There are enough vacant properties in the Netherlands to reduce the biggest housing crisis the country has faced in decades. Yet the lack of financial stimulus is withholding investors from providing a solution towards the crisis.
Close to a million of the 8 million houses in the Netherlands are owned by investors. Many of these homes are being renovated and then offered at higher prices on the private housing market. As a result, sections of the population in acute need of affordable housing are being cut out.
Faisal Boulakjar from the D66 party told 9to5 “There is a high demand for housing, but that is different from a shortage.” He claims that there are enough properties suitable for housing, yet not enough of these are known to the government or being rented at reasonable prices.
Housing in the Netherlands is divided in two sectors: social housing and private housing. As opposed to private housing, rents for social housing are capped. The only eligibility criterion for a property to enter the private sector is:
- A home or apartment with its own access, kitchen, toilet and bathroom
Investors often choose to renovate properties so they can offer them as private housing. After entering the free sector, a property owner can ask for whatever rent they want.
This leads to prices which out budget most of the population who don’t have much more than 800 euros a month for rent.
The shortage of homes has reached around 355.000 in 2021. Although there are plans to solve this problem by building thousands of homes a year, many believe this is not enough.
“There are a lot of slumlords around Amsterdam like these American companies and Prince Bernard. They own buildings that are being kept empty, yet the government does nothing to use them for housing,” Sjors*, from the anarchist organization Vrije Bond, told 9to5.
Statistics from the Central Bureau of Statistics measured that there were around 180.000 vacant houses in 2020, yet little information is to be found as to why these buildings aren’t offered on the housing market.
According to proprietors and venture capitalists, it’s because of renovations.
In June 2021, the Blackstone Group declared approximately 330 vacant apartments to the municipality of Amsterdam. They did this after a group of squatters was cleared from their property on Sint Willibrordusstraat.
Blackstone told NH Nieuws that these apartments are being renovated and in no way were they intentionally left empty.
Regardless, after renovations finish, Blackstone will be able to offer their properties on the expensive private housing sector. It is unclear if they could have done so with unrenovated properties, but it appears that the aim of such works is to reach the threshold for uncapped rents.
The biggest groups in need of housing are households with lower and mid-range incomes. Yet the homes that are available are quickly altered to fit into a higher price category where more listings are available than needed.
* Sjors requested his last name to be kept private
Photo Credit: Fons Heijnsbroek via Unsplash