Overall construction activity

After four years of strong growth, the output of the Dutch economy has reached a level close to its peak.

After four years of a forceful expansion (2015-2018) with an average growth rate of 6.5% per annum, output in construction increased by 4% in 2019.  

Importantly, on 29 May 2019, the Council of State, the highest administrative law court in the Netherlands, issued a ruling with far-reaching consequences for the construction sector. The existing procedure to issue permits for nitrogen emitting activities (NEA) (including construction projects) in the vicinity of vulnerable nature areas has been declared unlawful. As a result, a large share of permit applications has not been processed for four months. The impact on construction was large, as there are many such areas spread over the country and the population density and land use is very intensive.


From the beginning of 2018 until March 2019, prices of existing dwellings increased very strongly while the number of transactions declined substantially. This indicated a growing discrepancy between supply and demand. Although the price increase has slowed down and the number of transactions has been slightly higher since then, the discrepancy between supply and demand remains strong. 

The inadequate volumes of residential construction have triggered political action. In May 2018, the government and representatives of organisations of developers, investors, housing corporations, construction firms, homeowners and tenants signed the National Housing Agenda 2018-2021, committing themselves to increasing their efforts to reduce the housing shortages. The aim is to complete 75,000 dwellings yearly.

The lack of capacity faced by developers, local governments and construction companies, and high construction costs resulted in a significant decrease in the number of issued building permits in 2019. This was already the case before the NEA ruling. As a result of the ruling, a large share of applications for building permits was not processed for four months and the evaluation of many permit applications will take much longer under the new rules than before.

The growth of the renovation and maintenance (R&M) market was relatively modest in 2019 (1.5%).

GDP 2019




Total investment in construction in 2019


Non-residential construction

The non-residential construction market saw strong growth in 2019. New construction of non-residential buildings has increased by over 13% in the last year.

Civil engineering

The civil engineering sector performed below expectations in 2019, with a growth rate of 2.5%. This has two main causes: First, there were delays in the execution of an investment impetus worth €2 billion for the period 2018-2020. Second, growth was also affected by the NEA ruling and the government’s directive regarding the amount of permitted perfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS) in the soil which suddenly stopped many projects and investment programmes.

Per cent variation of investment in real terms on previous year
investment Mln. € fixed prices
  Sectors 2019a 2016 2017 2018 2019a 2020b
1. Building 56,400 10.8 6.1 8.2 4.4 NA
    1.1. Housebuilding 30,775 17.0 8.4 8.3 2.2 NA
       1.1.1. New 14,375 15.4 12.0 10.9 2.9 NA
       1.1.2. R&M 16,400 18.2 5.5 6.1 1.5 NA
    1.2. Non residential (c) 25,625 4.3 3.4 8.1 7.2 NA
       1.2.1. Private NA NA NA NA NA NA
       1.2.2. Public NA NA NA NA NA NA
2. Civil Engineering 16,825 2.7 -6.0 1.7 2.6 NA
(1 + 2) Total Construction 73,225 8.5 2.9 6.6 4.0 NA
a: estimate - b: forecast - c: incl. R&M
Number of building permits in residential construction
  2016 2017 2018 2019a 2020b
single dwelling NA NA NA NA NA
collective dwelling NA NA NA NA NA
other types of dwelling NA NA NA NA NA
Total 53,567 69,741 70,034 57,380 NA
(Collective dwellings and other types of buildings: in number of flats)