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Housing crisis emerges as major election issue as Netherlands goes to the polls

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By Stefan de Vries
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Construction in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.
Construction in Rotterdam, the Netherlands.   -   Copyright  Stefan de Vries/Euronews

More than 14 million Dutch citizens are expected to head to the polls over the next three days. The pandemic is, of course, one of the main issues, but so too is housing.

The Netherlands is one of Europe's most densely populated countries and its population is steadily growing. Finding a place to live is becoming increasingly difficult and more expensive.

Cities in the Netherlands are filled with construction cranes and building sites. But they’re not building fast enough: over the past five years, for many, finding a house has become a nightmare.

“Actually it went wrong during the general financial crisis. They made it more difficult to buy and to build and then housing production went down with almost half. The other one is that last five years, and it was not policy, but it happened, that the migration went up, especially labour migrations” says Peter Boelhouwer, Professor of Housing Systems at Delft University of Technology.

All political parties have agreed to build at least one million properties over the next ten years. But even that won’t be enough, especially in Amsterdam where prices are skyrocketing.

Every year Gert Jan Bakker and his NGO help 10,000 people to find affordable housing in Amsterdam:

“In the previous government, Rutte liberalised the rental market. So the apartment that was 600 euros ten years ago, is now rented for 16, 17, 18 hundred euros. So even the smaller dwellings are being rented out for exorbitant prices.”

There’s not much room to build. So the only way is up. In cities like Rotterdam and The Hague, skyscrapers are being built to house thousands of people.

Alodia Capilla Arias and her family moved into this one a few months ago, even though it’s still under construction. And although the family has two incomes, it wasn’t easy to find an apartment, Capilla Arias says:

“We thought, well two, three years, is no fun, but it is what is if we really want something new. So we found this project. And finally, we were on the waiting list with 800 people for 100 apartments. So you see the pressure. Also, people were bidding 20, 30, 50 thousand above the asking price.”

Skyscrapers may be the future but how realistic are the political promises to build more than 100,000 homes per year?

“From left to right they are saying, we have to regulate more, and not leave it up to the markets," says Gert Jan Bakker, "but I am healthily cynical.”

“I think definitely there will be more government spending, more planning. It takes time of course…“

While affordable housing is an important issue in this week’s general election, the results of promises made might not be known for years to come.