NEDERLANDSCH INSTITUUT VOOR
(DUTCH HOUSING INSTITUTE)
DUTCH HOUSING LEGISLATION
MAY 2 1951
"^mv OF TC*^^
Printed by Drukkeru en Uitqeveru J. H. de BUSSY, AMSTERDAM.
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The Dutch Housing Act dates from 1901. Before that
year, however, many local authorities had handled the
housing question. They were able to do so according to
their general legislative powers which are of a more extensive
character than those of English local authorities ^). Under
our Local Government Act they are allowed to pass regu-
lations on behalf of public order, morality and health and other
regulations relating to the management of the community.
Practically this means that they have power to deal with all
matters which are not especially reserved to the legislative power
This state of affairs has not been changed by the Housing-
Act. Local authorities are, with a few exceptions, able to take
such measures on behalf of housing improvement as they may think
fit, independently of the Housing Act, in the same way as they
might have done before. So, for instance, they may buy and
sell land, build houses, lend money to private builders or public
utility housing societies just as they might have done (and did)
before the passing of the Housing Act.
The main significance of the Act may be seen in the
following facts :
1. it compels local authorities to take some measui'es which
had previously been at their option only ;
2. it bestows some new powers on them ;
3. some local authority measures are made subject to the
approval of the Provincial Government (County Council);
4. financial aid for housing purposes may be granted by
The Act deals with the housing question in its widest sense,
only a few subjects (housing exchanges, local housing inspection)
not being included.
ij Our Local Government Act does not make a distinction between boroughs,
urban and rural districts etc., all being in the same legal position. In the following
the word "municipality" is understood to cover them all.
Its first part imikcs it a duty of local authorities to issue
buil'Jin.u l)yo laws coiilainiiig provisions with respect to:
1. tiio phu'ins of buildings on public I'oads and their distance
from »'Hcli other ;
'2. the level of the lloors of down-stair rooms and the height
."). th(^ minimum sizes of habitable rooms, staircases and passages ;
4. closets ;
n, water-supply ;
G. the prevention of fire;
7. the prevention of dampness;
iS. the structure of foundations, walls, floors, ceilings and roofs ;
",». the removal of smoke, slopwater and house refuse;
10. lighting and ventilation.
This enumeration has not a restrictive character ; local author-
ities passing in accordance with their general powers, regulations
relating to other matters in respect of building, may embody
them in the building byelaw.
"Whereas the said regulations deal with buildings to be erected,
provisions for existing dwellings shall be given with respect to
the subjects mentioned in nos. 5 — 10.
Municipal building byelaws are subject to the approval of the
Provincial Government. The Act provides that, if within three
years after the passing of the Act, any local authority fail to
have made building byelaws, the Provincial Government shall do so.
In about a quarter of all municipalities this has proved necessary.
To erect or alter a building, warrant must be obtained from the
local authority. The warrant can only be refused if the premises are
not in conformity with the building bye laws. Building plans must
be submitted for the approval of the local authority prior to the
commencement of the work. No new house may be occupied and no
building used as a house until a certificate of fitness for occupancy-
has loeen given by the same authority.
The second Part of the Act has made an attempt to deal
with overcrowding, as it imposed upon landlords the duty to
give notice to the local authority of the number of occupants of
the house and the changes in that number. This part will shortly
be repealed and replaced by an article stating the duty of local
authorities to establish a housing exchange.
The third Part bears on house improvement. Health Commit-
tees (see below) have to make enquiries into the housing conditions
in the municipalities of their area and to give notice to the
local authority concerned of such houses as want, whether in
their present condition fit for human habitation or not, impro-
vement or are overcrowded. Local authorities themselves are
to make like enquiries. If the premises are found to want
repairs, a notice is served on the owner to execute all such
works as might be necessary, and if overcrowded, to stop the
overcrowding. The owner has a right of appeal to the Town
Council. In case of non-compliance to the notice, a penalty
may be imposed by the county-bench, the local authorities may
themselves execute the necessary works or declare the premises,
if so, to be unfit for human habitation and issue an order prohib-
iting the use of the house as such.
The issuing of orders prohibiting the use of a house for
human habitation, is dealt with in the next, the fourth Part of the
Act. Those orders may be issued by the Town Council, either
in the case mentioned above or if a house is found to be unfit
for human habitation and cannot be rendered fit by the making
of repairs. The owner has a right of appeal against tlie order
to the Provincial Government.
The order specifies a time, not exceeding six months, within
which the house shall be left by the occupants, the use as a
workshop, store etc., being allowed. To each house declared
unfit for human habitation, a board to this effect is affixed.
If necessary, local authorities may issue a closing order and,
in case of danger, pull down the house.
In compliance with the above mentioned Parts of the Act every
nniniciiuUity in the c()imtry now has its building byelaw in
order to secure good building and affording a standard of minimum
rei|uirements, with which existing houses have to«comply. In the
fam»> time the way for dealing with bad premises is laid down in
the Act ('). The opjioitunity oi raising the housing standard
Excellent work has been done and much has been improved.
Tiiroughout the country, in the towns as well as in rural
districts, the wi)rst houses have disappeared and the less bad
ones have lieon improved. But a lot of work is still to be done.
In our towns areas of vast extent should be pulled down on
account of overhousing and bad building ; our great towns espe-
cially make no exception to a state of affairs, prevalent all over the
world. In rural districts the housing standard ought to be raised.
Since the Act became law, up to the end of 1914, 12,918 houses
have been condemned as unfit for human habitation, 3,739 of
which at Amsterdam, 180 at Rotterdam and 586 at the Hague.
Since the war there has been practically no increase.
As regards house improvement, a good deal of the work,
especially in rural districts, has been done by the above
mentioned Health Committees.
These Committees have been instituted throughout the whole
country, each town of more than 20.000 inhabitants possessing
its own committee. Its members, appointed by the Provincial
Government, are not paid, with the exception of the secretary,
who, howevei', is understood to fulfil his duties as a secretary
besides those of his ordinary profession.
The Health Committees are to be consulted by local authorities
whenever measures in housing matters are to be taken.
During the first years after the passing of the Act, they made
thorough investigations into the housing conditions in their area
which formed the basis for measures to improve or remove bad
1) It is evident that iu cases where a regulation is given by the Act, this regulation
overrules the general powers of local authorities, so that they are hound to act in
accordance with the special regulation.
buildings. In later years they acted on complaints, in most cases
making an enquiry and proposing repairs or closing orders when-
ever complaints came in. Though they are hampered by the fact
that their work is not paid for (in some exceptional cases only
a salaried official being at their disposition), in rural districts
without their interference little would have been done. For as
a rule in these districts a housing inspection is not provided
for. Even the building inspection too often is very poorly managed,
a local carpenter officiating as inspector, lacking both the
technical skill and the desire to do the work as it should be
done. Besides many rural local authorities, having been forced
to make building bye-laws they do not care for, are not anxious
about their enforcement and many houses have been built with
total disregard of the building regulations. In some exceptional
cases only, Health Committees have made an arrangement by
which the salaried official in iheir service officiates, not only as
a housing inspector, but even as a building inspector for the
municipalities in their area.
In towns of more importance, the supervision of housing
and building is in the hands of the Public Works Department,
out of which in larger towns a separate Building and Housing
Inspection Department develops; in Amsterdam, Rotterdam, the
Hague and Schiedam a Housing Department is added. In those
cases orders for improvement and closing orders are as a rule
prepared by the officials of those departments and Health Com-
mittees are only asked for advice.
A bill will shortly be introduced into Parliament providing the
compulsory appointment of building and housing inspectors by
local authorities in such a way that municipalities of minor impor-
tance will have to act jointly.
Since the war, house improvement has practically come to an
end. The housing shortage growing rapidly, no houses could be
missed. Local authorities were unable to issue closing orders.
Even oi'ders for repairs could hardly be given, the prices of
materials rising steadily and many materials being scarce.
The fifth Part of the Act deals with the compulsory acquisition
of land by municipalities and public utility housing sot'ieties l^*
for the purpose of slum clearance and 2'"> for the carrying out
(if a liousing scheme or an extension plan. This part of the
Act is of minor importance, as it |gives only extension to the
Act of 1851 on Compulsory Land Accjuisition, some parts of
which have been amended in order to facilitate the use of it
for housing purposes. An endeavour has been made to give a
satisfactory regulation for the fixing of the compensation to
be paid for houses and sites, ^if these cannot be purchased by
In the case of slum clearance for houses proved to lie unlit
for human habitation, the compensation is based on the value of
the site and the building materials ; if the houses want repairs,
the costs are to be deducted from the value of the house. In
other cases the fair market price the sites would have obtained,
if all sold within a period of from eightteen to six moiiths before
the preparation of the plan, forms the basis of the compensation.
In practice there is "no great difference between the regulation
of the principal act and that laid down in the Housing Act. From
many sides it is urged that for land not yet used for building
purposes, only the value it has in accordance to its present use
should be paid.
In some cases the Act has been made use of for slum clearance ;
more often for the acquisition of land included in a town planning
scheme for instance at Amsterdam where all land included in the
„Scheme South" has been acquired by the municipality either
by voluntary agreement or by way of the Act.
One of the Emergency Acts deals with the compulsory acquisi-
tion of land as it empowers local authorities to enter on and take
possession of land before compensation is fixed.
In Part VI of the Act Town Planning is regulated.
Two sections deal with the subject. The first states the local
authority's power to prohibit building on sites where, according to
an order of the Town Council, a street is to be laid out. Whether
local authorities possessed the power to do so before the passing-
of the Act was doubtful. The order is subject to the approval
of the Provincial Government, who shall reject it if the owner's
property would be injuriously affected by it.
The second section aims at the same end as some other parts
of the Act do, viz. to force local authorities to do what they
had already power to do, and to make some measures subject
to the Provincial Government's approval. It obliges municipalities
of more than 10.000 inhabitants or the population of which
has increased by more than a fifth within the last five years to
make an extension plan. The plan is to be revised at least every
ten years. Approval of the Provincial Government is needed.
Before the passing of the plan, maps shall be laid down for
public inspection so that owners of land included in the plan
who think themselves injuriously affected, will have an oppor-
tunity to object.
An extension plan (town planning scheme) in the sense of the law is
a set of building lines and may be considered a map showing on what
lines the Town Council deem the extension of the municipality
has to develop. It depends on the owners of the land included,
whether the laying out will actually be carried out. If so, not
even the plan itself imposes any duty on these owners. But
the observance of it may be enforced by a provision inserted in
almost all building bye-laws and prohibiting building otherwise
than on roads, whether existing at the moment the building
bye-law was passed, or laid out in conf. -rmity with a set of
regulations relating to site, width, level structure, sewerage,
gasmains, placing of trees etc., which may vary from case to case.
This provision enables local authorities to force all owners to
observe the plan, when laying out their lands, as consent for
the making of streets is only to be given if they are projected
in conformity with it. In rural districts, however, such consent
too often is given without it's observance.
As building on sites included in the plan and bordering
existing roads is not prohibited by the aforesaid provision in
the building bye-laws, a special order of the Council, as mentioned
in tlio first section of this Part, is wanted to prolu))it l)uilding
on sites destined to l)e a road and bordering an existing road.
If the approval of the Provincial (loverniuent cannot he obtained,
and, in case a proposed park or something similar borders an
existing road, building can only be j^rohibited by the acquisition
of the site by the local authority ^yhether by voluntary agrocMuent
.Vs there is no obligation upon the owners of the land to
carry out such works as are provided by the plan, the carrying
out of them can only be secured by special agreements between
local authority and owner. If, for instance, a park is projected,
the sites required have to be purchased and the park laid out by the
local authority. When streets of uncommon width are to be laid
out or some green shall be preserved or an open space reserved,
a financial arrangement between local authority and owner is
to be made.
In respect to small towns there is no reason to object to this
state of affairs, as there may be no great need for the laying
out of all the land included in a plan. In larger or rapidly
growing towns, however, where there is a pressing want of
building sites, the only way by which an effective carrying into
eifect of the plan can be secured, is by the ownership of all the
land included by the local authority. Our larger towns have,
whether by voluntary agreement or by compulsory acquisition,
become owners of vast areas of land, which they formerly
sold to builders, but now in most cases lease.
The Hague possesses an area of 962 H.A. (2405 acres),
12 H.A. (30 acres) of which are leased to public utility housing
societies. At Amsterdam 148 H.A. (370 acres) are leased for
Even where there is no extension plan, the worst consequences
of a totally uncontrolled lay-out may be prevented by the
above mentioned powers of local authorities. In too many cases, •
however, schemes proposed by speculative builders and private
owners of land are adopted without any consideration as to the
requirements of the community.
In most cases, even in our larger towns, partial plans have
been made, the Hague being the only great town possessing a
In view of the state of affairs described above, allowing
local authorities to handle many matters, for the handling of
which in England they need to be especially authorized i), an
elaborate regulation as contained in the English Housing and
Town Planning Act, 1909, Part II, has not yet proved neces-
sary. Yet in some respects (not mentioned here) the Act requires
revision, and in the long run a more comprehensive provision in
which those sections of local building bye-laws relating to the laying
out of streets, the placing of buildings, building lines etc. find
a more uniform regulation, will prove necessary.
The two next parts of the Act., Parts VII and VIII, which
regulate State aid to housing, have proved of great importance
durii>g the last years, as they have enabled public utility
housing societies and local authorities to go on building, not-
withstanding the rise of prices of materials and the increase
of the rate of interest.
As is Avell known, State aid to housing is allowed in many
countries in various ways. The Belgian legislation, adopted by
the French, encourages the erection of houses by individual
persons, for which purpose some public institutions are allowed
to lend a part of their funds. An intricate system of societies
which have to act as an intermediary have been found necessary,
partly in order to have due control over the use of the money
and the person to whom it is lent, and partly to diminish the
risk for the public institutions. In Germany and Austria too.
1) 3Iost regulations for instance inserted in the Euislip-Northwood Sclierae
(Aldridg-e, The Case for Town Planning) in sections 4—5, 8—18, 22—26, 39—31
are casually settled by local authorities when new building land is being developed or
new streets are being laid out, whereas provisions respecting the matters regulated
in sections 36—39, 44, 46—48, 50—51, 53—55, 60 have been inserted in almost
all local building bye-laws, and regulations with reference to the matters regulated
in the sections not mentioned may, if necessary, be given.
some iiuhlii.' institutions have lent money co societies, not, however,
to hand it over to individual persons, l)ut in order to enable
these societies to build houses, which they may either let or sell.
According to the Dutch regulation, the State itself grants loans,
a feature Dutch and Enijlisli regulations have in common. The
loan is only granted to local authorities, never to building associa-
tions, public utility housing societies or individual persons direct.
In most cases local authorities do not build themselves, but grant
loans to public utility housing societies, which apply to them for
that purpose. Local authorities then apply to the State, which
grants the loan. This system aflfords the opjjortunity of a more
efficient control over the societies by the local authority than could
be exerted by a central department. The money is advanced on
mortgage, repayable in fifty i) years by efjual annual instalments,
the interest being fixed at the rate indicated by the market quota-
tion of the State debentures on the Amsterdam Exchange. The
local authority is responsible for the payment of the interest and
instalments on the loan, so that there is no financial risk for the
State. The Government is willing to grant 100 per cent, of the total
building cost. Local authorities, on granting the loan, may impose
such conditions on the society as they may think fit, to secure efficient
management, proper repairs, etc. Sometimes a certain amount of
private capital, forming a varying part of the cost of land and
building (hJardly ever exceeding 5 per cent., however) is required.
More often the society possesses a little capital, such as the
share capital of the membsrs (/. 25 or £ 2 Is. each), which has
no relation at all to the capital cost of the buildings. Only a
few larger societies in our greater towns ha\e a larger capital
at their disposal.
The jiublic utility societies have a semi-public character. They
must be authorized by the Government; the interest on their
shares is limited to 4 per cent. ; the capital and the profit are
only to be applied to the improving of housing ; and the members
1) Since 1915 this period may be 75 years. As ix rule, 50 years is tlie tiiTiiitl,
for which loins for building: purposes are granted, 75 years for buying land.
can be given no right to buy their houses. More than 900
pubhc utility societies are now authorized. About 250 are orga-
nized in the Nationals Woningraad (National Housing Council),
this corporation being exclusively a federation of public utility
housing societies and building local authorities.
In addition to the loans, annual subsidies may be granted
if an economic rent cannot be obtained, e.g. if extraordinary
expenditures sei'iously increase working expenses, as may occur
in the case of slum clearance, or if the inhabitants are of the very
poor. The subsidy is granted as a subsidy in the loan charges,
including interest and the payments for redemption of principal,
on the capita] borrowed. As a rule, half the subsidy is to be
paid out of the local authority's funds, the other half being
provided by the State.
Up to the end of 1914, 461 loans had been granted, 371 on
behalf of public utility societies, 90 on behalf of local authorities
building themselves; 9,900 houses had been built and loans in
total had been approved for the building of 16,251 houses.
Since the beginning of the war, private enterprise has been
practically out of business. Working-class houses have only been
built by public utility societies and some local authorities. The
housing shortage is growing every day; at least 100,000 houses
are now wanted. In Amsterdam and Rotterdam about half of
the newly-married people cannot get houses. In the next five
years 250,000 should be built.
Immediately after the beginning of the war the State fixed
the interest chargeable on State loans at S^/g per cent., being the
interest indicated by the market quotation of the State debentures
on the Amsterdam Exchange the day before it was shut.
Moreover since the end of 1916 a subsidy has been granted to
meet the difficulties caused by the rise in the prices of materials.
In June 1919 a uniform regulation to cover the deficit arising
from both causes, was passed ; 75 per cent, being afforded by the
State, 25 per cent, by the local authority.
Since the war, more loans than ever have been granted, the
total number of loans at the end of 1917 being 810; of which
I — 13
636, amounting to/. 71,500,000 (about £ 6,000,000) wcie -..u.te.l
on behalf of public utility societies; 174, amounting to/. 27,500,000,
on behalf of municipal building, including a loan to Amsterdam
of /. 15,000,000.
During the year 1918 loans were granted amounting to
/. 43,000,000 (about £ 3,600,000), for the building of 9,613 houses
(1,875 by local authorities, 7,738 by public utility societies), the
annual subsidy of the State (^/^ of the yearly deficit) being
esteemed at /. 650,000 (£ 54,000). For 1919 the figures are
460 loans, amounting to /. 91,000,000 (£ 7,580,000), number
of houses 12,799 (3,002 + 9,797), annual deficit to be paid by
the State /. 1,614,000 (£ 130,000).
The following gives an idea of the work done in our three
Amount of loa
as granted for
in course t
/ 65, 170,000. -
Moreover at Rotterdam 1,800 municipal dwellings and 3,700
societies' dwellings are planned. For Amsterdam these figures
are 1,843 and 7,911.
The rents of houses built with State aid must be approved of
by the State, and there is a tendency to raise them. Economic
rents, however, cannot be fixed. For the cost of living is about
92 per cent above the pre-w-ar cost, the raising of rents of
private houses is under the control of rent committees, the cost
of building is still increasing, and wages, though raised, have
not in general reached a level, at >vhich economic rents may be
paid. The deficit will be very great, in some cases amounting to
1) Or planned.
nearly / 300 (£ 25) per house per annum. This state of affairs
will continue for a long time. The capital cost now varies from
/ 5.600 (£ 417) to / 8.500 (£ 709), and an economic rent should
be about / 9 (15s) or / 12 (£1) per week (rates are not included
in rents), whereas the normal pre-war rent for newly-built houses
was / 4 (6s. 8d.) only in Amsterdam and some other towns.
The main difference between the English and the Dutch
scheme may be seen in the position of the public utility
societies, most of the building being done in Holland by those
societies. They are enabled to do so owing to the fact that the
State and the local authority cover the whole deficit.
Up to now, houses were built whei-e public utility societies, or
local authorities (or private builders) were willing to do so;
where there was no public utility society, or the local authority
was not disposed to build or to grant a loan to a public
utility society, no houses were built. Under our Housing-
Emergency Act, June 1918, the Government may now impose
on a local authority the duty of making an enquiry into the
number of houses wanted and of providing these houses, either
by building them themselves or by financing a public utility
society. An enquiry into the housing shortage has now been
ordered in all towns and villages with more than 1,000 inhabitants,
the State paying a part of the cost.
Besides the Emergency Acts above mentioned (the amendment
of the Compulsory Land Purchase Act, the amendment of the
Housing Act in relation to the time fixed for repaying loans,
and the Housing Emergency Act) some other emergency mea-
sures have been taken. Rent Boards have been instituted, the
permission of which is required before rents may be raised
or a lease terminated. The introduction of a bill into Parliament
is announced, prohibiting the use of a building now used for
human habitation, for other purposes without permission of the
local authority (in some towns a regulation to that purpose has
been already passed), giving power to local authorities to force
the owner of an untenanted house to let it and to enable local
authorities to purchase compulsorily houses for thfe conversion
iuto Hats for the working t-lasses.
>[oreover the principal Housing Act will shortly be amended ;
a bill to that purpose has been propax-ed. As mentioned above,
it will make it a duty of local authorities to appoint building
and housing inspectors. In case of non-compliance, the Provin-
cial Government may take sucii measures as they jnay think fit.
Municipalities of minor irai:)ortance may be obliged by royal
decree (Local Government Board) to act jointly. Local authorities
of moi'e than 10.000 inhabitants shall institute a housing
exchange to which e^■ery owner of a house is to give notice
whenever it is to let or a new lease is signed. The sections
of the Housing Emergency Act which give power to the Crown
(Government) to force any local authority to make an enquiry
into the number of houses wanted and to provide these houses,
will be embodied in the principal act. The duty to make an
extension, plan may be imposed by the Provincial Government
on any municipality they deem in want of it, a regulation
which is of special importance in case a large town is bounded
by rural districts. In case of non-compliance, the Provincial
Government themselves shall make the plan. Loans may be
granted by the State to public utility housing societies direct.
The Health Committees mentioned above form part of the State
Housing Inspection. Housing Commissioners, officiating as the
official advisers of the Government and the Provincial Govern-
ment in all housing matters, form another branch. Though their
fufiction is of an advisoi'y character only, their influence on
housing improvement has been very marked and most of the
valuable work done outside the larger towns, including that of
the Health Committees has been done at their instigation. Up
to now they have enjoyed great independence; at the end of
1919 a new Public Health Act of a moi-e centralizing character
and providing for the appointment of a Chief Commissioner
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