Dutch election winner Geert Wilders, whose far-right PVV party claimed a landslide victory in one of the biggest political upsets in the Netherlands since World War II, has fairly mainstream views on tackling the national housing shortage, but says fighting climate change is ‘unaffordable madness’.
The dramatic win by Wilders’ far-right, anti-Islam party in the Dutch parliamentary elections on 22 November has turned the spotlight on what it means for the national housing crisis, one of the hottest campaign issues.
With a housing shortage currently running at 390,000 homes, and the government far off its target of building 900,000 dwellings by 2030, the call for more (affordable) housing has dominated debate in recent years and grew louder in the run-up to the elections.
Although Wilders’ Freedom Party (PVV) espouses radical views on immigration, Islam, climate change and the European Union, its policies on housing are fairly mainstream and tie in with the views of many of its right-wing peers.
In its election manifesto, the PVV says: ‘The housing crisis is getting worse and worse’. It continues: 'The Constitution states that the government must provide sufficient housing, but the reality is that an affordable roof over one’s head has gotten out of reach for more and more Dutch people. The government has failed miserably.’
Wilders sees two main causes for the deepening housing shortage: the ‘gigantic growth’ in the size of the population due to migration, and lagging housing construction. ‘While the housing shortage is increasing, the number of building permits being issued is declining and fewer and fewer homes are being built: due to declining consumer confidence, due to obstructive nitrogen regulations, due to the focus on inner-city construction, due to all kinds of local requirements etc,’ the PVV manifesto reads.
The PVV wants to eliminate the red tape hampering real estate development and construction - starting with the regulations governing nitrogen emissions. In recent years, successive court rulings have led to tighter emissions norms and extra permit procedures for construction projects, leading to long delays and some developments being called off altogether.
To make more room for housing in a country where land is scarce, Wilders advocates ‘building an additional street’ in cities and villages, as well as building outside cities. ‘That can be done relatively quickly and cheaply,’ he argues. ‘But definitely build outside the city. Municipalities must issue permits more quickly.’
The calls for more social housing, shorter permit procedures and rule changes allowing permanent occupancy of holiday homes, are in line with other parties’ agendas too – both on the left and right of the political spectrum. See full list of PVV housing policies below
But where the PVV deviates from the rest is in its radical views on climate and the environment. Whereas the previous government led by Liberal party (VVD) prime minister Mark Rutte had fully embraced the fight against climate change, pledging to reduce greenhouse gas emissions by 85% by 2040, the PVV wants to ditch all these efforts.
As a small country, the Netherlands can exert little influence on global warming, argues Wilders, and should therefore stop with ‘the hysterical reduction of carbon emissions’. The current government’s climate policy is ‘unaffordable madness’, he says, and the Netherlands should quit the Paris Agreement on climate change. In addition, money earmarked for climate measures and ‘greening subsidies’ for businesses should be scrapped and ‘given back to our people’.
In the case of housing, for example, Wilders wants to abandon measures to make homes gas-free and heat pumps mandatory. These views have already raised concerns among businesses which are pumping billions into the energy transition by switching to renewable energy sources.
How many of the PVV’s more radical views will be adopted as government policy remains to be seen. The party – which won 37 seats in the 150-strong parliament - is currently seeking to form a coalition with the right-wing VVD, centre-right NSC, and farmers’ party BBB. The VVD said shortly after the election that it would not go into government with the PVV after losing 10 seats, or a third of its support. However, it said it was prepared to prop up a Wilders-led cabinet by supporting ‘constructive suggestions’.
PVV housing policies (from its election manifesto):
- Reduce social rents
- Increase rent allowance
- More social housing, mid-rental housing and owner-occupied housing
- Not only inner-city, but also outer-city construction
- 'An extra street' in cities and villages
- Municipalities must issue building permits more quickly; shorten procedures
- Obstructive nitrogen rules off the table
- No longer priority for refugee ‘status holders’ in the allocation of social housing, but priority for Dutch people
- Stop making homes gas-free
- No mandatory heat pump
- Allow permanent occupancy of holiday homes