Demolition of the housing policy will cause a shortage of houses for years to come

As is so often the case, the answer is complex and depends on many different factors. Piles of studies have been written about it. But in short, it comes down to a retreating government, substantial cutbacks after the 2009 financial crisis and a changing population composition.

There is currently a shortage of 331,000 homes, says ABF Research in a report commissioned by the Ministry of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK). Demand will peak at 419,000 in 2025, after which it will decline steadily. But structurally too few homes will remain, even after 2035.

The shortage is pushing up the prices of both rental and owner-occupied homes, especially in the Randstad. A social rental home? Forget it: you will be on a waiting list for ten years. What about an owner-occupied or free-sector home? No, these are only reserved for double earners and people with a generous salary.

As a result, young people and starters in particular are forced to stay with their parents or share an apartment with a housemate. Cozy of course, but they prefer to have their own place. The social consequences are major: even having children is postponed.

‘The Netherlands is finished’

How different the world looked ten years ago. The population would no longer increase, but rather shrink. According to some, the Netherlands was finished. At the time, the Central Bureau of Statistics (CBS) predicted that the Netherlands would have ‘only’ 17.8 million inhabitants in 2040. Now the forecast for the same year is more than 19 million.

At the same time, the credit crisis led to a deforestation in construction. Houses were flooded and demand came to a standstill, causing about 200,000 of the half million construction workers to seek refuge elsewhere, the CBS calculated at the time. Some of them returned, but there are still thousands of vacancies in construction.

Housing ministry disbanded

Significant was the dissolution of the Ministry of Housing, Spatial Planning and the Environment (VROM) in 2010 by the first Rutte cabinet. “I am the first VVD member to make an entire ministry disappear,” said negotiator Stef Blok proudly. Instead, municipalities and provinces were given a greater role.

Three years later Blok introduced the landlord levy. This tax for landlords of social rental housing was intended as a crisis measure, but still exists eight years later. The levy, which costs housing corporations about 2 billion euros per year, halved the number of newly built homes, it turned out later. Opponents had already warned against it at the time.

Living afterthought

With the abolition of VROM, responsibility for housing, building and spatial planning now rests with Minister Kajsa Ollongren of the Interior and Kingdom Relations. She is also responsible for the AIVD, the organization of elections and privacy. She only adds a little living, critics say with exasperation.

But that does not mean that there is no building at all. During the reign of Rutte III, the number of new-build homes steadily increased again after years of declines, to over 70,000. Only last year was there a slight decrease after five years of growth. Nevertheless, the pre-financial crisis levels are still a long way off.

To accelerate growth, Ollongren introduced the ‘housing impulse’ in 2019. This € 1 billion scheme is intended to help municipalities in the period 2020-2023 to build ‘at least 65,000 affordable homes’, especially for starters and middle incomes in regions where scarcity is greatest.

Demand is high, it became apparent last week when the second tranche was announced. In order to be able to subsidize all approved projects for a total of 44,666 new homes by municipalities, the amount of 225 million had to be increased by 41 million. The construction of 51,021 homes was already financed in the first round.

According to the ministry, around 900,000 homes must be added by 2030, others even speak of a million. The fact is that these numbers are not being achieved at the current rate. The call for more coercion from the national government is therefore getting louder.

Million new homes

Most striking is the Housing Action Agenda, which was presented last week. In it, a coalition of 34 parties – from housing associations and real estate developers to municipalities and provinces – proposes the construction of one million homes by 2030. A new Minister for Housing must supervise this.

‘The Hague’ also seems to have been shaken up. Last year, the House of Representatives already approved the return of the Ministry of Housing, now election programs without exception talk about rigorous measures. The CDA and the ChristenUnie as well as D66, GroenLinks and the PvdA want to build one million houses this decade. The CDA does not even rule out the option of a completely new city à la Almere.

The question remains whether this is feasible at all. Yes, the house builders say wholeheartedly. Despite the continuing shortage of construction workers, it is possible, according to the trade associations Bouwend Nederland and Techniek Nederland, to build ‘at least 100,000’ homes per year. This is partly because many houses are now partly built in the factory (prefab), which speeds up construction.

New nitrogen law

An important condition is that the nitrogen issue is resolved. In May 2019, the Council of State ruled that the Dutch program to reduce nitrogen is not correct. This put thousands of building plans in jeopardy. The new nitrogen law, on which the Senate will vote on 2 March, should provide a solution.

Furthermore, there must be sufficient construction sites, emphasizes the construction lobby. This should be viewed from a Vinex-like perspective, when almost 700,000 new homes were built in ten years on the outskirts of large cities. According to the construction lobby, building in green spaces is inevitable, because within existing zoning plans the 100,000 can never be achieved.

In the meantime, Ollongren also seems to realize that more direction from the ministry is needed. Less than a month after they had issued an ultimatum to the municipality of Katwijk to quickly give permission for large-scale housing at Valkenburg airport, the parties involved last year concluded an agreement for 5,000 new homes. This put an end to fourteen years of political wrangling.


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