City accessible to fewer and fewer people

Fewer and fewer people are unable to participate sufficiently in urban life. They can no longer find or pay for a home and many amenities in the city are inaccessible to them. Furthermore, fewer people have transport to reach work or medical facilities. This is the conclusion reached by the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli) in its advisory report ‘Access to the city’ that was presented today to the Dutch ministers of the Interior and Kingdom Relations, and Infrastructure and Water Management. The Council believes that access to Dutch cities for all citizens should be better guaranteed.

Access to housing, public amenities and transport is decreasing

The concentration of work, education, care and entertainment attracts people to the city. To have access to urban life, you need to be able to live in the vicinity, make use of public amenities and be mobile. For more and more people this is becoming an increasing problem. Living in the city is becoming increasingly expensive, this applies to both rental and owner-occupied housing. Moreover, substantial cuts have been made to public amenities such as health care, libraries, sports and welfare centres. And transport, for getting to work, school or the hospital, for instance, is too expensive or time consuming for many people. As a result, more and more people are losing access to the city.

More and more people facing problems

Cities are becoming more inaccessible for three groups of people. The first group consists of vulnerable people with, for example, a low income or a physical or mental disability. In addition, there are the 'new vulnerable people': people on middle incomes who are self-reliant but still have difficulty accessing urban life. This applies, for example, to flex workers who cannot get a mortgage and have to pay higher rents or have to make increasingly longer trips to combine work and family. The new vulnerable are a very diverse group of people: taxi drivers and cleaners, care personnel and police officers, journalists and account managers. The third group consists of people who would like to develop an initiative together in the city, but who cannot find a location for that purpose or encounter all kinds of rules. They are people who, for example, want to develop housing initiatives, or want to start a neighbourhood restaurant or reading room.

Increased focus on the citizen through an accessibility assessment

The Rli advocates that both the government and municipalities should, more than at present, base their policy on the position of different groups of people in society. Public authorities have to ask themselves the question: what influence do our spatial plans have on the accessibility of the city? How much money and time do people need to be able to participate in urban life? The current differences between groups of citizens in terms of access to the city are, in the Rli's opinion, unjustified. The Council therefore proposes to carry out an ‘accessibility assessment’ for new urban policy.

Broad package of measures needed

In order to improve access to the city for citizens, the Council recommends a broad package of measures, including:

  • Supporting civil initiatives that improve access to urban society.
  • Investing in public amenities, such as sports fields, libraries, squares and streets.
  • Making better use of the existing housing stock by, for instance, revising the cost-sharing standard for those entitled to benefits, which in its current form leads to homelessness, particularly among young people, and restricts the flow in the social rental sector.
  • Countering uncontrolled price rises in the rental sector through a mix of tax measures for private landlords that provide greater price stability.
  • Taking people's factual transport options as a basis, by looking at costs, skills required and actual use. One option for this is the '15-minute city', with extra focus on public transport, pedestrians and bicycle traffic.

Note to editors

To request interviews, please contact communications advisor Miep Eisner,, +31 (0)6 15369339.

For information about the advisory report, please contact project leader Douwe Wielenga,, +31 (0)6 21240809

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On 15 October 2020 from 4 p.m. to 5:15 p.m., the Rli is organising an online presentation of the advisory report with several guests in Dutch. You can sign up for this via our website .