Background

Amsterdam and the conurbation are suffering a housing shortage (as is common in many larger cities). The municipality therefore seeks to limit new developments of short stay accommodations in most parts of the city. A “short stay” is defined by the Amsterdam municipality as at least four days and at most six months continuously. Under the Housing Act, switching from regular residential use to a short stay generally requires a permit for conversion and one for deviation from the zoning plan.

Facts

In 2009, the Amsterdam municipality adopted a restrictive short stay policy that included quotas on how many conversion permits (from regular housing to short stay) could be issued (the Policy). Based on the Policy, the municipality declined to issue a permit to deviate from the zoning plan to create short stay accommodations at the Prinsengracht in Amsterdam. However, the Policy’s quota had not yet been reached at the time of the permit application filing. Thus, the municipality based its decision on a balancing of interests involved and not on the Policy.

Judgement

On 27 June 2018, the Administrative Law Division of the Council of State (the Netherlands’ highest administrative court) ruled that the municipality had no grounds to deny the permit, noting that the Policy must be interpreted strictly and does not leave room for further balancing of interests. If the quotas have not yet been reached, it held, the interests of the permit applicant should outweigh the interests of the preservation and composition of housing stock.

Conclusion

Under Dutch law, an administrative body must comply with its own policy, including those relating to short stay accommodations. Thus, the body’s policy may provide the opposing side with strong arguments in court in the case of a denial of a permit or an enforcement action.