Dutch Lawmaker May Block Coalition Agreement on Housing Bill

A housing bill that’s one of the pillars of the Dutch government’s austerity package may not get a majority in the Senate after a lawmaker from one of the ruling coalition parties indicated he may vote against it.

“This is an incredibly important subject, with a housing market that has come to a standstill,” Adri Duivesteijn from the Labor Party told reporters in The Hague late yesterday. The bill was approved in the lower house earlier this year. “I will put forward my concerns whenever that is necessary,” he said.

Liberal Prime Minister Mark Rutte’s coalition with Labour only has a majority in the Senate to back the bill because of support from three opposition parties. A Duivesteijn vote against would cancel out that one-seat advantage. A plan to trim tax deductions for pension contributions also ran into obstacles in October after the Senate demanded amendments to the bill.

The coalition and three opposition parties are close to a deal on pension reforms, NRC Handelsblad newspaper reported today. The parties reached agreement on the main points of austerity measures worth almost 3 billion euros ($4.1 billion), with the details still to be worked out. Two of the opposition parties want to discuss the plans with those senators who have to deal with the housing market bill today, it said.

The housing bill would give homeowners more time to pay down their mortgages, while annual rent increases for people earning more than 43,000 euros ($59,000) a year would be capped at 4 percent. Housing corporations would have to pay a levy reaching 1.7 billion euros a year in 2017.

The Dutch government reached an agreement in October with opposition parties for a 6 billion-euro austerity package for 2014, including spending cuts and tax increases. That’s on top of a four-year, 16 billion-euro package approved late last year.

The Netherlands returned to growth in the third quarter, having suffered three economic slumps since the global financial crisis started in 2008.

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