While a crisis is underway and the need for more homes is enormous, projectdevelopers deliberately leave their building land fallow for years in the hopeof being able to earn more later on.’ Shame! This is the literal core messageof the TV program ‘Take the power’ by Tim Hofman. This Hofman has achievedhero status by exposing the ‘Me too’ affair at Endemol.
The broadcast is made up of nonsense, half-truths and manipulated information.First the facts. According to research (2022) by ‘Follow the Money’ andCobouw, 22 market parties own at least 6,000 hectares of land, 80 percent ofwhich is located outside the built-up area. The joint surface provides spacefor roughly 150,000 homes. That is not nothing, but also not too much: it hasthe size of two annual productions of new construction. The central questionis whether the 22 companies consciously let their property be wasted, inanticipation of a higher land yield. In the jargon these are called stalledsites.
Prof. dr. Edwin Buitelaar published research into stalled sites in 2018. Theresult: in only 7 percent of the cases, there is more than two years betweengranting the building permit and putting the house into use. So no problem.The research also offers no leads that market parties structurally leave landundeveloped with the sole motive of collecting more later.
Striking by-catch: municipalities are the biggest ‘loiterers’ in realizingresidential uses on their land. In an extensive survey (April 2021) by bureauStec among municipal officials into the obstacles in housing construction, theitem stalled sites dangles at the very bottom. In short: there is a lack ofguidance that the phenomenon of stalled sites has substantial significance inthe Netherlands.
The first concrete example that Hofman presents is the Metterswaeneresidential tower project by Kondor Wessels Projectontwikkeling (KWP), nearthe station in Nijmegen. This is not a stalled site, but a conflict betweenKWP and the municipality about the construction plan. If the municipal councilcomes to the conclusion that KWP is not fulfilling its self-realization right,it can proceed with expropriation. That is what the councilor is considering.
In his broadcast, Tim Hofman firmly denies that the municipality can doanything if a municipality cannot reach an agreement after negotiations with aproject developer. As proof, he uses this quote from the Guideline ‘Preventingdelays in housing construction with land policy’, a publication of theMinistry of the Interior (2022): ‘The deployment of compelling (legal)measures, whether by the government or a private party, is is in general notconducive to cooperation and therefore also not to the speed of development.’That’s right, of course. I am the co-author of this publication which – afterthis general introductory remark – expands for 20 pages about the (power)instruments the municipality can use if cooperation with the market partyunexpectedly breaks down. So Hoffman is lying.
The second practical example that Hofman presents concerns Lingotto’s projecton the Smakkelaarsveld, in the center of Utrecht. In the AD Utrecht, projectdeveloper Arda Basak states: ‘We have not been asked to answer the question.Presenter Tim Hofman implies that waiting a long time brings us more money,but that is also harmful to us. Now we are missing turnover.’
It was also claimed that Lingotto had already bought the land four years agoand that the relationship with the municipality is bad. That’s not right,Basak says. ‘The land was leased out ten months ago, when the final design wasapproved by the municipality after a careful process. We work well andintensively with the municipality and all other parties involved.’ As with somany complex inner-city projects, the sharply increased construction costs arehampering the realization.
The question arises whether deliberate journalistic disinformation on thepublic broadcaster (BNN/Vara) is justifiable. The whole broadcasting countryis (rightly) clamoring against the nauseating broadcasts of OngehoordNederland. The Media Authority is going to intervene. Tim Hofman’s fake newsseems like a suitable next candidate.
Last week I was a guest at the 100th anniversary of the family businessKlokgroep. The fast-growing developer and builder is number five on the 22landowners’ charts. Together with colleague professor Peter Boelhouwer, I wasallowed to talk about the housing market in a full marquee. Hoffman’smisproduct was also discussed there. My appeal: don’t be silent, but takeresponsibility and start the discussion. Show what you do and be transparent,also in financial terms. Because this discourse does not end. The next stationis the forthcoming investigation by the Netherlands Authority for theFinancial Markets (ACM) into the stalled sites and the self-realizationprinciple. We are ready, with sharpened knives.