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Hugo de Jonge to take charge of housing crisis for new Dutch government

As expected, the new Dutch government has a specialised minister for housing, who will be charged with solving the country’s residential property crisis and boosting the supply of affordable homes.

Hugo de Jonge, a Christian Democrat who was health minister in the outgoing government, is moving to the home affairs ministry in the new role of minister for housing and spatial planning.

De Jonge, who has headed up the government’s efforts to combat the coronavirus pandemic, told reporters he was very much looking forward to his new role. ‘I am very pleased that I can take on this new task in such an important field,’ he said. ‘But I do have to learn the ropes.’

Complex issues

The new government – a four-party coalition made up of two Liberal and two Christian parties – has made tackling the housing crisis a key part of its strategy for the next few years and unveiled a wide range of plans in the coalition agreement.

Calls for a minister with specific responsibility for housing had come from across the real estate sector and the new government has said the current building regulations, seen as a major bottleneck to development, will be streamlined. The government will also continue to invest in specific projects via a public housing fund.

De Jonge, 44 and a primary school teacher by profession, came in for considerable criticism during the coronavirus pandemic, partly because of the slow start to the Dutch vaccination programme, but was praised for his dedication and grasp of the complex issues.

Welcomed

Dutch developers’ association NEPROM has welcomed the new government’s plans, saying the resources earmarked for housing will make it possible for the new minister to be effective and that the new coalition agreement is an excellent basis for cooperation in the coming years.

In particular, the decision to allocate €7.5bn to infrastructure in new residential areas will help improve the quality of living environment, NEPROM chairwoman Desirée Uitzetters said. ‘The new minister will have a coordinating role in this,’ she said.  ‘In this way, the money from various ministries can be used precisely in those places where the return is maximised.’

Residential construction sector lobby group WoningBouwersNL, which includes several Holland Metropole partners among its membership, is also positive about the appointment of a minister to oversee housing market developments.

‘If De Jonge puts the same amount of energy into the housing crisis as he did the corononavirus crisis, then we are fully confident that important advances will be made,’ chairman Piet Adema said.

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Eindhoven takes action to prevent land speculation

Private owners wishing to sell property and land in the central Fellenoord region of Eindhoven will have to first offer it to the municipality, under new rules which will be introduced later this year.

The city council has set aside €50m to fund the project, which is aimed at combating property speculation in the district, which borders the main railway station. This, in turn, will make it easier for housing corporations to build social housing on the site and meet residential targets, city officials say.

‘I realise that this will anger companies which want to make money but if we leave the Fellenoord area to the market then we cannot guarantee we will meet our ambitious targets,’ Eindhoven housing chief Yasin Torunoglu told the Eindhovens Dagblad.  

‘Speculative sales and developments which don’t materialise are deadly. So we are bringing in the new rules to make sure this area remains affordable for the average resident.’

Eindhoven has plans to develop some 7,500 new homes on the Fellenoord site, alongside offices, and plenty of greenery.

The city is also planning ‘where possible’ to offer land owned by the municipality and designated for residential development to housing corporations ahead of the private sector. This too is aimed at ensuring Rotterdam has enough affordable housing, city officials say.

Illustration

Part of the planned development. Illustration: Eindhoven/KCAP

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New Dutch government brings back housing minister role

The Netherlands is to get a new minister for housing when the new cabinet takes office in early January. The decision was announced at the presentation of the coalition’s plans, which have now been finalised, nine months after the general election.

Calls for a minister with specific responsibility for housing have come from across the real estate sector and the job is seen as essential for ensuring that the shortage of housing is tackled. That shortfall is expected to reach one million by 2030.

The new four-party coalition – a continuation of the current government – has agreed to speed up the current building programme, from 75,000 new houses a year to 100,000 a year. Some two-thirds will be classed as affordable.

Redevelopment

In addition, the coalition aims to create 15,000 temporary housing units and 15,000 units through the redevelopment of redundant offices on an annual basis.

The building regulations will be streamlined and the government will continue to invest in specific projects via a public housing fund.

In new housing developments, public services and transport will be crucial and the government is setting up a €7.5bn fund to ensure proper road and rail connections to the 14 areas already earmarked for intensive residential development.  

The real estate sector will be encouraged to innovate and adopt circular strategies, and the construction of prefab homes will be increased.

Rental sector

In terms of the rental sector, social housing rents will be lowered for people on low incomes and increased for high earners living in rent-controlled properties. A limited form of right to buy will also be introduced for some social housing tenants.

The extra tax which housing corporations pay on their rental income will be phased out, on the basis of performance targets, freeing up more cash for new development.

Measures will also be taken to ensure mid-market rental properties remain affordable for tenants, and profitable enough to attract institutional investors. Permanent rental contracts will become the norm again.

A registration or licensing system will be introduced for landlords, to help local authorities combat discrimination and scams.

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Location is key to climate adaptive construction

Dutch planners need to take more account of the likely impact of climate change when designating areas for residential development, according to a senior government advisor.

Peter Glas, who heads the government’s Delta Commission on flood prevention, said that some 820,000 new homes are currently scheduled to built in parts of the Netherlands which are likely to be impacted by climate change, particularly flooding.

If the long-term consequences of climate change are not taken into account, this will lead to additional costs and damage in the future, Glas said in a new report. Water and soil systems must be given a more prominent role in site selection, design and construction and, he said, planners must avoid construction in areas which will be needed to implement climate adaptive measures.

Sea level

In particular, this means the Netherlands must not sanction building in flood plains or areas already designated to store excess water and there should be further restrictions on house building outside the dykes, he said.

Some 26% of the Netherlands is below sea level and a further 29% is susceptible to river flooding.

Measures should also be taken to prevent any further lowering of the groundwater table. Introducing the concept of ‘groundwater neutral construction’, he said, would be one way of ensuring this. 

Location

‘The flooding in Limburg has shown that it is not possible to prevent flooding at all times… and it is important to be able to cope with extreme weather situations which go beyond current design standards,’ Glas said. ‘We have to look more closely at where and how we are building.’

The sea level along the Dutch coast will probably be 1.2 metres higher by the end of this century than at the start, but the difference could be as much as two metres, according to calculations by Dutch meteorological office KNMI.

The Dutch coast is protected by a complicated system of dykes, seawalls and sluices built after the devastating floods of 1953 which left over 1,800 people dead.

Climate adaptive construction and water management has a central role in the strategy of Holland Metropole partners, and was at the heart of the alliance’s recent appearances at the Expo Real and Provada trade fairs

Illustration:

Ice on the flood plains of the river Rhine near Wageningen. Photo: Despositphotos.com

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Age matters: the real estate sector faces major challenges

Ensuring the elderly can remain living independently for as long as possible will be crucial in helping deal with the challenges presented by an aging population, according to both real estate and care experts.

While the shortage of homes for youngsters starting out on the housing ladder is a current political priority, there is an equally pressing problem at the other end of the spectrum which will require concerted action in the coming years, the experts say.

Hans Adriani, who chairs a government-backed taskforce on housing and care, told a recent conference organized by Holland Metropole partner Bouwinvest that 110,000 new level floored homes will be needed in the coming years, as well as 50,000 sheltered housing units and 50,000 residential care beds.

Providing this will require close cooperation between local authorities, investors and care institutions, he said. In 2020, just one in three local authority areas had analysed how to deal with the shortage of housing for the elderly, but now ‘it is a theme in every municipality.’

While developing more senior housing has a role to play, there are other challenges ahead, such as the shortage of care workers. According to elderly care umbrella group Actiz, the demand for specialist care for the elderly will only increase, while the number of workers will remain relatively constant. This too means efforts need to be made to ensure the elderly can remain living independently as long as possible, and that their wishes are centre stage.

‘The future of elderly care is at home, and some 90% of the over 75s live independently,’ Actiz chairwoman Anneke Westerlaken told the Financieele Dagblad in an interview last month. ‘We cannot continue to provide care as we do now… and this development is going to place enormous strain on patients, care providers and patients’ social networks.’

Westerlaken says the care sector cannot solve the problem on its own. ‘Society in general must be kinder to the elderly, and they too have a role to play, by maintaining their own networks as they grow older.’

An example of how the real estate industry can help in this community-based approach is the LIFE complex in Amsterdam’s western docklands, which is part of the Bouwinvest healthcare portfolio. LIFE, developed by Holland Metropole partner VORM, is a multi-use complex for the over 50s, combining age-adaptive housing units at all price levels, plus community areas, a restaurant and a special section for people with dementia. The aim, says Erwin Drenth, director Dutch Healthcare Investments at Bouwinvest, is to create an inclusive building where everyone feels comfortable growing old.

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No brainer: homes and cafes added to Rotterdam office district

Rotterdam councillors have voted in favour of a new masterplan to turn the Brainpark business district into a lively mixed-use area, with housing, cafes and shops as well as offices.

‘At the moment there is not much to do in Brainpark 1 after office hours, and this is a waste because it is easy to get to by bike and public transport, and is close to the Erasmus University campus,’ says the city’s housing chief Bas Kurvers. ‘So we are working together with the private sector to make this part of the city a great place to live, work, study and relax.’

The project involves building between 2,500 and 3,000 housing units in the district, of which 30% will be rent controlled. In addition, some 45,000 square metres of space will be available for both commercial and community functions, while the public space will be redeveloped with more focus on greenery and water.

The offices already located in the district will either be rebuilt or replaced by more energy efficient options and traffic pollution from the nearby A16 motorway will also be tackled with multifunctional noise barriers

Now the concept has been finalised and backed by the council, city officials and developers will start fleshing out the plans. If planning procedures can be completed quickly, work will start on the first buildings in 2023.

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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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