Solving the housing crisis requires more action from housing associations and municipalities

Social housing stock needs to expand considerably in the next few years. That’s why central government needs to considerably step up efforts to maximise the performance of housing associations and municipalities. In its advisory report ‘Providing shelter: maximising the performance of housing associations’, presented today to Minister for Housing Hugo de Jonge, the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli) makes a number of recommendations including legislating on the number of social housing units to be built and requiring municipalities to provide sufficient space to build them. The Rli also believes that central government should focus much more than in recent years on ensuring that the performance agreed with the housing associations is delivered. Moreover, the minister must intervene if insufficient social housing is being built.

More housing association homes and their compulsory inclusion in environmental plans

The Constitution imposes a duty of care on the government to provide ‘adequate housing’. The Rli has concluded that the government is failing in this duty of care and that housing associations are needed in order to meet this obligation. Housing associations currently rent over 2.3 million affordable rental homes, generally of reasonable quality. Compared to other providers, such as commercial landlords, housing associations provide the most effective and cost-efficient solution to social housing. Demand for such homes will continue to grow over the next ten to fifteen years. Partly due to the reduction in supply by commercial providers, housing associations are playing an ever more important role in meeting this demand. If the policy remains unchanged, waiting lists will get longer and longer. Development land is needed to expand the existing stock of housing association homes. For this reason, the Rli wants central government to require municipalities to specify in their environmental plans the locations for the construction of social and affordable housing needed according to the national policy objectives. This will also lead to a reduction in land costs in new building locations. The Rli also advises the minister to abandon the government's intention to grant social housing tenants the right to buy. Such a measure would make it even harder to achieve the goal of sufficient affordable housing.

Financial preconditions

Minister De Jonge’s recently published National Housing and Construction Agenda takes important steps towards solving the shortage of affordable housing. The Council believes that scrapping the landlord levy is a necessary step, but not yet sufficient to bring the financial situation of all housing associations in order. In addition, the Council is of the opinion that there must be an option to compel richer associations to provide financial support to poorer housing associations that face major challenges. The Council also notes that the proposed reform of housing benefit must not lead to additional expenses or less income for housing associations.

Cooperation between housing associations and municipalities needs to be less voluntary

Housing associations and municipalities are highly dependent on each other in the task of resolving the shortage of affordable housing. Municipalities therefore reach performance agreements with housing associations, but these agreements are often inadequate. Moreover, it remains unclear how the local agreements contribute to achieving the national targets. The national policy of recent years has led to a significant reduction in investment and a halving of new construction, to rent increases, and to a decline in the resilience of neighbourhoods. These are some of the reasons why housing associations are now facing major challenges. These challenges can be tackled successfully with ambitious and strict performance agreements between housing associations and municipalities, as well as good supervision of compliance with these agreements by the government.

Note to the editors

  • To request interviews, please contact the Council’s Communication Officer Anneke Verschoor at or on +31 (0)6 1535 9540
  • For more information about this advisory report, please contact Douwe Wielenga, project leader, at or on +31 (0)6 2124 0809
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