Amsterdam, key issues: housing,  integration and jobs

We asked the main political parties in Amsterdam to answer three questions, based on the issues which readers said were most important to them in our recent poll: ensuring enough affordable housing, stimulating integration and creating jobs. These are the answers so far:

1 Amsterdam is booming. This is nice, but has a downside: the city is becoming unaffordable for an alarmingly growing group of people. GroenLinks Amsterdam wants to protect the social mix that has characterized this city for so long and offer affordable housing for everyone. We want to turn the tide with an ambitious housing programme.

First we have to gear up construction. The next 10 years we want to build 70,000 houses in Amsterdam. 40% of these should be reserved for middle income groups so that we can safeguard affordability. We stop selling social housing.

Secondly it’s unacceptable that the scarcity on the housing market is misused by malicious investors who rip off people in need of housing. We see that international residents are specifically harmed by these exploitive practices. In order to stop this we need stronger sanctions and a push for enforcement. This is how we give a clear signal to unscrupulous agencies that they’re not welcome anymore in Amsterdam.

2 Amsterdam has a long history of bringing together people from different parts of the world. GroenLinks is proud of this tradition. In order to make this diversity work we have to invest in meeting each other. Amsterdam should therefor facilitate informal meeting places between Amsterdammers and the international community. On top of that we want Amsterdam to offer free and good Dutch language and integration courses.

An open and diverse society takes care of all its residents, including undocumented migrants. That’s why we worked hard on guaranteeing a place to sleep and food for everyone that lives in the city.

3 We want Amsterdam to create more jobs and be a leader in the sustainable economy. Therefor the city needs to invest in innovation and green entrepreneurship. That’s why we want to set up a green science and business park in Amsterdam, give sustainable entrepreneurs affordable working spaces and support them with investments in renewable energy. By 2022 we want to install one million solar panels for example. The roofs of companies can and should play a vital role in this transition.

1 Housing in Amsterdam is in high demand. Therefore, many more houses, flats and apartments need to be constructed. The VVD wants to increase the rate of construction to 10,000 houses each year, 5,000 of which are affordable for people in the middle class, earning between 35,000 and 80,000 euro each year. 3,000 houses per year must be built for the upper segment of the housing market and 2,000 for the lower, mainly for the purpose of student housing. Only by increasing the amount of properties available for the middle class can Amsterdam continue to be the mixed city for people from all walks of life who define its character today.

We would like to widen current legislation that requires proper integrity screening of new companies in industries with a considerable risk of criminal activities. It should  also be made easier to report unscrupulous housing agencies to the police, so that action can be taken to address any illegal practices

2 Integrating is first and foremost the responsibility of the expats moving to Amsterdam. They can choose if and how they want to learn Dutch. Usually this starts with socialising with Dutch speaking  colleagues, but can also be done by joining local sports clubs, cultural clubs or doing volunteer work.

3 The VVD would like companies, from big to small, from start-up to social enterprise to flourish in Amsterdam. Our aim is to make Amsterdam even more attractive for people to start a company or for companies and entrepreneurs to expand and create jobs. Therefore, we are looking to cut unnecessary rules and permits and ensure better access and support for business owners at municipal offices. Municipal tenders should be more geared towards small- and medium sized enterprises. And we would like to facilitate investments in start-ups centers, especially those that manufacture goods and create jobs.

1 D66 stands for an open city where expats are welcome, they are an asset to our city. Affordable housing to us is the most important topic of these elections. We are of the opinion that we need to break with the current housing policy in order to make sure that Amsterdam remains accessible for all income groups. The current housing market lacks balance: 60% of the houses in Amsterdam are social housing, which means that people with a middle income do not have access to those. The percentage ‘’middle rent’’ houses is only around 6%, so there are almost 10 times more social housing than housing for people with a middle income.

This has many negative effects: families leave the city and teachers, nurses and other professional groups don’t even stand a chance when buying or renting their own place. We propose 2 things.

  1. We need to build and build. In our program we have written down the ambition to realize 50.000 new houses in 4 years. 40% of those are for middle incomes
  2. If we want to restore balance on the Amsterdam housing market, building new houses only is not enough. We do not want to have all the newly built middle income houses on the edge of the city, just like we do not want the edge of our cities to consist of neighborhoods with 60-70% social housing. We want to make our neighborhoods accessible for everyone, so that means that we have to intervene in the existing housing stock:

In neighborhoods inside the ring with a lot of social housing, we want a large part of the social rental housing that become vacant, to be rented to people with a middle income. This can be done in many places within the ring such as De Pijp, Hoofddorppleinbuurt, De Baarsjes, Oud-West and the Indische Buurt. We’re not selling these homes, they remain in the possession of housing corporations.

In areas outside of the ‘ring’, we want social housing that are being vacated, to be sold to middle incomes. In this way, the pressure on the buying market is relieved and middle-income people get a chance to buy a house that is actually affordable.

2 Amsterdam is a city of 180 nationalities and one way or another, over half of the ‘Amsterdammers’ have a migration background. D66 is the only party in the city council that is in favor of more schools for the children of internationals. Both public and private. We want places such as the Zuidas, where many internationals work, to become neighborhoods where people can not only work, but also live and spend their time off.

We support mixed neighborhoods with affordable housing for all kinds of incomes. Today many neighborhoods consist of only social housing or property, without normal rental houses. Amsterdam is renowned for the famous Amsterdam approach for the integration of refugees, which was initiated by D66 alderman Ollongren. With this approach, newcomers get to learn the Dutch language from day one, and are individually assessed and supported to start an education, a job or if necessary receive healthcare.

The Amsterdam Approach was very successful and is now integrated in national policy.  We encourage internationals to vote for local elections, to become part of the Amsterdam community.

3 D66 believes that new (international) companies settling in Amsterdam greatly adds to a strong economy and a thriving city. It is also one of the factors why the number of jobs in Amsterdam has risen twice as fast as those in the rest of the Netherlands. These are significant reasons why alderman Udo Kock (finances) has lobbied for international companies and start ups to set up shop in Amsterdam. This policy has led to a record in new companies relocating in Amsterdam and we will to continue this policy in the next four years. While we have a positive view on international business, it is of the upmost importance that a company has added value to this beautiful city. So when a company wants to set up in Amsterdam, the important question to ask is: how many jobs will your company bring with it?