Housing crisis - the solution is vertical

Author: Ashita Khandelwal
October 9, 2020

The Netherlands is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and it already struggles to provide shelter to its permanent residents. Combine that with thousands of students who flock to the Netherlands to study temporarily and the result is an alarmingly high housing shortage for the low-to-middle income group. According to Corporatie Markt, a Dutch housing association, this shortage has increased to 315,000 houses at the beginning of this year.  There are strict regulations in place and if you combine this with labor shortages and population growth that the Netherlands is experiencing, you are left with a country that cannot supply enough housing to its people. The consequences of this problem are skyrocketing rent and homelessness. Students, and especially internationals, face a harsh beginning to their student life in the Netherlands as they have to either couch surf or sleep in tents.

With the housing shortage and ever increasing land prices in the Netherlands, there is a grave need to build more apartment buildings. The concept of vertical living has been acknowledged as a solution to promote and facilitate rapid growth and urbanization of cities worldwide when there is no room for horizontal expansion. Due to the scarcity of land, big cities like Rotterdam and Den Haag are constructing high-rise residential towers to meet the growing housing demand. 

In addition to providing 620 million euros of funding into building 51000 affordable houses, the Dutch government provides a financial aid called ‘Huurtoeslag’ in Dutch to low-income residents. This subsidy is also available for international students. The place which qualifies for this rent subsidy must be self-contained, which implies that it has its own entrance, kitchen and toilet. A studio is an accommodation type which meets all the criteria, it offers a single room which combines your living room, bedroom and dining area together with a bathroom connected to it. It has quite some advantages over traditional student rooms with shared facilities. It offers more privacy and peace as opposed to student flats which can get quite noisy at times. Furthermore, many studios offer bill inclusive rent options which might be advantageous for students living away from home for the first time as it means you simply need to pay rent once a month and the risk of forgetting the utilities bill will be eliminated. 

Let’s take a look at our local example, Talent Square. It is a unique, sustainable building with 90 solar panels and LED lighting. Because of the use of these solar panels, utilities end up lower than with conventional electricity and this is reflected in the rent. Rent for the unfurnished studios can go as low as 372 euros all inclusive with the addition of housing allowance. There are even fully furnished studios which make the process of moving so much easier for internationals, exchange students and those who are doing a masters degree and don’t want to spend time and money on a new place, that they are going to be staying in for just a year or two.  After all who wants to spend a fortune on furnishings when you can easily feel at home in furnished accommodations with just a finishing touch. 

Overall, it is evident that there is a need for a change in direction when it comes to housing development in the Netherlands. If there were more buildings like Talent Square, it would be a good step towards providing budget accommodation for students which is a blend of cozy studios providing privacy and common areas, which don’t let you feel lonely when you leave your parents’ house for the first time. It provides the perfect atmosphere to make them feel like they are part of a community. I bet if one were to ask the residents of Talent Square, they would agree that this is indeed the way forward.

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