Tackling the Global Housing Crisis: Insights and Solutions from 180 Degrees Consulting Maastricht

The global housing crisis in cities is a pressing issue, highlighting the need for innovative and sustainable solutions. Recognizing the need to solve this problem, 180 Degrees Consulting Maastricht conducted a study on the Dutch housing crisis, identifying both global insights as well as a set of solutions that call for immediate action.

Characterized by the limited availability of housing, scarcity of land, and rising demand due to urbanization, the emerging housing crisis challenges many cities worldwide and results in an urgent need for affordable housing. Moreover, aspects such as sustainable construction regulations and energy-efficient projects illustrate the environmental component of the housing crisis.

As part of the world's largest university-based consultancy, 180 DC Maastricht seeks to spotlight these challenges from a student perspective as students are significantly affected by it. More specifically, the housing scarcity disproportionately impacts students due to budget constraints, forcing space, quality, and location compromises. Additionally, high demand in student cities coupled with restricted supply intensifies market competition and poor renting conditions for students. 

Mirroring these challenges, the Dutch Ministry of Education has urged universities like Maastricht to halt international student enrolment from 2024 onwards. More specifically, the rapid rise in students wanting to study in the Netherlands has created an imbalance between supply and demand. On the one hand, students want to live close to the city center, but on the other, there is only limited public transportation and low availability of affordable housing options. Through this study, we found that the average room rent has surged by almost 16%, reaching €464 / $505 per month, straining students' budgets. Moreover, due to the limited availability of housing and high demand the Netherlands is expected to face a housing shortage of up to 67000 residential houses by 2028/29. Additionally, policies promoting single occupancy and real estate companies fuelling the problem by raising prices negatively impact unutilized housing. Taking a global perspective, we expect similar trends in small and big cities based on urbanization, population growth, and limited land resources. It is evident that the housing crisis requires a dynamic set of sustainable solutions to ensure an improved and resilient housing landscape in cities worldwide. 

This case study of the Netherlands may help find the solutions for the global housing crisis. One solution we propose is focusing on resource efficiency and environmental sustainability throughout the entire lifecycle of a building project and thus connected to the idea of circular economy where waste is reduced but resources maximised. Taking for example, the circular construction houses made from hemp or in the form of wikkelboats as illustrated in picture 1 below, where housing is created using less material, maintaining or renovating as well as regenerating and recycling. Another method we identified is promoting housing outside of the city center while improving public transit accessibility, subsidizing commuting, and offering inexpensive housing choices that attract the urban population. Furthermore, underutilized housing could be addressed by monetarily encouraging shared living, permitting cadastral property division, and encouraging vertical construction. These solutions require a collaborative approach between the public and private sectors to facilitate the engagement between the government, real estate companies, private owners, and the community.

As illustrated by this case study, we at 180 Degrees Consulting Maastricht develop sustainable solutions that address complex issues like the housing crisis that require action on a small and large scale. The proposed approaches foster sustainable construction practices, promote collaborative partnerships, and develop inclusive policies for a more equitable and resilient housing landscape worldwide.

Article by Jill Thielmann

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