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‘Let’s work together for a larger mid-priced rental sector’

Rob van Gijzel

‘A shortage in the mid-priced rental sector is creating a huge imbalance in our housing supply, especially in the larger cities. And this means an increasingly large group of people who are missing out on housing opportunities. This imbalance needs to be corrected. That’s something we can all agree on. It’s appalling that a shortage like this has developed over the past period. And that’s why all of us now have an important task on our hands. Together, we have to ensure that this problem gets solved as quickly as possible.’ This is the opinion held by Rob van Gijzel, 63, who has been serving since 1 January 2017 as Chairman of the ‘Joint Discussion Group for the Mid-Priced Rental Segment’.

Van Gijzel intends to get all the parties that play a part in realising these homes to sit down together. He is doing this at the invitation of aldermen in municipalities with a great demand for homes in the mid-priced sector. These homes could be rented to people including tenants who are not eligible for social housing because they earn too much, as well as people who would rather rent than buy. According to the new Housing Act, housing associations should give priority to those with an annual income less than 40,349 euros. But the housing market is still not doing enough to solve this problem for households with incomes just over this ceiling. During the coming year, the former Mayor of Eindhoven and ex-MP will be getting local parties such as the local authorities, housing corporations and investors around the table to arrive at agreements about giving middle-income households more rental opportunities. Increasing the number of mid-priced rental properties would offer people more choice. According to Van Gijzel, this would not only improve the possibility of achieving a balanced housing market but also promote a balanced population in a city or municipality.

Flexibility

‘More and more people are looking for flexibility. This is exactly what rental properties can offer. Renting a home is a lot different to buying one. Tenants can easily move from home to home, for example, without being confronted with capital risks. This ties in with the increasing dynamism in the Dutch economy and labour market. In general, it’s first-time buyers on the housing market, young families, and seniors who are ready to sell their house that are mentioned in particular for this kind of housing. This group of households is expected to keep on growing (locally as well as throughout the country) until 2020 and for even longer at certain locations.’

Moving up the housing ladder is essential

Van Gijzel explains the importance of this: ‘For people on a smaller budget, it’s harder to find a new home. Many people continue to live in social housing because it would mean a huge increase in living costs if they were to leave the social housing sector. And the mid-priced sector still doesn’t offer them enough affordable rental properties. There is also a large group of people who want to be able to move easily due to their work. They find it too expensive to buy something and live there for only a short time. This is another group that could benefit from the availability of rental properties in the affordable mid-priced sector. A third group consists of seniors who want to move from a house they own to a rental property but who would be ineligible for social housing. A fourth (and important) group in the housing market is made up of newcomers. Their problem is either that their income is just too high or that the housing corporation’s waiting list is too long. And the tighter requirements for a mortgage mean they can’t buy a home. In short, the huge imbalance in the housing supply is making things difficult for many people.’

Creative solutions needed at the local level

‘As the chairman, I see my role as focusing on very specific solutions. I realise that I can expect all kinds of problems to crop up. But it’s precisely the challenge of working together while respecting each other’s interests in order to come up with creative solutions as soon as possible that motivates me,’ says Van Gijzel. ‘The initiative will have to come from the alderman who contacts us when a shortage of mid-priced rental properties exists in his or her municipality. We’ll then help the alderman by making sure that the right parties are included in the discussion and that this discussion is conducted constructively without losing sight of each other’s interests. We all have a common interest: realising a mid-priced rental sector. This means that everyone will have to observe a bit of give and take. I see myself mainly as a process facilitator: ultimately, it’s the parties around the table who will have to do the real work.

Also essential for arriving at a shared base of support is national commitment supplied by the most important parties in this process. This is why we will be involving umbrella organisations (the national stakeholders) in these discussions at the national level. They should set an example for us with regard to cooperation. They, too, however, will be faced with the challenge of applying new work methods to arrive at new solutions. In short, all of us will have to stop thinking about problems and start thinking about solutions. This will require taking on a different attitude and a different perspective but most of all a different sense of responsibility. If we can’t solve it together, who can? The local joint discussion groups should lead to inspiring, successful and innovative examples. Our common goal is realising real results in the cities or municipalities where the pressure on the mid-priced rental sector is greatest.'