Spread the love

Housing crisis and immigration, an explosive mix in the Netherlands

Photo: John Thys Agence France-Presse In Amsterdam alone, where half is social housing, it is estimated that 3,000 people with formal employment cannot find housing.

Christian Rioux in Amsterdam

April 9, 2024

  • Europe

“I have never seen such a housing crisis,” exclaims Maurits van Leeuwen. Not for the richest, of course, but for everyone looking for medium or low priced accommodation. In the last six months, prices have increased by 6%. This is unheard of. » In his office on rue Valkenburger, in Amsterdam, the real estate broker can't believe it. “With the housing shortage and the massive influx of migrants, we experienced the “perfect storm”. »

In this country of 17 million inhabitants, at least nearly 400,000 housing units are missing.

In Amsterdam alone, where half is social housing, it is estimated that 3,000 people with formal employment cannot find housing. It is for them that the charitable organization De Regenboog has set up an emergency program offering rooms between €250 and €600, so that they have a roof over their heads while waiting to land that rare pearl. While three out of four Dutch tenants live in social housing — and you sometimes have to wait 10 years to get one — private housing in the center of Amsterdam rents as expensive as in Paris, between €1,800 for a one-bedroom apartment and €2500 for a two-bedroom apartment.

400,000 This is the number of housing shortages in the Netherlands

In the port of Amsterdam, large cruise ships have been requisitioned to house asylum seekers. In Utrecht, Delft and Leeuwarden, hundreds of houses carved out of containers have been installed on vacant lots. “For social housing, there is strong competition between the Dutch and those who are recognized as refugees,” says Maurits van Leeuwen. This is why many mayors refused to welcome more refugees.

Also read

  • Dutch farmers angry with Europe

A densely populated country

It must be said that with just under 18 million inhabitants living on 33,893 km² of land, the Netherlands is already the most densely populated country in Europe, with the exception of Malta. The government aims to build 900,000 new homes by 2030, but “demand is increasing more sharply than expected, mainly due to migration,” Dutch Housing Minister Hugo de Jonge said last year. .

The UN Special Rapporteur on the right to housing, Balakrishnan Rajagopal, has declared that this crisis is “not due to migration and refugees, but to the failure to recognize the fact that access to decent housing is a human right”, many experts point to other causes. In particular the cruel lack of buildable land in such a small country, as well as the strict regulations against urban sprawl intended to protect agricultural and natural areas. Many construction projects have also been delayed or refused due to the country's obligation to reduce its nitrogen emissions.

“This combination of housing shortages and mass immigration has proven to be explosive,” says sociologist David Bos of the University of Amsterdam. It was in fact Prime Minister Mark Rutte's proposal to limit the number of refugees who could bring their families to 200 per month that brought down the coalition government last July. Beyond that, the refugees would have had to demonstrate sufficient financial resources to accommodate their loved ones. A proposal deemed unacceptable by the Christian Democrats and their allies, the left-wing liberals of the D66.

The November elections, which propelled radical right-wing Geert Wilders, fiercely opposed to immigration and Islam, “were a referendum on housing and immigration,” says economist Hans Roodenburg. “And this referendum was clearly won by the anti-immigration parties, who completely changed the Dutch political landscape. »

The costs of immigration

Mr. Roodenburg, who long headed research at the Dutch Ministry of Labor, lives in the quiet town of Leiden, a stone's throw from The Hague, birthplace of Rembrandt and long a world center for printing.

According to him, there is no doubt that the current housing crisis is due to immigration. With the mathematician Jan H. van de Beek, the economist is the author of a voluminous study on the costs of immigration in the Netherlands. Unlike the teams of other studies, such as that of Hein de Haas (How Migration Really Works: A Factful Guide to the Most Divisive Issue in Politics),< b> MM. van de Beek and Roodenburg are proud to have had access to exclusive data.

According to them, between 1995 and 2019, immigration cost the Dutch Treasury no less than 20 billion euros per year. “The Netherlands has one of the most generous welfare states in Europe. We are also very open to immigration, since we accept 85% of asylum requests, compared to an average of 50% in Europe. This is why we have become a very attractive country. »

Housing crisis and immigration, an explosive mix in the Netherlands

Photo: Peter Dejong Associated Press For the European election, which will take place on June 9, Geert Wilders' party (PVV) dominates all the polls with 25% of the vote, ahead of the eco-labor coalition (GroenLinks–PvdA) and the liberals of the VVD (13%). ).

The problem, says Hans Roodenburg, is that the immigration that pays is essentially labor immigration, that is, that of students and skilled workers. “However, these immigrants tend to leave the country to settle elsewhere in Europe. Only the least qualified workers and refugees remain, who are often the responsibility of the State,” he says.

The researcher cites Nobel Prize-winning economist Milton Friedman, who judged that the welfare state was incompatible with open immigration. “Friedman said that because he was against the welfare state. But he was right. I say it because I am for it. In the Netherlands, mass immigration is one of the causes of the crisis of the welfare state. »

If immigration remains essentially the same, it will cost the Netherlands 50 billion euros by the middle of the century, estimates the researcher, according to whom it will inevitably be necessary to reduce social measures. Mr. Roodenburg also recalls that the government stopped calculating the costs of this immigration in 2003, estimating that, since the new European treaties, the country was no longer truly sovereign in this area.

For an opt-out provision

The Hague Parliament recently adopted, by a majority of 95 deputies out of 150, a motion specifying that any new European Union treaty should include a withdrawal provision (opt-out) like the one that allowed Denmark to considerably restrict immigration.

The same issues are today at the heart of the European election which will take place on June 9.

Although it does not have a single elected official, Geert Wilders' party (PVV) dominates all polls with 25% of the vote, ahead of the eco-labor coalition (GroenLinks–PvdA) and the liberals from the VVD (13%). “His party may have no parliamentary experience, but Wilders is today the most brilliant and cunning politician in the country,” says Menno Hurenkamp, ​​a political scientist at the Utrecht University of Humanist Studies.

While he seems assured that he will not be prime minister, he has already been trying for four months, in vain, to form a coalition of right-wing parties. Even if he no longer talks about “Nexit”, a Dutch exit from the European Union, Geert Wilders will use his good results in Brussels to impose his program on his partners, believes sociologist David Bos. “June 9 will be a watershed moment. A real-time survey. As in other European countries, Euroscepticism remains very strong here. Let us remember that in 2005, like France, the Netherlands massively rejected the European Constitution by referendum. »

This report was financed with the support of the Transat- Le Devoir .< International Journalism Fund /i>

Teilor Stone

By Teilor Stone

Teilor Stone has been a reporter on the news desk since 2013. Before that she wrote about young adolescence and family dynamics for Styles and was the legal affairs correspondent for the Metro desk. Before joining Thesaxon , Teilor Stone worked as a staff writer at the Village Voice and a freelancer for Newsday, The Wall Street Journal, GQ and Mirabella. To get in touch, contact me through my teilor@nizhtimes.com 1-800-268-7116