Housing companies will make Heerlen-Noord more sustainable and livable with the ‘inponden’

Vrieheide. Photo: Aldo Allessie

Housing companies Weller and Wonen Limburg are buying 51 homes in the Vrieheide-de Stack neighborhood in the Heerlen-Noord district from a private landlord. The rare ’tilt’ is part of the broad quality of life approach in the area. Making 1960s homes more sustainable should be a flywheel for a social approach. The Parkstad region has gained experience with this unique approach for several years now.

“This purchase from the companies is a big step for the district, which we wholeheartedly support. This purchase gives a better grip on the challenges in the district. Making housing more sustainable is an important contribution to reducing energy poverty in Vrieheide, one of the hardest hit districts throughout the country in times of energy crisis, says Casper Gelderblom, councilor for housing and the environment in Heerlen.

The 51 homes were completed in 1962 and have energy labels E, F and G. The housing companies will renovate the houses with the help of Heerlen municipality and make them more sustainable to energy label B. Energy label A will follow later. Currently, previously purchased pilot housing is being investigated to see if it can be done with solar panels and collective facade replacement. The current residents are keeping their homes, and the companies do not intend to resell their new acquisitions after a certain period, according to inquiries from the Weller company.

The purchase of the homes has been done in close consultation with the municipality and Parkstad Limburg Urban Region. They make grants available from the Almene Boligfond and the Regional Agreement. The Parkstad region was one of the biggest recipients of both the Rijkspotten because the quality of life challenges there are great. With Regiodeal, Parkstad will break the ‘vicious cycle of poverty’.

Socially and physically together

The Inpond approach is therefore part of the wider quality of life approach in the area. Vrieheide is one of the three focus districts in the national program Heerlen-Noord (NPHN). In this area, which covers about half of Heerlen, the general prosperity is under pressure. In the coming decades, governments, civil society and business will work together to upgrade the district.

Ger Peeters, director of Wonen Limburg: ‘There is a huge task aimed at improving energy performance and delayed maintenance, but certainly also improving the quality of life and the social task in Heerlen Noord. This also provides opportunities for an integrated approach. We connect the property side to the social side, which gives us an earlier picture of what the residents need and what issues are at stake.’

‘One of the biggest challenges for the area is the renovation of thousands of homes. We have distinctive neighborhoods and buildings where a sense of community and identity go hand in hand. They are important to residents’ sense of community,’ Ron Meyer, program director of NPHN, previously said of the challenges in Heerlen-Noord. That ‘marking’ also applies to the 51 homes that Weller and Wonen Limburg are now buying. They are part of the 837 characteristic ‘white houses’, designed by the Hungarian architect Peter Sigmund.

Previous experience in Kerkrade

Knocking on private property goes against the grain of many Dutch companies. Since the 1990s, many social housing units have been sold to tenants, often at a low price. In Parkstad, this meant that lower incomes have above average home ownership, but they cannot always afford the necessary investments for maintenance and sustainability.

The region has therefore been looking for a solution for a number of years by social landlords buying back the homes. For example, since 2020 the housing association Wonen Zuid has bought 200 private homes divided into two flats. There was very fragmented property in the apartments, which stood in the way of an effective approach to sustainability. The last homes change hands this year.

Here, too, the link between physical and social is central. Marc Schroten, director of Wonen Zuid, previously told Stadszaken: ‘You cannot solve social problems with purely physical interventions. So we work with a broad approach, so that the district once again has a view to the future.’

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