SUBMITTED OPINIONEINDHOVEN – Rabobank speaks of a hidden housing crisis among seniors (ED 21-12). Older people’s unions are highly critical (ED 31-12) of the suggestion that seniors are the cause of the overstrained housing market.
Creating new forms of housing for seniors is one of the major challenges in housing construction. Not to chase them out of their homes, but because their housing needs change with the “climbing of the years”. And that is extra difficult for many elderly people because they have often lived in a recognizable neighborhood for many years. While students simply pack up and move house, this step is much more drastic for the elderly. Many have literally grown into their environment and are reluctant to move.
I can therefore easily describe the critical reaction of the elderly people’s unions to the statement that there is too little throughput of older residents. It seems as if seniors just have to move on for the benefit of other groups, such as starters. Then it is indeed a game in which the vulnerable are presented with the bill of an overstrained market. The law of the strongest will prevail.
Changing housing demand for seniors
More attention is needed for the changing housing demand of seniors. When it becomes “quieter” in the house, all people, including seniors, have a greater need for proximity to others. They can still do everything themselves, but still. Who can I turn to if necessary, what if I don’t feel so well. Neighborhood and shared living environment is very important. A cleaner not only comes to clean, but is also present; it is, to put it in a traditional Dutch word, cosy.
Proximity often literally plays a role as well. The distance to shops and (medical) facilities becomes increasingly crucial as people get older. The government should invest much more in realizing new forms of cohabitation for the elderly in which encounters and proximity are guaranteed, supported by digital solutions and the necessary care. It also benefits the government a lot. The figures speak volumes, because in 40% of the houses 1 person lives. As a result, the average number of living m2 in the Netherlands is higher, namely 65 m2, than in neighboring countries (45 m2). An average household currently consists of 2.2 people. In 1970 it was 3.5. So we have too many single-person households living on too large an area. That should also be said.
The government is working against itself, living together doesn’t pay off and social provisions are counterproductive
Unfortunately, the government, strangely enough, is working against itself. For example, living together does not pay; the social services are even counterproductive on this point. Two people with an AOW who move in together will suffer financially. The same applies to people on benefits who decide to start a household together. Or when a child comes back to live at home, the parents are immediately presented with the bill.
The local government also regularly inhibits solutions. Take the concept of friends living. Two or more separate households that share facilities in 1 house. Municipalities are very critical of tinkering with existing homes, because this can cause nuisance. So rather not.
Excessive individualization and regulation
With the excessive individualization and regulation of the government (also in the social field), the government itself is exacerbating the housing shortage. While there are so many opportunities for alternative forms of living in a city or village. Shopping centers are changing in character and size, healthcare real estate has to be repurposed and urban filling stations (approximately 100 in North Brabant) will also disappear in the coming years. This provides space for thousands of homes. Municipalities and provinces, grab this opportunity!
Housing construction requires attention at all levels: local, provincial and national. As far as I’m concerned, the advancement of older residents should be actively encouraged, but not for purely economic, market-oriented motives. A nice by-catch is perhaps that suitable housing becomes available for other groups in our society, for example first-time buyers. But this by-catch should never become an end in itself.
Kees de Heer from Eindhoven is a member of the CDA faction of the Provincial Council of North Brabant.
Free unlimited access to Showbytes? Which can!
Log in or create an account and never miss a thing from the stars.