Haarlem key questions: housing, integration and jobs

We asked the main political parties in Haarlem to answer three questions, based on the issues which DutchNews.nl 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 Affordable housing is not only the main issue affecting the international community, In Haarlem it affects everyone at the moment. Haarlem is an attractive city due to its location, surrounded by the dunes in the west, and Spaarnwoude to the east, close to Amsterdam and International Airport Schiphol. So it is no surprise that housing prices are rising. Unfortunately we do not have the space to build a substantial amount of houses. We do not want to build houses in the scarce green fields surrounding Haarlem. So we need to be creative. GroenLinks wants to build smaller rental apartments for singles. There are so-called development zones in our city, one of the most interesting ones is in between Ikea and the trainstation Spaarnwoude.

So we are going to build affordable small, carbon neutral apartments. And we want to make local agreements with developers in our town concerning housing prices and keeping it affordable. We think its possible because of the attractiveness of our city. We are also learning from our big brother Amsterdam. A good example might be the AirBNB situation. Amsterdam didn’t control that which led to huge speculation and rising prices. We are trying to stay ahead of that.

2. We fully agree that local authorities key role to play in integrating new arrivals . For instance, when the Syrian refugees arrived in 2015 and 2016 Haarlem did an excellent job providing them with not only a place to stay but also with many many volunteers helping them learn Dutch. They were so-called ‘taalmaatjes’ (language buddies). Where other cities were struggling with the refugees and anti-immigrant sentiments Haarlem did an amazing job. We had way more volunteers than refugees. Most of them have found a house in Haarlem by now. So integration and learning dutch are crucial and that’s were the local government comes into play.

But when it comes to the international community in Haarlem I think we need to step up as a local authority. Or maybe even as local politicians. It might be a great idea to organize a meetup with the newly elected politicians and the local international community.

3 The biggest opportunity for local jobs lies in sustainability, improving isolation, installing solar panels. Our party has big plans concerning the energy-transition. We need to step up. There are 73.000 houses in Haarlem and the vast majority are still connected to fossil fuel. There lies a task ahead. The Huizenaanpak is a network of small businesses in Haarlem specialized in renovating houses and making them carbon neutral. It has a showroom which plays a big part in making that abstract energy-transition visible. We think there will be plenty of jobs in this field and entrepreneurs, local authorities and schools need to work closely together in order to make this happen.

1 D66 Haarlem targets a 10% growth in housing within the next eight years. While most parties are set on higher numbers, D66 wants to ensure the quality of life in our beautiful city and make sure everyone keeps access to great schooling and accessible nature. In other words, we do not like our citizens (international or not) to get “ripped off”, but we do acknowledge that demand outgrows supply.

2 D66 is most known in the Netherlands for its focus on education: education for our youth and education for our adults. Learning the language is the fastest way to integrate in any society and for Haarlem, this is no different. In the last few years, we further developed the programme to make sure new international residents are coached and motivated to learn Dutch.

3 D66 Haarlem wants to make sure Haarlem is a city where people want to live and work (by investing in culture and for example, our new international school), where we make legislation transparent and well accessible (to make it easy to start a new business) and where we invest in infrastructure, for car, bike and public transport (to keep the city moving).

1 It is lovely to live in Haarlem. But life can be expensive, especially housing. We believe it is important that there is enough affordable housing in Haarlem in all segments. For families, first time buyers and of course also international residents. It is not easy to find an affordable house in Haarlem. That is why we want to build 16,000 new houses in the coming years. This is ambitious but possible in a responsible manner by developing multiple locations in and around the city of Haarlem.

2 Haarlem has much to offer to its residents and visitors. The VVD embraces Haarlem as a typically Dutch, open minded place of tolerance and liberty. We do not exclude new arrivals. A lot of people from the international community have found their way to Haarlem and have successfully integrated into our society. That is something they did themselves. They have grabbed the opportunities that Haarlem and the Netherlands offer. We encourage new residents to learn Dutch and contribute to the society. If you can work, you should work. We believe that learning the Dutch language is the responsibility of the new resident. Haarlem has plenty of affordable courses to learn Dutch.

3 Entrepreneurs are indispensable for Haarlem. More businesses mean more jobs. Our entrepreneurs invest in new ideas and innovative techniques. If our local enterprises do well, than Haarlem does well. We believe that entrepreneurs themselves know best how to run their companies. The do not need the local government to tell them. We are in favour of less red tape and lower taxes.