Firm Foundations

Throughout the Netherlands, many buildings have damage to their foundations. However, the lack of precise information for each building means that the problem has long failed to be tackled.
Two construction workers are renovating the foundations in a house.

Background and request for advice

More and more owners find themselves confronted by damage to the foundations of their home or building. Foundation problems occur in both urban and rural areas. The increasing number of claims has a major public, social, and financial impact.

On 9 October 2023, the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations (BZK) therefore requested the Council to draw up an advisory report on a national approach to the foundations problem. His request was also on behalf of the ministers of Agriculture, Nature and Food Quality (LNV) and Infrastructure and Water Management (IenW). You can download the minister’s request for a report from this page.

The foundations problem currently affects about 425,000 buildings. These already have subsidence damage or will face it between now and 2035. Without preventive measures, the number of buildings with foundation damage will increase sharply. The total cost of the damage could amount to €54 billion. The foundations problem also has significant emotional and social consequences in addition to financial ones. After all, having a safe and affordable home is one of people's most important basic needs. Poor foundations and subsidence damage jeopardise that basic need, and life suddenly becomes unsettled, both literally and metaphorically. How should the problem be tackled? That is the question addressed by this advisory report.


Although the foundations problem has been an issue in the Netherlands for over twenty years, an effective approach has so far failed to materialise. Only a few owners have actually had their foundations restored. And with the passing of time, the problem is simply getting worse, partly due to climate change. Existing damage is increasing and more and more buildings are sustaining damage. Social problems also continue to accumulate in neighbourhoods, districts, and villages. 

In our analysis, we encountered four difficulties that contribute to the foundations problem still not having been addressed. There appears to be an impasse, with owners, market parties, and public authorities being unable or unwilling to face up to the problem until recently: 

Lack of information about the condition of foundations.

In many cases, it is not even clear what kind of foundations buildings actually have, let alone in what condition they are. This lack of information about the condition of foundations means that the likelihood of foundation damage currently plays little role in pricing within the property market. 

None of the parties involved have an interest in transparency. 

This is because owners fear high costs and/or loss of value of their building, financial institutions fear the impact on the value of the collateral of their mortgage portfolio, and public authorities fear having to cope with the financial and social consequences of foundation problems.   

There is insufficient cooperation between building owners.

Building owners with foundation damage are often dependent on their neighbours as regards reaching a solution. In practice, it often proves difficult to get everyone on board. 

The focus on legal responsibilities is problematical.

Because damage to foundations can involve a variety of causes, it is virtually impossible to make a legally plausible case that one specific party is liable. And even if it can be proved that the damage to the foundations was partly caused by action on the part of a municipality, province or water authority, that action has usually taken place after democratically balancing up the interests involved as part of carrying out a statutory duty. 


In the present advisory report, we make recommendations for the national approach in which we focus on the principles of effectiveness, feasibility, fairness, and efficiency. We make effectiveness paramount. After lying unheeded in the background for so many years, the problem must now be tackled quickly and effectively. We make recommendations along five tracks:   

  1. Improve the availability of risk information regarding foundation damage 

    The availability of reliable information on the risk of foundation damage to buildings is crucial if the foundations problem is to be tackled effectively. As we see it, improving the provision of information must result in a complete picture of foundation damage, or the likelihood of such damage, for each building. That information must be available for anyone in a single central foundations database. The intention is for the foundations problem to play a transparent role in pricing within the property market, and for buyers and sellers to be able to take that into account.

    We propose that with effect from 2029, there should be an obligation to disclose information on the condition of the foundations when a building is sold or leased. 

  2. Prevent foundation damage 

    Many foundation problems can be avoided by means of preventive measures in the vicinity of buildings. We therefore propose that municipalities and water authorities jointly draw up plans, no later than 2026, for preventing and mitigating foundation damage. The extent to which such measures are needed to preclude foundation problems in new buildings must also be assessed. 

  3. Prevent social problems by providing support and relief from the associated concerns

    As our analysis shows, foundation problems can cause a great deal of worry and uncertainty for building owners. The national approach to the problem should therefore focus not only on the financial and constructional side of the issue, but also on guiding owners and relieving them of their concerns (as far as possible). That does not mean taking over responsibility, but standing alongside owners and consulting with them as to the best approach to be followed. We therefore advocate setting up a single national helpdesk that anyone can approach for advice and assistance in solving foundation problems.

  4. Create grant and loan options for damage and foundation repair 

    In order to gain control of the foundations problem, it is important to get down to work on damage and foundation repair. We believe that public authorities have a supporting role to play in this regard in the coming years, not only as regards facilitating it but also in a financial sense. Without both these kinds of support, damage and foundation repair will not get off the ground sufficiently, and the severity and extent of the foundations problem will only increase. We therefore propose that – up to and including 2035 – people facing foundation damage will be eligible for a grant for carrying out a foundation survey (90% of the cost), for having a repair plan drawn up (70% of the cost), and for having their foundations repaired (30% of the cost with a maximum of €40,000). 

  5. Ensure vigorous shared implementation

    An effective approach to the foundations problem will benefit from vigorous implementation. We therefore recommend appointing a coordinating minister for the foundations problem and, in addition, a National Foundations Problem Coordinator to take charge of an inter-authority programme. Among other things, the National Coordinator will direct implementation of the public foundations database, the national foundations helpdesk, and the grants scheme. He or she will also ensure that the market is able to carry out the necessary survey and repair work quickly and satisfactorily. To achieve this, a system of certification for survey firms must be set up, in cooperation with the market, and innovation and scaling-up of foundation work must be promoted with financial support from government. 

The national approach to the foundations problem that we propose will require investment on the part of central government that we estimate at more than €12 billion over the period from 2024 to 2035. For the approach to be effective, we believe that a significant financial incentive is necessary to ensure that it (a) mitigates the consequences of transparency for building owners, (b) encourages owners to get started on the necessary restoration work, and (c) avoids further juridification as much as possible. 

This also means that we consider financial solidarity with affected homeowners to be necessary. They will bear the financial consequences of the transparency regarding foundation damage that we envisage. Some people will consider it unfair that the entire Dutch population will need to help pay for repairing the foundations of homeowners, some of whom may be well-off. Practical experience shows, however, that attempting to allow for redistribution effects within a specific policy approach results in complex arrangements, high implementation costs, and also decreased effectiveness. We therefore advocate that the distribution effects of our proposed measures be properly identified, but then weighed up within the entire taxation package.

Compilation of this report 

In writing this advisory report, the Council for the Environment and Infrastructure worked closely with external partners and knowledge institutions. 

  • Two knowledge institutions, Deltares and TNO, produced an overview of the nature and extent of the foundations problem for us. 
  • The law firm AKD described for us the applicable legislation and regulations regarding damage to foundations. 
  • The consulting firm KPMG worked with us to review the existing (financial) schemes for supporting building owners affected by damage to their foundations. 
  • The Knowledge Centre for Addressing the Foundations Problem (KCAF) analysed the extent of the foundations problem. Their analysis is included in the memorandum State of the country - The foundations problem in the Netherlands, which you can download on this page. 

The Council also talked to numerous direct stakeholders: experts, implementers, administrators, and, last but not least, residents of areas affected by foundation problems. In the latter context, we made working visits to the Rotterdam district of Bloemhof and the Groote Veenpolder in the province of Fryslân.

More information 

For more information about the advisory report or to submit remarks, please contact the project leader, Joris Stok, at or +31 (0)6 1324 6502, or: