How To Grow A Housing Crisis – Netherlands Edition

exterior view of five storey red brick building
A social housing project built in Amsterdam. An applicant can expect to wait 18 years to move in.

When the UN’s special rapporteur on housing published a report about housing in the Netherlands, he was clear that problems facing the country were the result of policy choices taken over a number of years. Blaming the problem on immigrants had become a common theme in the Netherlands, but the Special Rapporteur was not impressed with this analysis. He said that such a view was short-sighted1.

Residents of Amsterdam speak not so much about when the problem started, but how their lives are shaped by today’s housing market. For example, there are the two young people who want to live together, but have put it off because they don’t see a way to find housing that they can afford. The stories of other residents differ in specifics, but there’s a common thread: housing is a continuing source of worry.

Jon Henley, who wrote the article linked below, goes beyond individual experiences. He interviewed people who work in agencies that offer support to people who are homeless. Some of the clients coming for help in the last decade have significantly different problems. One worker described how things started to change beginning around 2015:

“They didn’t have the usual problems of homeless people. They had jobs, friends. In every respect, their lives were very much together. But they couldn’t afford a home.”

Having established that homelessness in Amsterdam has evolved over time, Henley goes five years further back to 2010, when the national government closed down its housing planning ministry. In the same year, the government created a ‘right to buy’ program, offering public housing tenants the opportunity to buy their homes.

This trail of decisions gives weight to the view of the UN Special Rapporteur on Housing that the current housing crisis has developed over time. Newcomers may be blamed, but the problems with the housing market seem firmly rooted in a series of public policy decisions.

Read more about housing in Amsterdam in The Guardian: ‘Everything’s just … on hold’: the Netherlands’ next-level housing crisis


  1. Try: Hate-on For Migrant Housing Undermines A Nation’s Future Health