Opinion: many ways to speed up procedures in housing

Opinion: many ways to speed up procedures in housing

Photo of Mulderobdam via Flickr

Attempts to speed up housing projects sometimes seem like fighting a dead end. It would help if the procedures could also be shortened a bit. Minister Hugo de Jonge is currently examining the possibilities, and Jos Feijtel is happy to give him some suggestions at national, provincial and local level.

Starting with national rules: The existing ladder for sustainable urbanization could be scrapped. Once introduced to prevent too much housing and housing in the wrong places, it is now redundant. Too much housing is almost never a problem. There are plenty of other options to prevent the home from being in the wrong place. Time saving: about 2 to 3 months.

With ordinary procedures (and therefore also with temporary housing), the municipalities have 8 weeks to assess a (complete) application for a permit. If this is insufficient, the municipality can extend the term by another 6 weeks. That extension could be abolished or reduced to 2 weeks. Time saving: 4 to 6 weeks. And with the so-called comprehensive procedure, the treatment time in the municipality could be reduced from 26 weeks to 18 weeks. Time saving: 8 weeks.

The response deadline for interested parties on a (preliminary) project area plan and on a notified environmental approval is 6 weeks. Created to prevent a proposal from being ‘pushed through’ during a holiday period. All municipalities now take the holiday periods into account. Response times can therefore be reduced to 4 weeks. Time saving: 2 weeks.

Province

Then provincial level. Some provincial governments ‘tighten’ the municipalities very rigidly. A more generous approach with more housing options, such as in Overijssel, leads to higher construction production without affecting areas that are really worth preserving.

Some county councils also want to review plans for temporary housing. According to a recent study by Professor Arjan Bregman, there is no overarching or intrusive role for the province. However, the municipality must conduct ‘preliminary consultations’ with the province. It would be good if the provinces were aware of this. And municipalities can handle this more self-consciously.

Local

And last but perhaps most importantly: the municipality. Time savings for the municipalities can be achieved in the first phase of a housing effort. It is not uncommon for an ‘area survey’ to be started for the area in question, regardless of whether an initiator has submitted a housing plan to the municipality. Whether it has been followed or instead a memorandum of principle and then sometimes also a document of ambition.

Not infrequently, these documents require a long internal route (sometimes also via the council), whereby the initiator is not always ‘taken along’. At some point, this often leads to a draft urban development plan, with which the municipal council is further involved in the plan and sometimes also initiates participation. The draft urban development plan leads to a final urban development plan, usually with participation again and sometimes also opportunities for reactions / statements. After the urban development plan has been determined, progress is made towards a zoning plan. In some municipalities, this begins with a ‘preliminary subdivision plan’, followed by a draft subdivision plan and then a subdivision plan.

All the aforementioned phases up to and including the preliminary zoning plan are not statutory instruments. The municipalities can choose how they organize these phases. Of course, good participation must be a part of it. In fact, the more intensive the participation, the fewer of the aforementioned instruments will have to be used before the first statutory instrument, the draft zoning plan, is discussed.

A major problem in many municipalities is the lack of hands: too few project managers, too few RO employees, too few assessors, etc. This gap can be partially filled by contacting the provinces’ so-called Flexpools. They have received money from the Ministry of the Interior and the State to enable extra hands with municipalities.

In addition, a municipality can partly relieve itself by obliging initiators to come up with a draft urban development plan and a draft zoning plan and to have the various studies carried out themselves. Professional companies and developers should be able to do that. Of course, it does not help if the municipal organization then reinvents such a plan from scratch.

Agreements can be entered into between the municipal council and the executive board on the division of competencies. In a Declaration of No Concerns (VVGB), the council can register which changes to zoning plans are entrusted to the board of B&W and on what conditions. The procedures can thus be significantly shortened.

Drops on a hot plate?

Perhaps. In light of the current issue of the expected delays due to the recent nitrogen ruling from the court in Noord-Holland, the above steps do not really help. But every little bit helps.

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