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Some Amsterdammers too rich to rent, too poor to buy

EU rules influence Amsterdam rent-controlled housing

Houses overlooking Amsterdam's Sarphatipark
Houses overlooking Amsterdam’s Sarphatipark — definitely at the high end of the ‘free sector’

DutchAmsterdam.nl — Nearly 10.000 Amsterdam households looking for rent-controlled homes no longer qualify for social housing since new EU rules went into effect at the start of 2011.

In Amsterdam 60.000 families, couples and individuals are actively looking for a new rental home. About 16 per cent of them have an income higher than €33.614 a year — since January 1 the income limit for social housing.

The problems are the result of new European Union rules. The EU has stipulated that housing corporations can not allocate rent-controlled houses, which have a maximum rent of €652,52/month, to households with a combined yearly income over €33.614.

The EU can set those restrictions because housing corporations can borrow money cheaply, which is a form of state support.

The EU rules do give corporations some leeway in that they can rent up to 10 percent for newly available houses to people who earn more than €33,614 a year.

However, a spokesperson for housing corporation Ymere told local daily Het Parool that those houses are usually allocated to households forced to move due to city renewal projects, or to households in which someone has a so-called urgency declaration. Such declarations, usually given based on certain physical limitations, entitle a person to priority treatment in the allocation of new social houses.

Amsterdam has a shortage of inexpensive houses

Amsterdam’s housing market is subject to strict rental rules because housing is in such short supply. To qualify for rent-controlled houses there are income, employment and residence requirements.

In Amsterdam, almost all of the social housing is owned by housing corporation. Together they own 41 percent of the city’s housing stock.1 The rest is owned by private landlords.

Private property with a rent of more than €554.76 is considered a ‘free sector”, which is associated with fewer requirements — and offers owners more leeway for higher rents.

In Amsterdam, there is a large gap between homes in the social sector, which rent for up to €652/month, and homes in the free sector, — many of which start at around €900/month.

For households with an annual income of between €33,000 and €45,000, buying a home is not an option. With an income of €45,000 per year, it is practically impossible to buy a house in Amsterdam.

Rent a room in Amsterdam

This article was first published on January 6, 2011. Updates: see below


  1. Figure from 2021. From Jaarbericht 2023, Amsterdamse Federatie van Woningcorporaties [Also archived at the WayBackMachine]
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