GROUND FOR CONCERN, a residential property impact study concerning the external effects of soil contamination for the housing market in the Netherlands. According to the Netherlands Environmental Assessment Agency MNP, 30 to 40% of the Dutch population currently lives or works on or nearby seriously contaminated soil. Over fifty percent of the people become very concerned when they hear they are living on contaminated soil. Apparently, this concern relates not only to the potential effects on their health (and that of their children), but also on the value of their property. This response suggests a possible relationship between soil contamination and the housing market. Does a home located on contaminated soil retain its value and what is the impact on the saleability of such a home? These are questions that home owners ask themselves as soon as they hear that contaminated soil has been discovered in their neighbourhood. However, though home-owners see depreciation and non-saleability as one of the worst consequences of soil contamination, clean-up operations take no account of these factors. The financial as well as the health and environmental implications of soil contamination have been acknowledged since soil clean-up began in the Netherlands in 1980 with the Lekkerkerk Affair, but they have – as far as we know – never been scientifically researched. There are scarcely any theories available in the Netherlands that deal with polluted real estate, and no empirical analyses. What usually happens is that residents, real estate agents and appraisers assume that a home will depreciate in value as soon as contaminated soil is discovered and will not appreciate again until the problem has been solved, while the homes are unmarketable in the meantime. Ground for concern explores whether there is justification (or not) to support this vision of ‘contaminated real estate’ and ascertain the effects of soil contamination on the housing market in the Netherlands. The key question in this regard is ‘What are the implications of soil pollution and the public’s awareness of this for the operation and outcomes of the housing market in, for example, toxic neighbourhoods? This involves the discovery of pollution as well as the implications of the required soil assessment and any required soil remediation as well. Stigma is a key factor in this regard or, so to say, the psychological stain of soil pollution. Its causes and consequences on the housing market, the so-called stigma effects, have been analysed. In this research they are referred to as “the pressure on the value or the price differential for homes in a polluted state compared to identical or similar homes in a non-polluted state, insofar that it is not caused by recognisable and/or evident costs and risks arising from soil pollution”. The actions of the authorities responsible for the assessment and remediation, and media attention play an important role in the creation of these effects. The perception of citizens is extensively determined by government and media together. However, the actual occurrence of stigma effects also depends on regular market factors, such as household demands, housing supply and general price factors, including general income developments as well as price level and interest rate level developments in the capital market
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