Historic buildings across the Netherlands are rented out as social housing, but housing corporations are increasingly trying to sell them off.
One of the most popular and beloved historic property types is former religious guest houses, or almshouses. Groningen has 32 of these so-called hofjes, including the Pepergasthuis, which was established in the 15th century.
NOS featured the Pepergasthuis, which has 29 housing units, in a story about how the housing corporations are struggling to keep up with the costs involved in the maintenance for the idyllic hofjes.
Eefje Keuper, an employee of the Lefier housing corporation, says, “It’s a medieval complex, and that means it’s expensive to keep them in good condition. There are also all kinds of rules because of the Monument Law, which makes it even more difficult.” The corporations cannot carry out modernisation works, such as installing double paned glass, because it would change the appearance of the historic complex.
Keuper says that the corporation’s ability to keep costs low is limited, which means that the units are becoming unaffordable. Floris Lazrak, a researcher at the Vrije Universiteit in Amsterdam, says that a new Housing Act in 2015 called for housing corporations to focus exclusively on providing affordable housing to people with limited income. That means that covering costly maintenance at old guest houses is not financially feasible.
“Cherish what we have”
Local politicians in Groningen are concerned about what could be lost if these properties become more commercially focused. Alderperson Roeland van der Schaaf says that it will only become more difficult to find affordable housing in the city in the coming years, “so we really need to cherish what we have.”
If the properties shift from social housing to the commercial market, they will still maintain their historic status and appearance. Even though the Pepergasthuis is up for sale, the chapel and courtyard inside the complex will also remain open to the general public.
Photo source: Wikipedia