There are many things to love about the Netherlands and one for me is how most things work towards having a nice quality of life. It’s a phrase you hear often, ‘quality of life’, especially here in Noordwijk: this mantra has even been included in the municipality’s website, as it rebranded itself after being formally designated as a ‘health spa location’ (kuuroord). This, and the local economic recovery from the corona crisis, seem to be at the core of the Noordwijk municipality’s mission and purpose.
Quality of life was probably also the driving force behind a recent law that banned people from purchasing apartments and houses for the sole purpose of renting them out as vacation rentals. Similar laws have been passed in Amsterdam, The Hague and other cities to help curb vacation stay services like AirBnB, VRBO and others from buying up properties, taking business away from local hotels and attracting crowds of tourists into residential neighborhoods.
It was great news here in Noordwijk, where the hotels have been competing with individuals who buy up smaller apartments to use as vacation rentals. The law was passed right as the corona crisis began unfolding in early 2020, so enforcing this law was put on the back burner. The municipality had bigger problems to deal with, like keeping the beaches from overcrowding and protecting its large elderly population. In any case, there was not much urgency to enforce the new rule that disallowed residentials homes to be used solely for the purpose of renting to tourists, as there were no tourists.
Still, many owners of such properties got the message and prepared their investment properties for permanent lease or for sale. Actually, I recently moved into one of these properties in a building that has about 50 apartments. My new neighbours were really happy that I moved in – like really happy. I soon found out why they were so happy that a permanent tenant had moved in: there were still many apartments in this building, and the building next to it, whose owners had not yet stopped renting to tourists. And this was damaging the quality of life in this neighbourhood, just like other parts of Noordwijk.
I experienced this myself first-hand. First, we have loud parties that go long into the night with music, yelling and rowdiness increasing as the night passes and the alcohol continues to flow. At some parties so much marijuana was smoked that even the strong sea breeze isn’t enough to dissipate the enormous puffs of smoke. To be honest, partying doesn’t bother me too much because I’m sure I kept people up when I was a traveler in my younger years! But it’s the fact that it’s happening in an illegal vacation rental that makes it annoying.
Then we have the visitors who let their dogs urinate in our elevator, stairwells and building entrance. Even as I write this, it still shocks me that adults would let their animals urinate inside a building they know 100% is many people’s homes. But I digress … Yes, some tourists let their dogs go potty inside our building. I’ll leave it at that. Then there is the trash that never gets properly recycled, people throwing waste in other buildings’ trash receptacles and the dirty diapers carelessly thrown into common areas or the public trash bins around our building.
But the quality of life that is damaged by this goes beyond the few bad apples in the tourist bunch. Even with the most respectful tourist, the quality of life here is getting damaged. When you stay in a vacation apartment, you usually have a kitchen where you can prepare your own food, bought at the local grocery store. So tourists go to restaurants less. After the corona crisis, economic recovery is foremost on everyone’s mind. But these illegal vacation rentals are hampering that recovery. Hotels have vacancies, restaurants aren’t being visited as much and the grocery stores – which experienced virtually no hardship during the lockdown – are the ones getting all the business.
I love many things about the Netherlands, the emphasis on the quality of life being one of them. But the lack of enforcement of some rules, this one in particular, is something I wish would change here, at least in Noordwijk.
Written by Marla Thomson