Are you not yet sure what to vote for in the housing referendum held on 30 November? Haven’t got the foggiest what the referendum is all about? Or, for that matter, were you actually aware that a referendum will be held in Rotterdam? Fear not – EM presents five questions and answers with all the key information you need to vote.

1. What is the housing referendum actually about?

In a few words, it is about the demolition and loss of 20,000 cheap houses in Rotterdam, particularly in the Zuid neighbourhood. Last spring, opponents of the demolition plans collected over 13,000 signatures, which entitled them to an advisory referendum.

The municipal council then decided that this referendum would not only address the question as to whether social housing properties must be demolished, but its entire Housing Vision 2030 (which includes plans for the greening of houses, thus making them more sustainable and energy-efficient). The question voters will be asked to answer with “for”, “against” or a blank vote is: Are you for or against Rotterdam’s Housing Vision?

2. So what does this Housing Vision document actually say?

The main gist of the document is that cheap houses must be replaced with more expensive ones. The municipal authorities feel there is an overabundance of cheap houses and a shortage of houses for people on medium and high incomes. After all, Rotterdam has been trying for years to attract more high-earning and highly educated residents.

This approach is working, to some extent, but according to Ronald Schneider, the councillor for urban development (a representative of the Leefbaar Rotterdam party), it is not working fast enough. The solution: demolishing 15,000 cheaper homes, extensively renovating 10,000 houses (thus making them more expensive), and building 26,000 more expensive homes. To make up for the loss of affordable places, some 5,000 supposedly cheap houses will be constructed, as well, mainly for elderly people and students.

These measures are mainly intended to attract and retain social climbers and young potentials. For instance, the municipal authorities hope to improve disadvantaged neighbourhoods (they adhere to the belief that mixed neighbourhoods are better than neighbourhoods where nearly all homes are cheap) and to retain people living in these neighbourhoods once they start earning more (at the expense of people with lower incomes).

3. Does the document say anything about students?

The municipal authorities seek to create “homes for students, expats, small households and urban families” in the city centre. As far as students are concerned, these new homes will be created in existing homes, vacant properties and a few construction projects which are already being built. In addition, the “student quarter to the East of the city centre” (no one knows exactly what is meant by this) is expected to be given “more and more identity” by 2030, as outlined in the Housing Vision document, which also contains policy-makers’ phrases such as “creating a good mix of amenities as well as an attractive public space”.

4. How is this referendum relevant to students like myself?

On the face of it, it is irrelevant. Your bedsit is not about to be demolished next year. However, the group of “young potentials”, which is frequently brought up in the Housing Vision document, does to some extent consist of current students whom the municipal authorities seek to retain for the city of Rotterdam. The additional houses the authorities seek to realise for people on medium and high incomes are partly intended for students who wish to stay in Rotterdam after graduating.

On the other hand, students could be said to benefit from an abundance of cheap houses, since many of them will want to rent cheap homes in those first post-graduation years. In other words, students have reasons to vote both for and against the Housing Vision.

5. What will be done with the referendum result?

The result will not be valid unless 30 percent of enfranchised Rotterdammers show up to vote. If voter turn-out is lower, the Council will not have to heed the result. If voter turn-out exceeds 30 percent, the Council may not have to act on the result, either. After all, it is merely an advisory referendum.

Even so, most parties (including Leefbaar Rotterdam, the largest party, which supports the Housing Vision) have indicated they will act on the result. The definitive decision on the Housing Vision will be made on 15 December.