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Column Adriaan Mout – Volume is money

03 June 2021

Cobouw Adriaan Mout 210526 Massa is kassa min

Volume is money. This comment was thrown at the developers and indirectly at us, the designers, during a public hearing for a large inner-city plan in a medium-sized city. The speaker thought our plan was too big and associated it with pocket-filling developers.

In a recent article in NRC, colleague Nynke Happel criticized current housing construction practices and characterized new-build homes as cheap and quick to build structures made of stone. For the market players, she argued, housing has become a revenue model rather than a fundamental right. The latter is true, but there is of course more to it than that.

The housing market is largely determined by investors who in turn seek returns for pension funds of the average Dutchman. It is a system that works well and indeed has an efficient construction and design machine behind it with many key figures and standards. And then there is also a buying market that is strongly influenced by tax measures. All that has to change but that requires systemic changes. At the same time, inner-city building is becoming increasingly complex and we understandably want all sorts of things in this new era. Many more homes that are simultaneously larger, more sustainable and more affordable.

Back to the plan in the medium-sized city. A beautiful plan in which the city concerned, in addition to more than 350 homes, 2/3 of which are social, is getting an enormous urban development and public space boost in return. The result of years of an integrated approach to a complex spatial and socio-economic challenge. Win-win with a dash of individual sadness for a few. Fortunately, in the same meeting there was also broad appreciation with an optimistic view of a better piece of city in the future.

Nevertheless, in safeguarding our pensions we also have a responsibility to safeguard the future of our children. This means that risk-averse behavior and return thinking must give way to experimentation that seeks answers to everything we pursue. Because ultimately that determines the new return. Volume with a future.