In an effort to bring up a solution to the housing shortage in the Netherlands, Rabobank has plans to build a total of 12,000 temporary rental homes for people in the middle-income range, who are considered a vulnerable group in the housing market.
This project is in addition to the 15,000 cheap, regular rental homes that the institution had already announced earlier this year. The plan is to lease them for fifteen years. Depending on their size, prices range from 753 to 1,000 euros, or 1250 for a house with a garden.
About the project
Under the name of Rabo Smartbuilds, the bank says it is currently consulting with “a dozen medium-sized and large municipalities” about the housing project; it expects to announce the first locations in the coming months.
Given that the project consists of temporary housing, the decision-making process to grant the construction permit should be faster than for permanent homes, thanks to recent changes in laws and regulations. The bank estimates that, after municipality permission is granted, the houses could be completed within eight to fifteen months. The project is planned to be built in a modular way, with parts factory-produced in standard sizes, to be assembled on the construction site.
These rental homes in the mid-priced range will remain in place for fifteen years. After this period, each municipality can decide whether to extend the permit or move the temporary homes to another site. After a predicted lifespan of fifty years, Rabobank proposes to recycle the houses.
According to De Volkskrant, this is not a cheap project: it will consist of high-quality homes made of wood, metal, glass and pressed fibers. Rabobank holds that, since the rent will reflect market prices, the project cannot be considered charity but a solid investment. Still, the bank makes no promises about how well it will work, as it is a new project and there are considerable risks to it. For now, considering the scarcity of space in large cities in the West, the biggest challenge is finding enough space for this temporary housing. Another major hurdle is a bureaucratic one, namely the long permit processes.
Still, Marja Elsinga, Professor of Housing Institutions & Governance at TU Delft, remains optimistic about the project: “The construction of 27,000 homes is a substantial contribution to a solution for the housing shortage. It is important that temporary housing is of good quality, so no one will regret it in five years. And that consideration is given to where they will be placed, and which facilities and infrastructure should be built in connection with them,” she told De Volkskrant.
The housing shortage: a social challenge
According to the national government, the shortage of homes in the country was estimated at 330,000 in the middle of 2020, a number expected to increase to one million in the next ten years. The housing crisis is highest in the middle segment, especially in the big cities and in medium-sized municipalities that are struggling to meet the current demand.
Aspects that add to this problem include a lack of suitable building locations, tortuous bureaucratic decision-making processes, nitrogen regulations and a lack of available labour,” said Rabobank. Also, there’s a lack of building materials, affecting construction companies in both the residential and non-residential construction market. Because of this, two-thirds of all construction companies expect prices to rise in the third quarter, even though costs have already risen sharply in recent times.
The government wants to build at least 845,000 additional homes by 2030, but this means that for now, the problem will remain, as reflected by dramatic price increases for owner-occupied homes, as well as the tighter rental market. On the suggestion that the country could be soon filled with temporary houses made of wood panels, Elsinga has a short and straightforward answer: “A temporary house is better than no house. We are in the middle of a crisis.”
Written by Bárbara Luque Alanís