Repurposing retail into housing

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The increasing retail vacancy rate offers opportunities to partly solve the growing housing shortage in the Netherlands. In the 70 largest city centres, there is room for 10,000 new apartments when empty shops are converted. Almost as many homes as in the city centre of Utrecht at this moment.

Due to the shape, size and incidence of light, not all empty shops can be repurposed into homes. This is the case for 40% of total vacancy. Most conversions are possible in the municipality of Heerlen, where 330 houses can be added. Maastricht is in second place with 288. Of the five largest cities, The Hague in particular has plenty of room to offer new households a place to stay in the city centre. This concerns 251, closely followed by Eindhoven with 227.

retail repurposing

Densify inner cities
The housing shortage in the 70 municipalities together is approximately 147,000. Repurposing shops could solve almost 7% of the housing demand without building outside the city limits. In this case, the possible densification of inner cities with high-rise buildings has not even been taken into account yet.

Now is the time for repurposing to prevent gaps in shopping streets. ''If we do nothing, vacancy in these inner cities will grow by 100,000 square meters,'' says retail expert Chris Lanting. ''The retail rents and the value of the real estate have been declining in many places for years, while the housing shortage is great and only increasing. It is now economically interesting to take action.''

Extensive cooperation
Large-scale conversion will only succeed if municipalities, property owners, retailers and financiers join forces. From municipalities this requires more freedom in zoning plans, from real estate owners the courage to invest, from financiers to think in terms of opportunities instead of risks, and from retailers the willingness to move to main shopping streets. It is important that municipalities take the lead in this.

''A good example is Hengelo. In this municipality, the city centre is being restructured on the basis of a future-focused plan. It is a measure that suits this time when there is less need for retail space. Collaboration is now being sought in Sittard, Heerlen and Schiedam, among others,'' Chris Lanting adds.

Such cooperation is in everyone's interest. A vibrant centre is good for the retailer. A healthy retail market is good for the property owner and the financier. And the municipality wants a vibrant city centre for its residents.

Repurposing retail into housing

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Related Experts

Chris Lanting

Director Agency


 2008-2016: Dynamis Strijbosch Thunnissen Makelaars Region Arnhem/Nijmegen:

Created the retail leasing department and extended this profitable business unit to a market leader in the region.

2016-Now: Colliers International:

Director Retail. Responsible for Retail Agency / specialized in shopping centres and cooperation with other serviceslines within Colliers which are active in Retail (Asset Services, Retail Marketing, Design&Development, Research, Valuations, Food&Beverage and Capital Markets. Strongly focussed on data driven service en solutions as well as an integrated marketapproach. 

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Vincent Ollefers

Director Development


Vincent has been working in corporate real estate for 22 years. From the start of his career up and until 2002 he worked for DTZ Zadelhoff, first as an agent and later as associate director. From 2002 until 2009 he was board member of LSI project Investment NV, an independant developer, specialed in the (re)development of offices and residential buildings. â€‹From 2009 until 2011 Vincent started his own development company Impact Vastgoed. In 2012 and 2013 he was a board member of the new startup 1 Nomij, which was listed at Euronext. He joined AOS in 2014 in the Real Estate Services team with a focus on tenant rep and (re)development. In October 2014 AOS Group merged with Colliers. From 2018 he is responsible for all developments as Director Development 

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Martijn Pustjens

Research Consultant


I started as a research consultant at Colliers in 2019. The research team is focused on the internal support of the various business lines in order to let them function as well as possible. In addition, we focus on external publications. With the pulbications we try to increase our brand awareness in the Netherlands and to be the expert on the future of real estate. 

Before Colliers I worked at The Class of 2020, the leading thinktank on student living in Europe, where I headed the research department.  Before that, I worked as a researcher at Savills, and before that at the real estate department of the Radboud University as a policy advisor.

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