Housing minister Hugo de Jonge is pressing ahead with plans to increase the number of properties covered by rent controls so people with a “normal income” such as teachers, police officers, and care workers will also be able to find an affordable home.
Landlords and property developers have been campaigning to have the plans put on ice, arguing that the new measures will discourage people from renting out property and lead to a surge in sell-offs.
But De Jonge said the “enormous” scarcity in rental properties means landlords are charging very high prices for homes that are “evidently not worth it”. “That is why we are tackling high rents,” he said. “And we are doing it in a way that makes it still profitable for bonafide landlords to make a profit and keep new developments attractive.”
In effect, the minister plans to hike the current maximum rent in the rent-controlled sector from €879 per month to €1,123 – based on the number of points a property is worth.
At the moment landlords have free choice in deciding the rent of property which is calculated to be worth more than 143 points in the regulatory system. Homes with fewer points are classed as social housing with a maximum price of €879 per month and only open to people on low incomes.
De Jonge’s new maximum will be between 186 points, which means far more properties will fall under rent controls. Points are awarded for amenities such as the number of bedrooms, whether or not the apartment has luxury bathroom fittings, and the age of the property.
Landlords will have to provide proof of the number of points to new tenants, and renters who think they are paying more than the maximum will be able to take their complaints to a housing tribunal. Local authorities, who have been campaigning for tougher rent controls, will also be given the power to act if they feel tenants are being exploited.
Ministry officials estimate the rent of some 300,000 homes will go down an average of €190 when a new tenant moves in, and that 113,000 additional homes will become rent-controlled. The changes should benefit international workers, particularly in the bigger cities, where landlords often charge high rents for tiny houses although the new rules will only apply to new tenancies.
The point system is also being overhauled to give more weight to high energy labels, outside space, and the quality of kitchens and bathrooms. Annual rent rises will be in line with wage increases plus 1%.
De Jonge earlier announced plans to build almost a million new homes in the Netherlands by 2030, of which 350,000 will be ‘affordable’ rental and owner-occupier properties for people on ‘middle’ incomes.
Currently, 57% of the Dutch housing stock is owner-occupied, 33% is rent-controlled and just 9% is available for people earning more than €40,000 who wish to rent. Housing corporations own the bulk of the rental properties but 1.2 million are in the hands of private investors, ranging from “greengrocer on the corner with one property” to pension funds.
Despite reports of a wave of sales of smaller apartments which are currently rented out, the Kadaster land registry office said last week that landlords are selling fewer properties than in recent years, although small landlords are selling more property to owner-occupiers than they buy, particularly in the bigger cities.
The legislation must still be approved by both houses of parliament and it is currently unclear whether or not there is sufficient support for the plan. The VVD and BBB are both opposed to tighter rent controls and the NSC’s Pieter Omtzigt has also expressed his doubts in the past.
Tenants’ rights group Woonbond has called on MPs to take the legislation on board and ensure it is debated – a decision which will be taken on Thursday. The law “is a step in the right direction” although it has been weakened in line with investors’ wishes, the association said.
If passed, however, the new rules could come into effect in July, De Jonge said.
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