Second Homes as an Opportunity in Demographically Declining Regions? An Analysis of the Match between the Demand for Second Homes and the Supply of Vacant Dwellings in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen

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Second homes. Traditionally locals and policy-makers rather considered them as a threat than as an opportunity. Second homes are often assumed to displace local housing searchers and to threaten the liveability in towns (e.g. Coppock, 1977a; Gallent, Mace & Tewdwr-Jones, 2005; Marjavaara, 2008). In demographically declining regions as Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, this perspective on second homes is changing however. Regions of which the number of households is declining are increasingly dealing with housing vacancy and therefore it is argued it is "always better to have houses only occupied during a couple of weeks a year than not occupied at all" (PZC, 2011, own translation). Recently, this has for instance led to discussions about possibly revising the second home policy of the municipality of Sluis in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen, where second homes are traditionally prohibited inside towns (Municipality of Sluis, 2011b). Jan Latten (2010), professor at the University of Amsterdam, has even presented second homes as an important opportunity for shrinking regions. Latten argues there is a growing need for "part-time dwelling" (18, own translation), in which people for instance combine a work week from Monday till Thursday in the Randstad1 with life at the countryside in the weekends. Shrinking regions in particular can meet this demand because of their relatively low housing prices, space and tranquillity, claims Latten. Opposed to the ideas of Jan Latten is the view of the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency (Verwest, Van Dam & Daalhuizen, 2010) and the Recreation Expertise Centre (Van de Laar, 2010). They claim the opportunities for second homes in shrinking regions are limited. First, because the future demand for second homes is highly uncertain and second, because they claim there is a mismatch between what (potential) second home owners demand and what shrinking regions have to offer. In this study it has been tested to what extent such a mismatch exists in Zeeuws-Vlaanderen.
Faculteit der Managementwetenschappen