Archives for News

Amsterdam prison redevelopment project Bajeskwartier includes incubator for artists

Bajeskwartier, a new residential area on the site of a former prison on the outskirts of Amsterdam, will include a special ‘incubator’ for artists who are finding it increasingly difficult to find affordable studio space within the city boundaries.

As Dutch inner city areas are redeveloped and upgraded, the old industrial spaces loved by experimental artists are becoming increasingly short in supply. But developer and Holland Metropole partner AM was happy to ensure the Bajesdorp artists village, first established on the site by squatters in 2003 could remain, albeit in a different form.

The incubator development is now at the planning stage and once the green light has been given, a new building will be erected on the site of the former director’s home. The ground floor will have a café, theatre and music studios and a space for performances. The three upper floors will offer housing and ateliers of 15 to 25 square metres to 10 artists in residence.

The cost of the project is put at €2.5m, of which 65% has been covered by a mortgage by a German cooperative bank. The rest of the funding is being raised via a ‘crowd-lending’ campaign. The 10 residents will each put €5,000 into the fund but will not own their homes. Instead, the building will remain in the hands of a cooperative to preserve the space for future generations.

Once completed, the complete Bajeskwartier district will have 1,350 new homes, offices, commercial functions, shops, restaurants, a hotel, urban farming and workshop space, in addition to the incubator for art and alternative lifestyles. Bajeskwartier will be energy neutral, with heat pumps to provide winter heating and all organic waste created in the district will be used to produce electricity.

‘Sustainability and climate adaptive development are key in this project,’ AM chief executive Ronald Huikeshoven told Holland Metropole magazine earlier. ‘In fact, 98% of the building material salvaged from the demolition work will be reused. We want to respect the site and its history.’

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Rotterdam park projects will help tackle climate change

Planning chiefs at Rotterdam city council have published a list of seven key projects which are creating attractive public places for people to meet, socialize and exercise, while helping to solve some of the challenges facing urban development in the Netherlands.

The total cost of the investment in the seven projects is put at €233m and work on them should be completed by 2030, city officials say.

The new parks, squares and open spaces, filled with plenty of trees and greenery, will help reduce heat-related stress, absorb excess rainwater and provide new places for residential development by tackling noise and air pollution. They will function, planners say, as green lungs for the city.

In addition, the projects will provide years of work for a large number of people, Bert Wijbenga, the city’s planning chief, told the NRC earlier. ‘They will contribute to our mobility strategy,’ he said.  ‘They will make it possible to build more homes and make the city greener and more sustainable.’

The seven projects are being approached in an integrated way and will also act as a driver for further neighbourhood improvements.  Together, the projects involve planting 700 trees, creating green spaces the size of 20 football pitches and planting 10,000 square metres of green roofs. The overall impact will also boost property values in the area by 15%.

One of the projects involves creating a new park in the former port area on both reclaimed land and old industrial sites. The Rijnhaven park plan includes developing floating green spaces to sit and socialize as well as plans to build 2,500 new homes.  

The Hofbogen is another city park development, situated this time on a two-kilometre stretch of a former railway viaduct that crosses several residential areas.

In all, the seven plans mean a further 17,000 Rotterdam households will live no further than 200 metres from a green space.

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Housing crisis calls for greater cooperation, says home affairs minister

Dutch home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren has told this year’s Provada real estate fair that local authorities, housing corporations, construction firms and developers need to work more closely together to make sure that enough new homes are being built.

 ‘We need to create 845,000 new homes over the coming 10 years,’ Ollongren said in a video message. ‘Like this year, in 2021 there will be more government money to innovate and invest.’

 In particular, the government is working to speed up decision-making about 14 major locations for residential developing, which will involve 60,000 new homes,’ she said.

At the same time, eight of the 12 Dutch provinces are on target to develop enough homes, ‘and that is good news’, the minister said.


Nevertheless, the challenges ahead will require a stronger real estate sector, Ollongren said. ‘Local and provincial authorities should do more to allocate land for development more quickly. Investors and housing corporations should ensure there are enough affordable homes. Developers will have to do their best to create sustainable and attractive locations while builders will have to build both quickly and to innovate.’

Henk Jagersma, who heads the spatial planning department at Amsterdam city council, said in a video debate following the minister’s speech that the current government has worked hard to put housing on the agenda.

‘But are they doing enough to restore the balance in the housing market?’ he said. ‘Can we do more to speed up the processes and solve issues such as nitrogen compound pollution and noise?’

Peter Kievoet, Director of Economic affairs, Mobility and spatial planning in The Hague told the debate he and other local authority officials would like to see more tailor-made solutions for particular housing crisis problems.

‘This is not just about the home affairs ministry, but about other ministries, about national government in general,’ he said. ‘I have completely different discussions at the home affairs ministry than I do with farm ministry officials.’

The need for the big Dutch cities to work closely with developers and investors is one of the driving forces behind the creation of the Holland Metropole project.

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Converted offices create thousands of new homes

Developers created 12,500 new homes in empty schools, office blocks and retail spaces in the Netherlands last year, according to new figures from the national statistics office CBS.

Together they accounted for 13% of the 71,000 new homes realised in 2019. Almost half the conversions came from transforming redundant or outdated office blocks.

Holland Metropole partner Rotterdam was top of the list – conversions accounted for 37% of the new homes on the market in the port city last year. In The Hague, 23% of new homes were conversions and in Amsterdam 17%.

In Eindhoven, the repurposing of buildings is also beginning to gather steam. In the city centre, for example, the former V&D department store is being converted into a mix of retail and residential property.

The upper floor is also being taken over by Microlab, a flexible working space company which will include studios, meeting rooms and a sky bar with views over the city.

The trend of converting shops and department store premises into residential and mixed use complexes is likely to continue. A recent report by real estate research group Locatus said that more retail space is likely to remain vacant in the coming period, as the coronavirus epidemic continues to boost the shift to online shopping, and fewer tourists visit popular holiday destinations such as Amsterdam.

It estimates the vacancy rate will grow from almost 8% to 10% next year, and that medium-sized cities, not the big urban conglomerations like Rotterdam and Amsterdam, are likely to be hardest hit.

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Public and private sector must work together on affordable housing: ULI

The relationship between the public and private sector must be improved to make sure there is enough housing for people in the Netherlands with average incomes, according to a new analysis by the Urban Land Institute (ULI).

The report is further evidence of the need for alliances such as the Holland Metropole project, which was set up to highlight the development and investment opportunities in the Netherlands’ five biggest cities and to boost cooperation between government and the real estate sector.

The report says people with average incomes continue to be squeezed out of the housing market in the Netherlands’ bigger cities, and the main reason is the chronic lack of building land available for affordable home construction. This is an issue Holland Metropole members continue to highlight.

‘National, regional and local governments play a key role and have to start developing a long-term vision,’ the report, Promoting Housing Affordability states. ‘Then there will be certainty for developers who have to be encouraged to build mid market homes.’

‘The only way to guarantee a proper housing supply for people on average incomes is to make sure everyone involved understands the risks and the level of certainty. Only then can long-term relationships flourish which lead to change.’

One simple problem area highlighted in the report is that of regulations about how many parking spaces need to be provided for each property – which can mean more land is given over to parking than housing.  But changing this requires changes to zoning laws which have to be negotiated with local councils.

Mobility is a key part of the Holland Metropole approach and many projects involving Holland Metropole partners include commitments to replace car parking with car sharing and other mobility schemes.

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Rotterdam goes for better balance

Rotterdam has drawn up a long-term plan to improve the balance of the city’s housing supply, to reflect the changing population, which has become richer and better educated in recent years.  

‘We will improve the balance between cheap, mid-market and expensive homes, so that Rotterdammers can move within the city itself,’ says city housing chief Bas Kurvers. ‘Rotterdam needs to be a great city for people from every income group to live in, so we are working with housing corporations, developers and construction firms to make sure this happens.’

Despite the pressure on the Dutch housing market in general, Rotterdam remains a fairly affordable city to live in, but more needs to be done to boost the housing supply. Over the past two years, work has started on projects to provide 7,252 new homes and 6,100 units have just had the green light from national government for extra subsidies.

In particular, the city authorities plan to focus on more housing for young families and youngsters starting out on the housing ladder. This means, for example, that 40% of the homes being built in the Feyenoord City project will fall into the €720-€1,000 a month rental sector. The city has also reached agreement with the developers to make sure the rents remain low for the next 15 years.

In addition, officials are drawing up extra measures to encourage the elderly to downsize, and to help people whose income is above the social housing threshold to move into slightly more expensive property. This, they say, will free up more social housing for people on low incomes. Nevertheless, the proportion of social housing in the city will still be around 57% in 2030, which is more than needed for the number households who actually qualify for rent-controlled properties.

Meanwhile, Rotterdam is also starting a pilot for tiny houses and has opened applications from groups of private individuals who want to build up to 15 of the eco-friendly properties in a green part of the city’s Zuidwijk district. 

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Dutch government reaches deal to subsidise building 51,000 new homes

The Dutch government has made an agreement with provincial and local authorities about spending €620m to subsidise the building of 51,000 new homes in the short term.

The government agreed last year to put €1bn into housing in an effort to speed up developments because of the shortage of rental and owner-occupier homes. According to some estimates, the Netherlands will need 845,000 new homes by 2030.

In total, 27 projects have been given the green light, involving a number of Holland Metropole partners in the Amsterdam region, The Hague, Eindhoven, Rotterdam and Utrecht.


Some 65% of the new homes will fall into the affordable housing category, including some 6,000 cheaper owner-occupier flats and houses. Some will target seniors and starters on the housing market, and some will focus on students.

The subsidy amounts to € 5,690 per home. None of the projects could be built without extra financial help, for a variety of reasons, housing minister Kajsa Ollongren said. ‘Much of this is due to the investment needed to connect the project to public transport routes,’ she said.  ‘Almost all the projects involve far reaching measures to make the location suitable for building.’

Twelve of the projects involve redeveloping old industrial sites, such as the Binckhorst in The Hague, the Rotterdam Feyenoord City scheme and Utrecht’s Merwedekanaal zone. Work on most of the projects will now start next year.


Now the funding has been agreed, minister Ollongren said she hoped work on the projects would start as soon as possible. ‘We have to make haste in building more affordable homes to give starters and people on low incomes more opportunities in the housing market,’ she said. The government is contributing €290m of the total subsidy bill.

Local authorities had put forward 52 plans for consideration, and some of which will be resubmitted in October after adaptations are made, the minister said. She has set aside €225m in government money for the second batch of projects.

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Rotterdam starts permit-free house building

Rotterdam city council has launched an innovative project giving would-be home owners more freedom to build their own homes or redevelop existing housing in a project known as Architect aan Zet – which loosely translates as ‘over to architects’.

City officials hope that the scheme will speed up the supply of new homes in the city, by removing red tape and lengthy licencing permit processes, while putting architects back in control of small-scale projects. 

‘Lots of people want to live in Rotterdam and the Architect aan Zet scheme will let them build or rebuild a house that fits their needs,’ alderman Bas Kurvers said. ‘In this way, the concept is contributing to Rotterdam’s housing stock.’

People who want to build their own home, or add an extension or roof terrace, will be able to do so without a permit or special fees, as long as they use an approved architect to design and oversee the process, and the project meets city zoning rules. 

The plan, which is a first for the Holland Metropole region, has been approved by the cabinet on the basis of legislation brought into boost the Dutch economy in the wake of the coronavirus crisis. 

The scheme can be applied in large parts of the city, but not to listed buildings or in conservation areas and city officials will carry out ‘reality checks’ to make sure no rules are being broken.

So far 16 architects have signed up for the programme, which was launched on September 1 and will run for an initial five-year period. More architects are expected to join in October.

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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.

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The Netherlands is affected less severely by the corona crisis than some other countries

The Dutch economy will shrink by 5% in 2020, assuming there are no more large-scale new restrictions needed to combat coronavirus, the government’s main forecasting agency said in its pre-budget report.

This contraction will be followed by growth of 3% in 2021, the CPB said in its summer forecasts, which form the basis of the government’s spending plans for next year.

Should large-scale physical contact restrictions be implemented again, the economy will also shrink in 2021, and unemployment will increase to 10%, the CPB said.

‘The Netherlands is affected less severely by the corona crisis than some other countries. But, make no mistake, the magnitude of the negative impact is unprecedented and, for the most part, still has to make itself felt,’ CPB director Pieter Hasekamp said.

Hasekamp said there will be a delayed impact in the form of unemployment and bankruptcies and that job and income security varies widely between sectors.

‘Moreover, now more than ever, it is important to look beyond GDP,’ he said.  ‘Neighbourliness, family visits and home schooling cannot be captured in economic growth figures. The corona crisis also has major consequences for things that affect quality of life.’

The CPB projections are based on government policy up to the end of July and so assume the government’s financial support policies will not continued in October.  However, some new form of support is very likely and prime minister Mark Rutte said earlier this month the cabinet is thinking ‘very carefully’ about what a third package of measures should include.

Ministers are currently finalising their spending plans for 2021, which is also an election year and the budget will be presented to parliament on September 15.

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