On the occasion of its 25th anniversary, the Nederlandse Woonbond celebrated the National Tenants Day in Utrecht, October 10th, together with International Tenants Day.
Woonbond President Jan Laurier highlighted that the organisation has grown substantially in its 25 years of existence i.e. from 200.000 to 1.3 million members. Woonbond currently represents 53% of all tenants in the country.
This was my speech to the 900 participants:
Her Majesty Queen Maxima, minister of housing Mr. Blok, members of the parliament, members of the Woonbond, ladies and gentlemen!
I am honoured to have been invited to celebrate the first 25 years with the Woonbond. Woonbond is an important member of IUT, represented by vice president Jan Laurier and board member Ronald Paping.
Today we are also celebrating International Tenants Day 2015! We are happy to do this shoulder to shoulder with one of our most active members, the Nederlandse Woonbond! The Woonbond has the highest organization grade of all IUT members, 53 percent of all tenants and is especially committed to the European issues.
We are now witnessing a housing crises in most countries in Europe. The market alone cannot solve the housing problems for many e.g.
• Young households
• Low and low to medium income households
• Migrants and refugees
• Those with disabilities and those in need of care
Therefore are different kinds of subsidies and/or subsidized housing necessary.
The Netherlands has a high proportion of social housing, 30 percent, indicating a desire to guarantee all residents a decent standard of housing and to avoid the creation of areas with high social exclusion/ with only the poorest households. A social mixture is desirable and wise. Research has shown that the social climate in a housing area affects the future possibilities of households and individuals.
It should be possible to stay in social housing even if the income grows and maybe pay a little more. Social and affordable housing is particularly important in areas where the jobs are. It is about the empowerment of tenants, and decent and affordable housing is a social lever for them. The target group of the social housing sector should be a national decision without interference from the EU Commission.
IUT worked very closely on this state aid case, together with our colleagues from the Woonbond. Nevertheless the “Dutch case” is still not solved. The income limit for access to social housing is set regardless of the size of the household. You, Minister Blok, ought to go back to Brussels to negotiate a higher income limit for the Dutch social housing sector- for the sake of the tenants and the sake of our quarters.
Since 2013 the Dutch government puts a lot of pressure on social housing with an extra tax, which will lead to rent increases. To avoid this Woonbond and AEDES managed to agree on a “social rent agreement” in June 2015. The rents shall be raised only 1 percent above the inflation rate and not 3 percent as in the last years.
This is a practicable way to protect tenants from income losses, like they accumulated in the last years. The parliament will decide on the agreement. In return the government is asked to abolish the extra tax for corporations.
The Netherlands and Sweden are according to the EU Commission the two countries within the EU that subsidize homeownership most. Subsidies to homeowners, mostly in the form of tax deductions, generally benefit already economically well-off households the most.
Such subsidies to home-owners create redistribution from ”outsiders”, i.e., from those seeking housing to the ”insiders”, i.e. those who already own a home according to an OECD report.
These subsidies in fact “dope” house prices, which often increase rapidly in already expensive and booming regions. Even the construction prices are affected in the same way. Economists with different opinions on other issues agree on this.
To create a functioning affordable housing market, a lot of public and private investment for the construction of new housing is necessary. This will also boost the economy. The heavy subsidies to homeownership are “stolen” from the rental sector and thus from the current and prospective tenants. We need to refocus on non-profit affordable rental housing, to stabilize the overheated markets for the sake of the people who are less better off.
A household’s expenditure on housing is usually the individual expenditure which takes the largest share of the household budget. Increasing housing costs means less money for the households to spend on other commodities. This stresses the importance of keeping down households’ housing expenses. All this together shows why the housing policy has such a great influence on the whole economy.
IUT claims for tenure neutral policies. For the Netherlands this means, stop putting pressure on the affordable rental housing sector. It is necessary to give low and medium income households a relief – it is about fairness and solidarity and also good for the economy!
Thank you for listening!