To: Minister Hugo de Jonge for Housing and Spatial Planning, cc to Parliamentary Committee for the Interior
From: the housing action groups, [email protected]
Date: February 13, 2022
Subject: Fire letter 'stop and turn the rent explosion'
Dear Mr. De Jonge,
You are addressed by the housing action groups that are seriously concerned about the current crisis surrounding affordable and secure housing. Among us are the organizers of the housing demonstrations that have taken place in the Netherlands from September 2021 to now and of which more will follow. Tens of thousands of Dutch people are sending a clear signal to politicians with these demonstrations: we demand a housing policy aimed at affordable, secure and fair housing.
This week you make your first decision that will have major consequences for millions of renters and home seekers. With this letter we inform you about our position regarding rent increases in 2022. Housing policy must change course drastically in order to achieve public housing in which housing is a right and not a revenue model. We call on you to stop and reverse the rental explosion.
This includes looking at both the owner-occupied and rental sectors. In this letter we focus on the rental sector, where problems with 'affordability' are greatest. For many people the initial rents and their current rent are too high. According to the NIBUD more than 800,000 households have too little money left over for essential living expenses after paying the rent. Half of the tenants have trouble making ends meet, 40% is experiencing financial scarcity and 30% is in arrears. The average housing ratio of tenants is 38% and for private tenants that is even 42.6%. Between 1990 and 2020, rents in the Netherlands rose by 162%† As a result, rents rose 1.8 times faster than inflation, which rose just under 90% over the same period.
What needs to be done
A fundamental change is needed: market forces must be out of the rent. Housing is a basic need and a fundamental right, not a revenue model. That is why we set the following requirements.
1. Abolition of the landlord levy returns to the tenants
The landlord levy, the tax on regulated rental properties, will be abolished as of January 1, 2023. The housing associations have paid the landlord levy, which they cost more than 13 billion euros, partly passed on in the rents, as a result of which the tenants have in fact paid this tax. It is therefore only reasonable that the money that is released when the landlord levy is abolished, goes back to the tenants by lowering their rents again.
2. Rent regulation of all rental properties
It is necessary that all rental properties, also in the free rental sector, are regulated with good rent protection. The initial rents should be based on the price-quality ratio of homes, rather than what is 'conform to the market'. This requires:
- The points system (Housing Valuation System, WWS) must become binding for all rental properties.
- The WOZ value must be from the WWS; maximizing the influence of the WOZ value on the price – as the cabinet is now proposing – is of no use with the current price explosion of owner-occupied homes.
3. Rent protection must be enforceable
Central government is responsible for rent protection and must make an effort to:
- The deployment of rental teams in all municipalities and expansion of the capacity of the Rental Committee. Tenants must also be able to have the initial rent assessed after six months.
- Asking higher rents than the rent according to the points system must become an economic offense with heavy fines. Rogue landlords (slum landlords) now actually have free rein without any sanction.
- Rogue landlords, real estate investors and buy-to-let landlords aimed at maximizing profits should be excluded from public housing. Landlords must be an authorized institution or meet a general licensing requirement.
4. Multi-year rent freeze
In 2021 the rents will be frozen for a year, because your House also recognized that many people have structural difficulties in paying their rent and a lower rent for regulated rental homes is desirable. One year of rent freeze is not enough, however, because the 'affordability crisis' continues. That is why a multi-year rent freeze is necessary. This gives tenants a breather and gives the government and housing associations sufficient time to work out a better public housing policy. We are demanding a five-year rent freeze on all rents, both in the regulated rental sector and the free sector, from July 2022.
5. In addition to rent freezing, rent reduction is urgently needed
The cabinet realizes that crisis measures are needed in the rental sector and has wanted to take measures with the 'Temporary Rent Discount Act'. These measures have so far had little effect, because they are incidental, individual and non-binding. A generic and binding measure is now needed immediately to reduce rents for the hundreds of thousands of people who have financial problems or have fallen below the poverty line.
The current government plans are in line with a privatized rental and owner-occupied housing market and the market thinking that has dominated living in the Netherlands for years and that has led to the current crisis. This policy puts the market first and aims to drastically reduce the share of regulated rent compared to private sector rent and purchase. This policy has led to increasing homelessness, long waiting lists and increasingly precarious forms of housing due to temporary leases and anti-squat agreements. More and more people are living in increasing housing insecurity. We see that housing policy contributes to a growing inequality between homeowners and tenants.
To solve the housing crisis, measures are not only needed in the rental sector. Together, we drew up the Housing Manifesto in 2021, which was signed by dozens of action groups and organisations. In this we formulate ten requirements for a fundamental change in public housing policy. We presented the Housing Manifesto to your predecessor, Ms. Ollongren, in October 2021 and we are attaching it to this letter for you.
On behalf of many tenants and home seekers who are stuck, we urgently appeal to you not to allow a rent increase on 1 July 2022 and to use the above measures to stop and reverse the rental explosion. If the cabinet decides that the rent increase will continue this year, we are promising you tougher actions from the housing movement.
We are of course open to a discussion with you about this fire letter and our Housing Manifesto.
Abel Heijkamp, Residential Revolt
Willy Lourenssen, We Refuse the Rent Increase
on behalf of the housing action groups:
Wij Weigeren de Huurverhoging
Housing protest (12 September 2021)
Residential revolt (17 October 2021)
Tilburg housing shortage (30 October 2021)
Residential protest Nijmegen (31 October 2021)
Residential Resistance The Hague (14 November 2021)
Residential protest Utrecht (21 November 2021)
Residential struggle Groningen (28 November 2021)
Amersfoort housing revolt (30 January 2022)
Residential action Delft (6 February 2022)
Housing revolution Leiden (13 February 2022)
Residential riot Haarlem (February 27, 2022)
Residential offensive Eindhoven (13 March 2022)
Residential action Emmen
Appendix: Housing manifest