to tackle the country’s “huge housing shortage”.

Developers, investors, local authorities, home owners, and tenants’ organisations have signed up to a new agreement to accelerate plans to build at least 100,000 new homes a year. Housing has become unaffordable or unattainable for an increasing number of people, the organisations argue.

In particular, there is a shortage of affordable homes for people starting on the housing ladder, seniors and people in need of care. This, they say, is partly due to increased construction costs, interest rates and government policies. But at the same time, many plans for new residential developments fail to get off the ground.

“We need to combine the forces of the private sector, public housing bodies and governments,” says Martin van Rijn, chairman of housing corporation umbrella group Aedes. “We should stop waiting for each other and start working at the same time, and get locals involved at an early stage.” 

In particular, the alliance is calling on the government to reduce the options for objecting to new developments, strengthen the capacity of the administrative court system and give more weight to the interests of house hunters in planning applications. Caretaker housing minister Hugo de Jonge said last year he planned to slash red tape and limit the right to appeal. 

In addition, ensuring that one third of the 100,000 new homes each year are rent-controlled and a further third are affordable will require financial backing from the government – of between €3 billion and €5 billion a year, the alliance says.

“The money is needed to build new infrastructure and for investments creating green spaces and for climate-adaptive measures,” says Tobias Verhoeven, director of developer Synchroon, and Holland Metropole member. “Without practical and financial support in the short, medium and long term, it will not be possible to realise the required numbers of homes of the desired quality.”

The groups involved have already agreed to standardize the requirements for new buildings and to promote prefabrication and called on the government to standardise its requirements for new and affordable housing at a national level.

Last November, the government announced it had set aside €300 million to help pay for the development of 31,000 homes, 80% of which are classed as affordable.

Densification would free space for thousands of new homes: research

There is enough space to build hundreds of thousands of new homes in post-WWII parts of Dutch towns and cities, according to research by a Dutch architects’ office on behalf of the country’s housing corporations. 

The researchers said they had identified locations for 26,000 new homes in a quick scan of Amsterdam, The Hague, Almere and 10 other towns, and that building work could be carried out in tandem with an upgrade of residential areas that were built at least 40 years ago. The research focused on housing estates built between 1950 and 1980. 

“It is daft to build a neighbourhood and then do nothing more with it,” KAW board member Mathieu Kastelijn told the AD newspaper. “You have to make changes from time to time, to make sure places remain pleasant locations to live.” 

Reduce parking

Several factors still limit the number of homes that can be built to boost the density of existing residential areas. For example, rules on how many parking spaces are needed could be changed and public transport improved, the architects point out. “If locals are less dependent on their cars, you need less room for parking and that frees up room for new homes,” the KAW report said. 

Housing minister Hugo de Jonge suggested earlier that adding new floors to existing buildings and making it easier to split large homes into smaller units, would be ways of boosting the number of homes within the available space. 

A combination of adapting existing buildings, using up left over space, demolition and new construction, and expanding residential areas slightly would allow housing corporations to boost the number of rental homes in post-WWII locations by 25%, the KAW report concludes.  

Photo: Depositphotos.com

Aerial view of Dutch town, private houses, streets and roundabout, green park with trees

Dutch housing minister changes rules on new-builds for rental

Housing minister Hugo de Jonge has made a major concession to developers who are concerned his plans to extend rent controls to cover more residential property would hurt investments, by allowing them to add a 10% supplement to the rent for new build. 

The 10% top-up, aimed at encouraging developers and investors to build more new homes, was originally 5% and would have been restricted to 10 years. De Jonge has now changed his position, doubling the supplement and removing the time limit, after developers said the new rules would seriously impair their ability to invest in the pipeline. 

The supplement will cover all new build rental property on which work is started in the next two years. 

Concerns

Institutional investors organisation IVBN and developers association NEPROM said in a joint reaction to the revised plans that more needs to be done to make sure construction does not slow further. In particular, they say, the supplement should apply to property built after 2025, and they want the transfer tax on the sale of real estate to be cut from 10.4% to 6%.

“Institutional investors need to be able to count on having a trustworthy and attractive investment climate to be able to continue to invest in mid-market rentals,” said IVBN director Judith Norbart-ten Hoor. 

“Over the past five years, institutional investors have added some 9,000 rental units to the market, or some 15% of the total new build in the Netherlands. And we want to keep doing that. Ultimately, people looking for a home will benefit most from that.” 

Rent controls

Developers also remain concerned about the minister’s plans to increase the limit for rent controls in the Netherlands to property worth up to €1,100 a month in the Dutch “points” system, a way of calculating rents based on a score for size, value, quality and outside space. 

However, the point system itself is also being overhauled to give more weight to properties that are highly energy efficient, have gardens or balconies, and high-quality kitchens and bathrooms – which will also benefit newly build property, De Jonge said.  

Landlords had lobbied hard against the introduction of the new rules, arguing that they would lead to a wave of sales as it becomes less profitable for landlords to rent out property. 

Nevertheless, at the beginning of February, the Dutch land registry office Kadaster said that the number of rental properties in the Netherlands increased last year. In 2023, investors owned 9.4% of the country’s housing stock, compared with 9% in 2022 and 8.6% in 2021, the Kadaster figures show. The increase is largely down to investment in newly-built properties by large real estate investors.  

New homes
Developers completed some 73,000 new homes in the Netherlands last year, well below the government’s target of 100,000 and fewer than in 2022, according to national statistics agency CBS.

But this year the total number of completions will fall still further because fewer permits were handed out in 2021, the CBS said. It takes an average of two years from permit to completion.

According to research carried out on behalf of the home affairs ministry, plans have been drawn up to build 1,075,000 new homes in the Netherlands between 2022 and 2030 – in line with government targets.

MPs decided on Thursday to press ahead with the legislation, pending the formation of a new government. 

Market for newly built homes improves in Q4

After months of decline, the market for newly-built homes in the Netherlands seems to be improving, with estate agents reporting 8% more sales in the final three months of last year. And compared with 2022 Q4, sales of new build properties are up 57%, according to figures from estate agents organisation NVM.

In total, contracts were signed for 19,150 new build properties last year, with the average price reaching €468,000 by the end of the year. 
Supply is also increasing, NVM figures show. In the final three months of the year, over 19,500 homes were on offer, a rise of 17% year on year and the highest total since early 2016. The average price of properties currently on the market is €506,000. 

Apartments accounted for 46% of the offer, with detached and semi-detached homes accounting for 22%. 


Dutch housing market pressure


“We welcome the increase in new build supply because it is reducing pressure on the market for older properties,” said Chris van Zantwijk, an estate agent and deputy chairman of the NVM’s housing group. 

“And we really need the increase to meet demand. But let us not blindly stare at homes for first-time buyers. We also need to realise homes for people moving up the property ladder or downsizing as seniors. And we are concerned about the new build pipeline.”

At the end of last year, it emerged that the five Holland Metropole partner cities will get a combined €100 million from a special Dutch government fund to stimulate affordable housing projects which are at the planning stage but threatened by the current slowdown in housing construction.
In total, 145 local authority areas are benefiting from the StartBouwImpuls fund (SBI), which will help pay for 31,000 homes, 80% of which are classed as affordable. Local authorities, private developers and housing corporations are all involved in the projects which are eligible for a total of €300 million in government grants.

Rent control concerns

Meanwhile, Dutch developers organisation Neprom has said it is concerned about plans by Zuid-Holland province to only sanction new property developments if two-thirds of the homes are classed are “affordable” or cost less than €350,000, and one-third of the total is rent-controlled. 
This is a tougher line than the caretaker government has suggested (€390,000 and 27% rent-controlled) and will lead to fewer new homes being realised, Neprom says. 
“Of course, Neprom wants to try to ensure two-thirds of new homes are affordable, but it has to be possible financially,” the organisation said. “Increasing investments in energy-efficient housing, climate resilience, biodiversity, accessibility and so on have increased the costs of housing projects substantially.”

Green light for Rotterdam’s 2 kilometre railway viaduct park

Rotterdam will soon be home to one of the longest rooftop parks in the world – a two-kilometre-long, six-metre-wide walkway on top of a former train viaduct between the port city and the resort of Scheveningen near The Hague. 

Part of the viaduct, at the former Hofplein station, has already been turned into a popular city park and now the design for the complete project has been finalised and the tendering process is about to begin.  

The Hofbogen viaduct was used for almost 100 years to take passengers to the seaside and its arches are still used today as shops, offices and restaurants.

“But what is currently a large grey mass on top of the arches will soon become a beautiful green walkway through the north of the city,” said city spatial planning chief Vincent Karremans. “It will be a place to take a stroll and relax, above the bustle of the busy street and among the treetops.”

City biodiversity

The planning includes particular attention to biodiversity and the design has a careful composition of plants to create a habitat for various animal species, such as bees and butterflies, toads, bats, birds and hedgehogs. There will also be special “entrances” so small animals can access the roof.  

In addition, the Hofbogenpark will have a water system that collects and purifies rainwater to help the city be better prepared for heavy rainfall and droughts. There are 14 entrances for pedestrians and three locations for cafes in the plans. 

In time, the city aims to make the streets around the viaduct greener too and to build a bridge over the A20 motorway so it connects with the city district of Schiebroek, a former village which in turn leads to the surrounding countryside. 

Community run

Rotterdam is also home to the Dakpark, a 1.2-kilometre-long community-run park built over a complex that contains a shopping centre, hundreds of car parking spaces, and a dyke that helps protect the entire Randstad region.

The Rotterdam project was inspired by New York’s green project High Line, which is now 2.4 long and between 10 metres and 20 metres wide and which attracts some eight million visitors a year. Dutch landscape architect Piet Oudolf was involved in designing the High Line park.  

Rotterdam has an ongoing programme to make the most of its roofs, saying the 18.5 kilometres of flat roofs in the city offer enormous potential for water retention, generating sustainable energy, and creating green roofs and terraces.