Managing Surplus Government Real Estate

Balancing public interest against financial gain

This advice is on the disposition of national government real estate and the balance between public interest and financial gain.
Tax Authority, Nijmegen

Context

For years, the Netherlands has struggled with high vacancy rates in office space and other real estate. Over the next five years, the national government will shed millions of square metres of surplus property, ranging from offices to prisons and military complexes, and wishes to draw up a coherent strategy to guide this large-scale and complex operation. The acquisition, management and sale of national government real estate has more than a financial impact, it also affects spatial-economic developments at the local and regional level. In April 2014, the Minister of Housing and the Central Government Sector, also on behalf of the Minister of Infrastructure and the Environment, asked the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure (Rli) for advice on the best way for policy to guide the choices that need to be made in this regard.

Key recommendations

In its national property portfolio strategy, the Government affirmed its ambition to increase policy control over how national government real estate is managed. The Council concurs with this ambition. The desire to have the public interest play a guiding role has implications for decision-making. The most important recommendations of the Council are:

  • Choose a disposition strategy in which public interests are duly weighed against the potential financial gain.
  • Use regional and local policies in addition to those of the national government to determine what is in the public interest. Involve other tiers of government at an early stage in the search for appropriate future uses for buildings being vacated, and draw up comprehensive plans in each province for surplus national government real estate.
  • Use the MIRT programme as a framework for regional agreements with provinces and municipalities about the future of national government properties being vacated.
  • The Council advises against revising established policies that affect national real estate, but where necessary considering adjusting the timeframe of the disposal or temporary (re)use.
  • Require all future policies with consequences for property to contain an explicit real estate statement that describes these effects and how they were included in the decision-making process.

Date of publication

On 15 December 2014 the Council presented its advice ‘Vrijkomend rijksvastgoed: over maatschappelijke doelen en geld’ [Managing National Government Surplus Real Estate: Balancing public interest and financial gain] to Stef Blok, Minister for Housing and the Central Government Sector.

At the same event, the Board of Government Advisors presented its advice ‘Rijksvastgoed in beweging’ [National Government Real Estate on the Move] (pdf, 271 Kb), which contains guidelines for implementation.