"Municipalities, give flexible housing space"
OPINION by Eduard Schapeman, CEO and founder of Tribes
The enormous need for housing in our country requires a flexible and creative attitude from municipalities, says Eduard Schaepman. 'Let them take an example from Amsterdam, which has embraced flexible housing.'
In short, the cabinet came up with the idea of allocating a considerable 200 million euros to have the Central Government Real Estate Agency build more than 2,000 flexible homes. Buyers are currently being diligently sought for more than 800 of the 2,000 temporary homes that have been ordered.
At the end of 2024, if it is up to the government, there should be about 37,500 of these types of homes in our country. But that seems pretty unfeasible at the moment. It is mainly municipalities and housing associations that throw a spanner in the works.
In principle, housing associations have a legitimate argument not to immediately embrace flexible housing, namely an operating risk. Temporary homes can stay in one place for fifteen years, which is too short for corporations to break even on their investment. As is well known, corporations are not overflowing with money and they therefore have to make choices.
However, the dismissive attitude of a considerable part of the Dutch municipalities is much less easy to understand. The houses ordered by the cabinet have three floors, while some municipalities only want to build ground-level houses and others want to build five-storey houses. In addition, the flexible homes are delivered in plots of 48 units, which is often too much for available plots.
Flexible and creative
Of course we have to conclude that during the design and construction of the ordered flex homes, more attention could have been paid to matching supply and demand. But that does not justify the rigid attitude of many municipalities.
It is becoming a habit to blame Hugo de Jonge for failing policies. But certainly in this case we can conclude that he made a decision based on the best of intentions. He cannot be blamed for the fact that he was poorly informed about the (expected) position of municipalities. Besides, it makes no sense. What does make sense is to take a critical look at the attitude of municipalities and see where the shoe really pinches.
The enormous need for housing in our country calls for a more flexible and creative approach. This need legitimizes, for example, the rapid revision of zoning plans and the significant acceleration of procedures for housing construction. It takes about seven years in the Netherlands – including objection and consultation rounds – before the road is legally clear to use a construction site. It then takes another two years to actually build the houses.
Stick out your neck
The government is now also done with endless discussions about whether construction is allowed at a specific location. Minister De Jonge therefore submitted a proposal for the Management Act in February. This makes it possible to force a municipality to build in a certain place, for example if the province and municipality cannot agree on that point.
A fine law, but it will take a while before it is there. Until then, municipalities can choose to stick their necks out, for example by removing obstacles in existing location and construction procedures, actively designating building locations, not immediately succumbing to criticism and objections to suggested locations and by providing support in the realization of locations and the installation of flex homes.
Let municipalities take an example from Amsterdam, which has not only embraced flexible housing , but was also a pioneer in the field of 'mixed housing complexes'. Who will pick up the gauntlet?
Eduard Schaepman, CEO and Founder of Tribes
IMAGE: YMERE. The Appelweg residential project on the edge of Tuindorp Oostzaan in Noord will soon offer 63 temporary homes for Amsterdam starters on the housing market.