ProRail warns about impact of train vibrations on houses

New homes built close to railway tracks should be better protected against the vibrations caused by train traffic, given that it will grow in the future,' according to railway infrastructure company ProRail. ProRail says it has sent over 100 letters to local authorities since 2015 warning them about the problem but with mixed results. In Delft, for example, agreements were reached about housing on the new railway tunnel but in one case, ProRail has threatened to go to court, the company said. The state-owned company says local authorities and developers should be aware of the problem. 'We are making mention of this now because we will be blamed in the future if cups start rattling on tables and cracks appear in walls,' chief executive Pier Eringa told Radio 1. Pressure on the railways is increasing and dozens of housing developments have been planned close to tracks, he pointed out. In Zuid-Holland alone, 75,000 homes have been planned close to railways, Eringa told the broadcaster. ProRail is also taking steps to alleviate the problems by, for example, placing rubber mats in track foundations to absorb the vibrations.  However, the simplest solution would be not to build too close to railway tracks, he said.  More >

MPs tackle high earners in social housing

The four coalition parties want to take action to get high earners out of social housing by putting rents up to the maximum in one go, the AD said on Wednesday. Currently landlords are allowed to give high earners a rent increase of not more than 5.4% a year but the coalition says landlords should be allowed to whack the rent up to the maximum of €710 in one go. The maximum rent in the rent-controlled sector is €710 and rents are assessed on a point system depending on factors such as location, number of rooms and facilities. Rent-controlled property is restricted to people with an income of less than €41,000. 'It should not be the case that people who are entitled to a rent-controlled property are on a waiting list for years while people with a far too high income are keeping these houses occupied,' Christian Democrat MP Erik Ronnes told the paper. At the same time, people whose income drops unexpectedly could be given a rent cut, the MPs say. The MPs have asked home affairs minister Kajsa Ollongren to discuss the issue with housing corporations, which are responsible for most of the rent-controlled property in the Netherlands. Mid-market rentals Research by ING last year showed that the higher rent rises for households with an income of over €41,000 a year had a limited effect. One reason for this is the lack of rental property with a rent of €710 to €1,000 a month. Earlier this year, Ollongren published plans to boost the amount of affordable housing in the Netherlands. She says the Netherlands needs 75,000 sustainable homes a year to keep up with demand. As well as building new homes, old office blocks and other redundant buildings will be reused, to offset the shortage of inner city building ground, the minister said.  More >

MPs propose new law to tackle holiday lets

MPs from the right-wing VVD and the Socialists will present a joint motion to parliament on Tuesday evening which will brand breaking the rules for holiday rentals on websites such as Airbnb and an economic crime, the Parool said on Tuesday. The motion, which can count on widespread support in parliament, would make it possible for officials to go to court to claim the illegal earnings back through the likes of Airbnb, the Parool said. The move has been welcomed by Amsterdam housing alderman Laurens Ivens who has been campaigning for tougher action against holiday rental sites which, he says, do not do enough to stop landlords breaking the rules. 'We already have the option of tackling people who rent out their homes, but that is not the case for the rental websites,' Ivens said. Earlier this month, Ivens accused Airbnb of not doing enough to combat illegal letting and has threatened not to renew an agreement the city has had with the platform since 2013. Agreement Some 20,000 homes were on offer on the rental site this year, a rise of 500 on 2017, despite council efforts to bring holiday rentals under control. The city’s agreement with Airbnb on stamping out illegal rentals expires at the end of this year, and Ivens says the American company must do more. Amsterdam home owners can rent out their property through holiday rental platforms for no more than 60 days a year and to no more than four people at one time. Landlords also have to register each let with the city council. Next January the maximum period for rentals will be cut to 30 days and officials are also looking at bringing in total bans in the busiest parts of the city. Risks People who rent out their homes while breaking the rules should be tackled because they calculate the current fine in with their risks, the MPs say. 'We want the minister to treat this sort of fraud as an economic crime,' VVD MP Daniel Koerhuis told the Parool. 'That will allow us to take back the profits these criminals make. That is the only thing they understand.' Parliament will debate how to deal with landlords who abuse the housing system on Tuesday evening. Airbnb told that unlike other rental sites it does all it can to prevent people renting out homes for more than 60 says. 'Airbnb has also collected more than €17m in tourist tax and continues to work for responsible holiday rentals,' the company said. 'We have a robust system to detect and prevent fraudulent activity and we continually evaluate our systems.'  More >

More Amsterdam homes let via Airbnb

The number of Amsterdam homes advertised on holiday rental side Airbnb rose again this year, hitting 19,889 on July 1, according to city council figures. That is up over 500 on a year ago, city officials said. 'The stabilisation expected in January did not happen,' mayor Femke Halsema said in a briefing to city councillors. 'This is pressuring the balance between living and tourism in Amsterdam.' Home owners can rent out their property through holiday rental platforms for no more than 60 days a year and to no more than four people at one time. Landlords also have to register each let with the city council. Next January the maximum period for rentals will be cut to 30 days and officials are also looking at bringing in total bans in the busiest parts of the city. People caught breaking the rules can be fined €6,000 for a first offence, mounting to €20,000 for repeated illegal rentals. City officials handed out 148 fines in the first six months of this year and closed 61 apartments which were being rented out illegally to too many people.  More >

Councils concerned about 'solar panel tax'

Municipalities have been urged not to penalise people who install solar panels on their roofs by raising the amount they have to pay in local property tax. The OZB, or onroerendezaakbelasting, is calculated as a percentage of the estimated value of the value of a property. The increasing popularity of solar energy in recent years has meant houses that generate their own energy are worth more, meaning higher tax bills. Auke Oldenbeuving, of the Christian Democrat group on Emmen council, is among those calling for the system to be reformed after one resident recently saw the value of his property increasedby an extra €3,000 a year as a result of having 20 solar panels on his property. That in turn boosted his property tax bill. 'We want people to make their homes more sustainable. We've even introduced an attractive loan facility for solar panels. We shouldn't be reclaiming it through the back door by imposing tax on it,' Oldenbeuving told AD. Other local authorities such as Haarlemmermeer, Capelle aan den IJssel and Delft have also sought clarification from officials about the way OZB is calculated.  More >

Student room shortage hits Groningen

Foreign students in Groningen are experiencing such problems finding somewhere to live that university staff have even been asked to rent them rooms. The Volkskrant said on Tuesday that tents have been put up on one campus to house homeless students while others are being offered a month's accommodation in a boat hotel for almost €1,300. One student, Michael Aidi, who is half Romanian, half Lebanese, has replied to over 100 adverts on Kamernet, the website where student rooms are advertised, without success. He hopes to take a Master's degree in advanced materials at the chemistry institute run by Nobel prize winner Ben Ferringa and is now staying in a bed and breakfast, some 20 kilometres from Groningen. 'All the rejections are so disheartening,' he said. 'If I had known this, I would never have come to Groningen.' Other foreign students the Volkskrant spoke to are sleeping on a mattress at student house, which responded to an emergency appeal for places by the student political party DAG. 'We've been lucky and we have been made very welcome,' said Eleonora Kirekchieva from Bulgaria, who is living in the house sitting room and has a place at the Minerva art college. 'But it is not ideal.' Black on white University spokesman Jorien Bakker told the paper that the university has made it clear accommodation is hard to find. 'We have put it down, black on white,' she said. 'Finding a room is difficult, the market is tight and we don't organise anything. If we said there are no rooms in Groningen, then no-one would come... and many foreign students do find somewhere to live.' Some 2,500 foreign students will start a degree in Groningen this year, up by several hundred on last year. The university actively recruits foreign students, particularly outside the EU. 'We want to be an international university with a healthy mix of Dutch and foreign students.' Landlords Earlier this month, Dutch students union Lsvb  again sounded the alarm about the way foreign students are being taken advantage of by unscrupulous landlords. ‘They are being exploited by landlords charging high rents and with weird terms and conditions. This can’t go on,’ spokeswoman Geertje Hulzebos told the Parool. ‘This has all been made possible by the shortage of rooms.’ Some 122,000 foreign students attended courses at Dutch universities and hbo colleges last year, double the 2013 figure. The students usually try and find a place to live from abroad, making it impossible to view the room. The Lsvb says universities and colleges should stop trying to attract foreign students unless they can organise proper accommodation for them. The union, which has set up a housing hotline for foreign students to report problems, made a similar plea in 2017. Read more at Are you a foreign student in the Netherlands? Share your experiences of finding somewhere to live in the comment section below.  More >