‘Contact with municipalities can be tightened’

Housing associations want to build more homes. They cannot do this alone. Martin van Rijn, President of Aedes University League, is calling for a new partnership between municipalities and housing associations. “There was a time when companies thought: What exactly is our role?”


Lessor tax costs housing associations billions. At its peak, 1.8 billion euros flowed annually from the sector. Now that this tax is repealed from 2023, there will be financial scope to start building and make it more sustainable. Housing associations should double their output to 25,000 homes in the next cabinet term. One ‘uphill battleIf you ask former Minister Martin van Rijn. As president of Aedes, he guides companies through the colossal task.

Action Plan

At the beginning of 2021, EDIS developed the “Living Action Agenda” with 34 other organizations in the field of housing, construction, care and welfare. Four core agreements are on the ambitious agenda: a million future-proof homes in ten years, an affordable home for all, working together in vibrant and livable neighborhoods and accelerating the sustainability of the built environment.

Ready-made plan The new cabinet took over almost one-on-one. The recently introduced National Agenda for Housing and Building is like two drops of water. Van Rijn: “I don’t think it’s dark art to think about today’s problems.”

Is there a hierarchy of priorities for these four goals?

Van Rijn: Not really. It’s not about so much: I’m going to make it now more sustainable and it won’t build anymore, because then you’ll have a problem. Configuration may also vary by region. The housing shortage is changing. There are areas where a great deal of sustainability has already been achieved and areas where there is still a lot of work to be done. I wouldn’t prioritize: you can do one and leave the other.

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Is tackling the housing shortage not the most urgent matter?

Starting with housing is very reasonable, given the need that exists, but it’s also an impulse to tackle a number of things at the same time. How beautiful it would be if we said now: a new neighborhood or a new city should be built there, and then immediately think: what does a new green city look like in reality?

National requirements

According to Van Rijn, the government administration plays a major role. What to do in the Netherlands? Is the sum of what happens locally correct? For example, he states that there is a national requirement for the number of social rental homes, at least 30 per cent in each municipality. It also argues for a finer definition of social rents. Figures from the Land Registry show that only 16 percent of the number of homes built between 2017 and 2020 were a housing association. Van Rijn is concerned about the increase in social rent homes built by commercial parties. These homes are often small and have a fixed rental rate for which the target group is not eligible. After two to three rent increases, homes could once again end up in the free sector.

Do you think municipalities pay enough attention to housing associations?

The connection can be tightened a little. I think there was also a time when companies felt: Can we have more? Our options are very limited due to the owner tax, what is our role? The relationship with the government was not full of love. This may also apply to municipalities. They also said: We also have financial problems and it costs a lot of energy that we don’t have anymore. I think companies and municipalities can create a new era in public housing, provided they visit each other.

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Read the full interview in this week’s issue of Local Governance.

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