Single-family houses are a common form of housing in Europe. Most were built in the context of the suburbanization after World War II and are now facing challenges arising from generational changes as well as increasing living and energy standards. According to the hypothesis of this paper, in several EU regions, single-family houses may face future challenges arising from oversupply and lack of adaptation to current demand. To examine this, the paper analyses the present situation and discusses the prognosis for the challenges described above regarding the three neighbouring north-western European countries Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands, based on available data and a review of country-specific characteristics of housing markets as well as national policies. Despite an impending mismatch between demand and supply, planning policies still support the emergence of new single-family houses. The comparison of Belgium, Germany, and the Netherlands shows the growing polarization between shrinking and growing regions and central and peripheral sites apparent at different stages in the three countries. While a high rate of vacancies is already registered for some regions in Germany, in the Netherlands this phenomenon can only be seen near the borders and in villages within the Randstad conurbation. In Belgium also, this phenomenon is not yet widespread, but in some suburban neighbourhoods dating from the 1950’s and 1960’s more and more single-family houses are becoming difficult to sell, indicating an emerging mismatch between supply and demand. This article proposes some instruments which enable municipalities to intervene in single family housing neighbourhoods which are largely dominated by private ownership. These instruments are not yet widely established in single-family housing neighbourhoods but that may become important in the future.
Keywords: Single-Family House, Oversupply, Demographic Change, Planning Policies.
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