Unblock senior housing!



[Lees in Nederlands]

More flow through local cooperation

A completely clogged housing market is one of the systemic scourges that are a burden to our country. In addition to being a market problem, the lack of housing is primarily a social disaster. The lives of many young people and “starters” are painfully put on hold. In addition to the construction of new buildings being affected by a lack of nitrogen and by inflation, redistribution of the existing housing stock is needed to solve the congestion problem. For, at the end of the housing trajectory, there is a huge senior population entity. Neither Minister De Jonge nor local policy-makers can solve such a “wicked problem” on their own. For good solid unblocking, the innovation and investment capacity of the real estate, the housing, and the health and welfare sectors are also indispensable.

Tidal wave of an ageing population
To govern is to look ahead. That adage has lost much of its force under the political atmosphere in the Hague. “Suddenly”, there are shortages of almost everything: nurses, teachers, judges, general practitioners, conductors, cleaners (you name it). Crises that announced themselves long in advance for those who were not sleeping with the CBS statistics in their hands. When it comes to our housing market, the demographic numbers have been on the wall in bright neon for many years. In a nutshell: in ten years’ time, 1 in 4 Dutch people will be over 65 and 1 in 3 of those will even be over 85…

Such a strong wave of an ageing population is having a major social impact in many areas, not in the least on the housing market.

For senior citizens who can no longer live at home (even though, according to the Hague policy mantra, they would all really like to), there is a huge gap between the current (family) home and the nursing home. As a result, senior citizens continue to live in housing that is no longer suited to their circumstances and needs for too long. Not only loneliness and safety can be a problem, but the much desired flow of young people and young families into the housing market is also severely put on hold.

The triple helix
In order to successfully face the complex and interrelated problems, a collaboration between government and real estate providers, corporations and healthcare institutions seems to be the only way to get out of the housing impasse. That is not a new insight: ‘Wicked problems’ at the system level today require a ‘triple helix’: the pooling of knowledge and resources by government, market players and the non-profit sector. The monopoly of solution – except in countries that are less than democratic – does not lie with any of those actors. The trick is: how does that work within such a triple helix model?

Early adopters
If we look at the housing problem – in 2024, according to ABF Research, we will have a national shortage of no less than 415,000 homes – we can see that after an initial phase of denial among all stakeholders, more insight has now been gained into the what-and-why question, specifically with regard to senior housing. That housing, in a broader view, is part of a major shift from care to well-being. Or, as Cees van Boven (Executive Board Chairman of Corporation Woonzorg Nederland) puts it: “A limited amount of welfare that saves a whole lot of care”.

We see that early adopters in the real estate and housing world have begun to develop new housing formulas, indicating that a transition is taking place from the what-and-why to the how-and-whom question.

New housing concepts include complexes in which people rent an independent apartment, with the possibility of receiving care. But it also involves nursing homes or assisted living facilities from “before” the separation of housing and care, which are leased in whole or in part to one or more care parties who provide major care to the residents. New or transformed complexes will be built or rebuilt in such a way as to allow flexibility between different housing concepts.

Beating a dead horse
Creating attractive housing formulas for senior citizens requires innovation and investment to boost the senior citizens’ willingness to move. In addition, improving the capacity of the nursing homes as a “last station” is inevitable.

But it is like beating a dead horse if the various players responsible for housing, care and welfare are not brought together at the regional level. Indeed, public-private innovations begin at the most basic level: you must first get to know each other.

After all, local governments obviously operate from a very different funding and legitimacy than the real estate sector, corporations, and the health and welfare institutions. But somehow the twain shall meet in this clash of cultures.

Locally is really doing it
So, also as a counterweight to the policy abstractions parachuted from The Hague, you also require a hands on local synchronization to make the “live laboratories” for innovative housing formulas a success. That is a “make or break” phase in breakthroughs for sustainable solutions to complex problems. A phase in which knowledge sharing on experiences gained can be an important driver for – also embraced by the government – actual implementation and upscaling of proven successful concepts. It is also a phase of separating the wheat from the chaff. Innovation policy requires managerial guts and the ability to see beyond the short-term horizons of shareholders who are “never satisfied” and the basic electorate.

Round tables
The current, exciting transition has challenged Holland Property Plaza, the national network of decision makers in the real estate domain, to organize a series of three round table sessions entitled “Unplugging Senior Housing”. Specifically, they concern sessions with a multi-purpose panel on the topics of “housing-services-care” within the senior housing dossier

To that end, HPP brings together local policy makers – more precisely aldermen who are responsible for “Housing” – and representatives from the real estate sector, corporations and/or care and welfare organizations.

The goal of the round tables is to share knowledge about examples, dilemmas, obstacles and solutions from practice, using (formatted) short presentations. And see if generic failure and success factors can be distilled from the case histories. HPP will take care of reporting and disclosure of generic findings through its own, as well as other, professional and public channels.

The first of the series of round tables will take place on October 19 of this year. They are a means of providing – remaining consistent with the figure of speaking in this article – one another with the “unblockers” that can humanely drain the tidal wave of senior citizens.

Would you like to know more about the meeting on October 19? Read here.


A contribution by Edwin Venema (Content captain, De Kopijmeester) and Christa Thijssen (Director of Holland Property Plaza) & Cees van Boven (Board chairman Woonzorg Nederland).