Discovering Amsterdam’s Green Scene, with the NHC and GEM programme

The GEM and Talent in Huis team

At the start of this month, I was lucky enough to be a part of the GEM Programme’s sustainability trip to Amsterdam.

The GEM Programme provides learning opportunities for people looking to develop their career in housing, alongside gaining a level 4 CIH qualification.

This trip was in collaboration with Talent in Huis, who are long standing partners of the GEM programme, and deliver a similar training programme for housing graduates in the Netherlands.


The GEM Sustainability Stream

The opportunity to visit Amsterdam came as part of the GEM’s new sustainability stream. This is a new part of the training programme, to develop GEMs working in sustainability and to inspire creative leadership to solve the net zero challenge.

Our first task was in August 2023. We met the Dutch trainees online and were put into working groups. Each group was paired up with a housing association, who gave us a sustainability related problem to solve. We worked together to create innovative solutions, which we presented back to the housing associations.

Yet, you can only learn so much from behind a laptop, and due to the Netherland’s famous commitment to active travel, social investment and sustainability, we were keen to get on our bikes and see for ourselves!


Off to Amsterdam!

We were warmly welcomed by the Talent in Huis team and trainees, and we quickly became friends.

One of the most important things I learned from this trip, was the value of cultural exchange. We discussed and compared standard practices in the housing sector in the UK and the Netherlands. This allowed us to examine our challenges with a fresh pair of eyes, and problem solve with more creative, innovative solutions (pinched from each other!).

This was particularly poignant when discussing the challenges of meeting the net zero challenge, to decarbonise housing by 2035.


Visit to Circular Buiksloterham

A miniature model of Buiksloterham

We visited the urban renewal project in Buiksloterham. Ewout Urbach explained that this area was initially deemed as ‘unusable land’ owing to its industrial past and lasting damage from the war.

Through their innovative circular planning approach, they have created a thriving local economy. They are developing a sustainable, low-carbon neighbourhood, that aims to maximise the use of existing materials and minimise waste. Their innovative online library that catalogues existing materials across the city was particularly impressive. Their ultimate goal is to create Amsterdam’s first circular urban development.

This remarkable and refreshing approach to urban development is something we hope to showcase in our member engagement programme. Keep your eye on our events page for more information!

Floating homes in Buiksloterham

Sustainable Communities at Kolenkitbuurt

We also visited Kolenkitbuurt which is a social housing estate in one of the poorest neighbourhoods in Amsterdam. Before it was renovated, Kolenkitbuurt had fallen into disrepair and the neighbourhood experienced high levels of unemployment, poverty and crime.

So far from home, it was striking to see the similar challenges that communities face. The hard work and commitment to community cohesion from local organisations echoed of the projects I have seen from our members in the North of England.

In Kolenkitbuurt, they have a uniquely high population of young people. It was recognised that in order to support this community, more opportunities for its young people must be delivered. A mentoring scheme that recruited local dads to support the young boys on the estate struck me as a valuable and inclusive community initiative.

This neighbourhood has recently been renovated, to ensure that social inclusion is at the core of its architecture. It had recently introduced a mixed tenure design, and the staff were working hard the ensure community cohesion overcame social segregation.

The walking tour of Kolenkitbuurt

It’s ‘bottom up’ strategy was cemented with its brand-new community centre, that provided a safe, supportive and creative space for tenants.


Final Stop: De Alliantie

Our last stop was spending a few hours at De Alliantie, a housing associations just outside of Amsterdam in Hilversum. They presented their progressive sustainability strategy, and gave us a tour of their new ground-source heat pump project. We identified common challenges, including tenant engagement and community buy-in.

I am very grateful to the NHC, the GEM programme and Talent in Huis for this brilliant experience. I’m looking forward to bringing what I’ve learned to our engagement programme, and introducing new ideas and speakers from the Netherlands to our membership.

For more information on the GEM programme, click here to see their 2025 prospectus.