The real estate sector and its drivel regarding housing

  Blogs, General news
by Jan van den Hogen

Head of Tenant Relationship Management Logistics Deka Immobilien GmbH

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If you were to believe the news it would seem as if the real estate sector of today can only weep and wail about a deadlocked housing sector. Every self-respecting consultant, every realtor and every professor has by now become a housing experience expert. Everyone parrots everybody else in their comments on politics, investors and developers, to just mention a few target groups that are currently under fire.

If you follow the news coverage, the sector knows exactly what lies at the cause of it. The clichés are well-known; we don’t build enough, we build the wrong thing, we build at the wrong places, what we build is too costly and we don’t take the urgency as seriously as we should.

“It would appear that the sector is far from solution-oriented. Furthermore, the sector obviously finds it very important to point its finger at politics.”

Apparently the processes are like walking through treacle, it takes forever to get building permits and the planning schedule is very much out of sync with the desired reality.

What the sector excels in though, is bringing discussion groups into being to endlessly waffle with the government on re-launching the market (as it’s so beautifully called in jargon). Quite special is the fact that these well-educated people do not understand that the government can’t do much more than try to give direction to a completely abstract and continuously changing housing policy based on an income and housing policy mishmash. It’s not the easiest thing in the world to come up with a solution in order to supply the diverse groups in the housing market with suitable housing.

Let the sector search its own conscience for a change. An example: I, as a true-born boomer, live in an area that has become totally grey. So in a few years’ time I will fit in perfectly. In this area, elderly people live in three-storey houses (of which all the space above ground floor level hasn’t been used for years) and often have to make very expensive adjustments to these dwellings. Why? There is no living space available for the elderly.

I have to walk my dog on a regular basis which takes me across a new construction site where they are building hugely expensive freestanding semi-detached houses with a 600 m³ content each. I get what’s happening here; this is where the building sector makes money. Building a number of saleable senior citizen dwellings on the same number of square metres is by no means as lucrative.

“Another given: without shedding a tear, the building sector stands there and claims that they can build houses quicker using pre-built modular components.”

You would expect that this would also be cheaper. That’s how it works in every branch of industry… with the exception of the construction industry in the Netherlands. Furthermore, a sizeable, freestanding modularly built dwelling comes about quicker and is probably more profitable than four senior citizen dwellings at that same spot.

If the real estate sector would really take the housing need per target group seriously and would steer on social interest instead of profitability and yield, things would look entirely different (provided the sector has been able to develop something like a social vision).

I hereby challenge the discussion groups in the sector to submit a couple of beautiful plans to the central and decentral governments as to how one can best deal with the scarcity of and need for different rental housing segments. And this without being asked for it. After all, doesn’t the sector wish to solve the social housing problem?

Take it from me, after having worked in the real estate sector for forty years, the sector has never ever searched its own conscience. It’s always the government’s fault.

“If you really want to tackle the living space problematics, a change in mindset would be required.”

Whining about everything going so poorly and that politics are always to blame really has to stop. If the sector has a monopoly on wisdom, which is what it claims, then adapt your policy to the real housing needs. Respond to politics proactively because let’s be honest, during my forty years in the real estate sector I also learned that the learned male and female politicians in The Hague really haven’t got a clue.

Imagine how happy a town councillor or alderman would be with a ready-made and affordable plan, tailored to the actual housing need in his municipality, that would only require his signature! This man or woman would bestow our sector with eternal gratitude.


Jan van den Hogen
Tenant Relationship Manager Logistic Global, Deka Immobilien
Board member Holland Property Plaza