AMSTERDAM – Living in a 20 m² container house project on a former sports field north of Amsterdam, Youri Hermes, 26, considers himself lucky: at least he has a roof over his head.
Many young people in the Netherlands “don’t have that luxury”, the leadership coach said, as the crippling housing crisis looms as a key issue in the crucial November 22 elections, particularly with votes cast youth.
Mr Hermes lives with 540 other young people, half of whom are refugees with residence permits, in one of the “Startblokken” (Starting Blocks) which have recently emerged in the Netherlands to address the shortage of housing.
The Startblokken project started in 2015 using refurbished metal shipping containers.
Now, for around €400 (S$585) per month, young people can rent a small studio near Amsterdam, in a “container house” made of wood and recycled materials.
Accessible to people aged 18 to 27, the studios each have a small kitchen and bathroom and are stacked on top of each other in large blocks.
The maximum rental period is five years and project manager Arnold Hooiveld says he receives “hundreds of applications” each time a studio becomes available.
“There is a huge housing shortage in Amsterdam. This is one of the solutions,” Mr. Hooiveld told AFP.
The complex was also designed to encourage young people from all backgrounds to live together.
Junia Kersten, 29, a construction engineering student, told AFP: “For me, the multicultural aspect is important – living with people from different backgrounds, of the same age.
“Sometimes you feel like you live in a big house with your brother and sister. You can knock on anyone’s door.
But the Starting Blocks project is just a drop in the ocean of the Dutch housing crisis.
The Netherlands needs around 400,000 more homes, estimates Mr Marc van der Lee, spokesperson for the Dutch Association of Real Estate Agents (NWM), and demand “continues to increase”.
With just under a fifth of the Netherlands’ land area lying on reclaimed land, space is a priority in this country, one of the most densely populated in the world.
Adding to the crisis is a growing population, increasing immigration and smaller family units, Mr van der Lee said.