Eindhoven housing deal: temporariness, hysteria on the housing market and quick fixes
Yasin Torunoglu has been an executive councillor in Eindhoven for over seven years. Passionate. Enthusiastic. Result-oriented. 39 years old. Devoted to Eindhoven, a city that's developing fast. The beating heart of the Brainport Region. Renowned for its Technical University, for its Dutch Design Week. A city of thinkers and doers. But also a place where housing is a huge challenge. Where there is a great need for temporariness. A logical "place" to conclude a housing deal. A conversation about one year of the housing deal. A year in which a difference has already been made.
The housing deal has actually already had some specific results. What powers does a deal like this unleash?
"The power of the housing deal, I'm certainly experiencing it now. For example, in facilitating our task of speeding up work on temporary housing. By the end of 2018, it was clear that the shortage of student housing was rapidly worsening. Especially for our international students. That really demanded action. Just to start with the end result: By October 2019, in less than a year, we had handed over 300 temporary student residences."
So how did the housing deal contribute to that?
"One of the most important tasks was to finalise our business case. Over a period of 10 years it was difficult, if not impossible, to complete a viable operation. And so we contributed this case to the housing deal. The specific result was that we were able to extend the operation to 15 years. An important outcome that made this project viable."
So the power of the housing deal is in fact money?
"Well no, although money is always important, of course. But it's also about being able to speed up procedures. Actually, we soon had a suitable location in mind to place temporary residences. And it was on an undeveloped plot of land in the immediate vicinity of the Technical University. Because of the temporariness of that location, all procedures were completed quickly. Together with Vestide, we got on with it quickly. Building 300 residences normally requires a construction time of at least two years. In this case, it's taken us about nine months. I'd call that quick."
Is that the added value of this housing deal? The fact that you can speed things up?
"I think the added value of the housing deal is that you have create short lines of communication with other parties. In Eindhoven. But especially between "The Hague" (i.e. the government) and Eindhoven. That you discover the added value of working well together. And, in all honesty, I didn't factor that in beforehand. That housing deal, it seemed like a way of speeding up our task of providing housing. This involves stating good administrative intentions, agreeing on a long-term strategy and – based on this – entering into agreements. But it's more than that: you also get to know each other well. You work with each other. So that's a real and great additional advantage. After a year and a half, I can safely say that this housing deal is much more than an abstract, theoretical exercise in construction. I can honestly say that the cooperation right now is just fine. And this was still the case in turbulent times, like the past few months."
So, back to practice matters. What else do you want to achieve?
"We are now in the process of studying a second location: Castiliëlaan. We want to build between six and eight hundred temporary residences there. Another very exciting project. After all, the business case is also exciting to put it mildly. Or rather, the unprofitable top is too high for the housing association, the investment costs are too high and the depreciation period too short. To be blunt, this business case has a big, fat "minus" sign in front of it."
How would you fix that?
"That's what we're brooding over right now. Quite honestly, I hope we'll be able to call on the incentive schemes freed up for the housing market. And temporary residential units can help take a bit more pressure off the housing market. New target groups are now able to enter the housing market. Because, to be honest, if you need a house now, it's no good having a nice building contract, which states that you will get a new house in five years' time."
You can't live in paper, to paraphrase Schaeffer?
"Precisely. This is about people. People, who now, because of the hysteria on the housing market, just come up against a dead end. That touches me as a human being, quite apart from my role as a councillor. I mean, you help everyone to take the next step in life, and having a home is pretty crucial. A temporary home is really going to help a lot of people out. So "temporariness" helps. As a result, they will soon be able to take the next step. In this way, you create space to build homes for the longer term."
In other words, the "normal" task of buildings homes.
"The challenge is to create a compact district. We want to build houses on the site of the station facing the city centre. There are now – so to speak – eight hundred people living there. Pretty weird, considering it's actually a transit hub in the city. So that's where we want to develop. At the same time, of course, it's one of the most complicated places to fit into. Because it's easy to build a district from scratch in a meadow. Of course, building a new district in an existing city is not."
Is there anything you'd like to add?
"If there's one thing I could add, I think it's very good to stay focused. The six housing deals, as they are now, that's a real choice. "Whoever chooses is chosen", I really believe in that. So if you, as central government, opt for these six housing deals, you will really make an impact. Then you'll make a difference. Hold on to that, I'd say. And don't go all round the country making all kinds of smaller housing deals. Then, in my opinion, you're undervaluing the strength we're building together now."