In June, PvdA, GroenLinks and D66 presented their plans for the city. They elaborated on the policy of the previous four years. However, the tone was clearly more modest, partly because the financial leeway has decreased. “This is the starting point for difficult choices,” said Marjolein Moorman in The password.
Since then, the uncertainty has not diminished. The war in Ukraine also has consequences for Amsterdam, a recession threatens and the city council must scrape together the money if it is to achieve its ambitions.
After a month and a half summer break, a new political season starts on Monday. Rested after the holidays, the difficult choices must be made immediately. What big issues are on the agenda and which councilors will have the hardest work?
Many Amsterdammers face a cold winter thanks to extremely high energy prices. In some cases, more than half of the income will be spent on energy. The one-off energy supplement from the public sector, which has been slightly increased by the municipality, does not solve the problem.
The coalition agreement states that ‘the strongest shoulders must carry the heaviest burdens’. It is up to councilor Marjolein Moorman (Poverty) to fulfill this promise. The Food Bank has already indicated that the number of customers is increasing. What plans does Moorman have to absorb the worst blows? And how does she care financial support from The Hague, which is indispensable to support this group?
The coalition’s big promise is the so-called ‘insulation offensive’, which must structurally reduce tenants’ energy consumption in the most drafty homes. At national level, Minister Hugo de Jonge has already decided that after 2030 no more homes with the lowest energy label may be rented out.
The municipality has reserved 32 million euros so that the implementation is urgent. But it is still unclear for companies – which already have their own insulation plans – and other landlords, what the offensive is all about. How much money will be available? What will the requirements be and will quick, cheap solutions or circular materials be chosen?
People in the city center
The Red Light District was busy this summer as usual. Small measures (extensive alcohol bans, reduction of tourist offers and crowd management) still offer little consolation. A coffee bar ban for tourists is to be debated in September, but the city council does not seem to support Mayor Femke Halsema. The coalition certainly supports the plan for an erotic centre, but it should become clear in the autumn where exactly it will be. Is this council making a historic decision by moving prostitution from the old center to another part of the city?
The crisis in the shelter is huge: it is difficult for the financially homeless, ex-offenders, Amsterdammers with a social-medical emergency, status holders and refugees to find a place. The shelter is often full, and it is impossible to move on to regular accommodation due to the housing shortage. The city council must come up with smart and innovative ideas to ensure that large groups of people do not become structurally homeless. The following also applies here: Cooperation with the government is of great importance.
The winter shelter will soon become a topic of discussion again. It traditionally opens when freezing is reached, although each year the council votes to do this earlier. Why do homeless people have to sleep outside when it’s 1, 2 or 5 degrees? It is up to Rutger Groot Wassink (Reception) to anticipate this in the coming month.
Life is quickly becoming more expensive. Compared to last year, daily groceries are around 11 percent more expensive. And even if employers are eager for staff, this does not automatically mean that wages will rise enough to maintain purchasing power.
Certainly in Amsterdam – with many flexible workers in the service sector and a lot of catering – it is immediately felt when people keep their hands on the cutting edge. In addition, more bankruptcies are expected this autumn, now that the companies have to pay back the tax debt and the loans they got during the corona crisis.
A ‘substantial package’ has been announced from The Hague to support purchasing power, but it is also clear that the municipalities are also being looked at for adaptation. In particular, Rutger Groot Wassink (Social Affairs) and Marjolein Moorman (Poverty) can come to work. This also includes looking at lower income earners who earn just too much to qualify for poverty assistance and the middle class.
It was one of the hottest topics in the previous period: the wind turbines that will supply Amsterdam with green energy. This created great opposition from local residents. It is up to Zita Pels (Sustainability) to break out of this impasse. She was clear at the start of her appointment: The wind turbines must be built, whether people want it or not. About ten units are planned near residential areas, and there is room for seven turbines in the Westelijk Havengebied. Salient detail: Due to the extra time allocated for public participation, it will not be possible to arrange all permits before 2025, which was originally the target.
Nevertheless, the city council has made the climate target for 2030 even stricter: From 55 to 60 percent less CO2emissions. Remarkably, because last year it was clear that the city is far from achieving its climate ambitions. For example, it is hopelessly stuck on the overcrowded power grid, which is essential to accelerating the energy transition.
Councilor for housing, Reinier van Dantzig, said before the summer holidays: the construction ambitions of 7,500 homes per year will most often be reached. At the same time, the city is being built on all sides. It is up to Van Dantzig to look for smart ways to speed up housing construction on the one hand – with staff shortages and rising construction costs – and on the other hand to meet the requirements for, for example, the percentage of social rent. More high-rise buildings around public transport stations, building on the water and more flexible housing will be considered, but it is not an easy thing to do. The Dutch Environmental Assessment Agency concluded this summer that it is difficult to find investors for the construction of these temporary homes.
At the end of September, Hester van Buren (Finance) presents her first budget. For many plans included in the coalition agreement, for example the master plans in Zuidoost and Nieuw-West, this represents the first concrete elaboration. But with the city’s precarious economic situation, it faces major challenges. For example, it is already clear that cuts will have to be made, partly because, for example, ongoing construction projects will turn out to be more expensive. Like her predecessors, will she come up with a budget trick that frees up more money?
Also on the program
– That public transport was pressed for the summer, but looks set to remain at the same capacity next year as this year. A success for Melanie van der Horst (Traffic), who must immediately focus on the years to come. Good public transport is badly needed, especially if this board is to continue with its car-free ambitions.
– That teacher shortage remains urgent. There are no new plans in the new coalition agreement, so the question is what steps the council will take here. Another important pillar is reduce quality differences between schools. Marjolein Moorman will soon present plans for this.
– Amsterdam will have to find hundreds of millions of euros in the coming years to restore the badly neglected area quays and bridges to handle. The city council should soon come up with a plan to release money.
– That waste collection has been a concern of society for years. Dynamic retrieval (emptying full containers only) should save costs. But attempts created frustration among garbage collectors and more garbage next to containers. Councilor Zita Pels will come up with new plans this autumn.
– A new one mooring in Sloterplas was a hot topic in the previous period. The theater was supposed to be completed in 2025, when Amsterdam turns 750 years old, but internal emails from the municipality show that it cannot be done. The opposition is great and the budget is not yet sufficient. What was supposed to be a gift to Nieuw-West is becoming an increasingly complex file.
– About one bridge over the IJ has been talked about for decades. Only the money is missing, as with other large infrastructure projects such as Zuidasdok and possibly extend North/South line. Amsterdam hopes that the government will pull out the purse strings, but in The Hague it is quiet for the time being.
– There will be a new one in the autumn catering and terrace policy. The extensive corona terraces must disappear on 31 October. Contractors of terraces that have not been a nuisance can apply for a permanent permit. How it will be assessed will then become clear.