Looking beyond Amsterdam’s city borders
Expat Mortgages are experienced independent mortgage advisors located in Amsterdam, Haarlem, Rotterdam, Utrecht, Eindhoven and The Hague, specialising in helping expats navigate home buying in the Netherlands.
Many people want to live in Amsterdam, and it seems as though the city is becoming increasingly crowded. Rental properties are hard to find and houses for sale are becoming more and more expensive.
Gradually, new neighbourhoods are being built (Hamerkwartier, Sluisbuurt, and to top it all off, Havenstad, which has 70.000 new properties), however, solving the housing problem is not as straightforward as building new properties.
Competing with European world cities
If we compare Amsterdam to cities such as London, Paris or Barcelona with a European perspective, it is immediately evident that Amsterdam is much smaller and more compact. Despite its size, Amsterdam still competes with these European “world cities” when it comes to the tourism and employment market.
With less than one million residents, Amsterdam is a village compared to London (14 million), Paris (11 million) and Barcelona (5 million). Amsterdam tourism is flourishing If you walk around in the centre of Amsterdam, you’ll notice that it has become busier in the last few years. There is an increasing number of tourists visiting our beautiful capital.
Each year, museums such as the Rijksmuseum, Van Gogh museum and the house of Anne Frank attract millions of visitors, and even places such as the Vondelpark, Red Light District and the ring of canals are very popular amongst Dutch and foreign tourists. The hospitality industry in Amsterdam is flourishing like never before, which is economically interesting, and occupancy rate at the growing number of hotels is becoming progressively higher.
The Airbnb market is also prospering. “The common Amsterdam resident” temporarily rents their property out to tourists and makes a tidy profit. The fact that the municipality isn’t always happy about this doesn’t particularly bother them.
An attractive city for international companies
It’s not only tourists that are visiting the city. The economic activity in Amsterdam also has a “pull factor”. Employers such as ING, Ahold, AKZO Nobel, Booking.com, TomTom and Tommy Hilfiger attract employees from all over the Netherlands and abroad.
Recently, the European Medicines Agency (EMA) announced the relocation of its head office to the Zuidas in Amsterdam. The move will create 900 jobs, and if you include the suppliers, the total number of jobs is around 2.000.
Employers such as Booking.com (1.000+), Netflix (300) and Oracle (400) will be bringing many more (IT) talents to our capital city in the years to come, which is, again, good for the economy. But all these people, and their families, need to live somewhere; their children need to go to (international) school; groceries need to be done and sports played.
Is Amsterdam prepared for the influx of all these extra people?
Are there enough international schools? Are there enough jobs for the partners of those relocating? And probably the most important question: Can these people actually live in Amsterdam?
If we see Amsterdam the same way as we do today, everything within the A10 ring is Amsterdam and everything outside of it, including Amsterdam North, until the North-South line is up and running, isn’t, then the answer to this question is simply: NO.
However, if we dare to look further, if we dare to see the potential of the surrounding municipalities, which stretch further than Amstelveen and Diemen, then there are a great number of possibilities. I would even dare to say that Almere is Amsterdam too, as are Zaandam, Purmerend and Haarlem.
Expanding the city borders?
The distance between Zaandam and Amsterdam Central Station is much shorter than that of Heathrow to Kensington or Saint-Denis to the Eiffel Tower. The former Mayor of Almere, Annemarie Jorritsma, has known this for a while, and in addition to allowing a university of applied sciences to open its doors, she has also extended this favour to an international school in the last few years. The exact same thing has also happened in Haarlem.
People want to live “in Amsterdam” but not everyone has to live within the A10 ring. Perhaps we should prohibit vehicular traffic in the old city centre. And perhaps we should call Purmerend “Purmerend-Amsterdam” from now on, just like we call “Oud Zuid” and “Watergraafsmeer” Amsterdam. Perhaps we should get rid of the old-fashioned idea of city borders and see Amsterdam as a powerful metropolis region.
This is conducive to the living comfort in the city and the price level of properties, not only in the city but also far outside of the old-fashioned city borders. We should invest in better public transport, more (international) schools and more jobs. We should let newcomers participate in voluntary work at local associations to help with integration and let them enjoy our beautiful city and multicultural society.
Henk Jansen is a mortgage consultant with more than 20 years of experience helping expats in the fields of housing and mortgages.