“40,000 new homes are being built too close to roads”

Photo: DutchNews.nl

Almost 40,000 new homes in the Netherlands are being built closer to motorways than recommended by experts and that could pose a threat to tenants’ health, according to data research by investigative platform Investico.

Investico looked at 204 developments that are set to be built all over the country within the next 11 years. The plans have already been approved by local authorities even though they don’t conform with health board recommendations.

The GGD says homes should be built no closer than 150 metres to a motorway, 50 metres from a busy regional road and 25 metres from a busy city street. Air pollution associated with motoring is known to cause asthma and boost the risk of developing heart, lung and artery disease as well as diabetes.

The plans include apartments specially designed for elderly residents, who are extra vulnerable to polluted air.

Two-thirds of the new housing is rental. According to Utrecht University professor Edwin Buitelaar, this is because location is no longer an important part of determining rents for rent-controlled properties.

“Location has less influence on the location of social and free sector rental housing than it does on owner-occupied property,” he told news website Nu.nl.

Last year, researchers from the University of Amsterdam found that tenants in privately owned new homes fare worse than homeowners when it comes to their living environment.

Specifically, people living in private rental properties built after 2010 are faced with higher levels of nitrogen dioxide and more noise than their owner-occupied counterparts whose homes were built 10 years earlier, the researchers found.

“Rental houses are being built in noisier, more air-polluted places compared to the early 2000s, before the economic crisis,” said UvA’s Wouter van Gent at the time. “And we know why. Recent private rentals are being built in and around the city—Schiphol, the docklands, along the A10 ring road. They’re even called ‘Ring Zone developments.”

Converted offices

Last week, real estate advisory group Colliers published a report suggesting some 60,000 homes could be created in redundant offices close to Dutch motorways.

“Residential housing close to motorways is not common, but projects like The Mayor on the A9 near Amstelveen show it can be done,” Colliers spokeswoman Madeline Buijs said. The former KPMG office has been turned into a residential complex with 300 flats. “In these times of housing shortages, it is high time to start making work of this option,” she said.

The advantage of building close to motorways is that most of the infrastructure is already there, she said. “In addition, building work will be quicker than putting a new development in the countryside, and cheaper as well.”

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