The Dutch city of Nijmegen has launched affordable, architect-designed, state of the art, sustainable housing for mid-income buyers available to order through a catalogue.
Flicking through the catalogue there are 29 designs to choose from, created together with several architectural firms, offering catchy names such as ‘Hooi een Huis’, ‘Our House in the Middle of Our Street’, ‘Lent(e)Weelde’ and ‘Droom. Bouw. Woon’. All different in style, layout and proportion, the buildings are typically suitable for small families, with two or three bedrooms and available in detached, semi-detached or terraced form. They also offer the ability to customise your new home even further through the choice of different finishes helping create a design unique to you without the bespoke price tag.
The scheme is called IbbN, short for ‘IkbouwbetaalbaarNijmegen,’ which translates as ‘I build affordable Nijmegen.’ To apply, potential homeowners need an annual income of between €30,000 and €47,000 to be eligible for the IbbN loan. So far 30 plots have been set aside in the Vossenpels district for the scheme. Each building has a flat-pack design to keep costs within the restricted budget, and they will also be rapidly assembled on site once ready. Beyond giving low-income families and individuals better-quality housing, it also gives local architects work.
Another city in the Netherlands, Almere launched a similar project in 2006 which was considered a success with the construction of almost 400 homes to date where individuals were given the freedom to do as they wished with plots of land. The city has developed a reputation as a world-leader in the practice, making housing affordable and giving the city a totally eclectic and unique look with few buildings looking the same.
The idea of promoting self-build this way isn’t too different from the Argentinian concept of Fideicomiso, where architects often work on buildings in tandem with the people who will eventually live or work in them. As large groups pool their money together, it helps with raising finance too.
And the idea of choosing a house from a catalogue, in this instance making the self-build process accessible and fun, has been done before; in the US in the 1930s and 40s you could buy housing plans from the department store, Sears via their retail catalogue. All across the country there are craftsman style two-storeys that are Sears homes. Some of them are classics today.
The Dutch schemes have attracted attention both at home and from abroad, with organisations watching closely to see how these programmes fare. In the UK, The Royal Institute of British Architects is hosting a talk today, April 23, to discuss whether the program could offer a solution to some of Britain’s housing shortage problems.