Intrigued by the presentation of the Province of Gelderland at the kick-off conference in Romania, we dig deeper into a Social Costs-Benefit Analysis (SCBA) published by Witteveen+Bos about country houses and estates.

The study was commissioned by three Dutch provinces shows that the social benefits of maintaining manors and estates exceed the costs considerably. Amongst the greatest benefits are residential enjoyment, recreation, tourism but also improved health and air quality or groundwater extraction.

The costs-benefits ratio for the three regions analyzed resulted in between 2.5 and 4.4. The study takes into account a period of 100 years for both benefits and costs. In other words, for every euro invested in heritage houses, the benefit is of 2.5 to 4.4 euro in the region. 

Even though private owners support most of the investment costs, they do not benefit for all the profit. Most of the profit and the created valued is generated for the areas in which they are located. 

How can local and regional authorities best support private owners?

Local and regional authorities should support owners in order to stimulate them to keep investing in their properties and generate benefits for the regions. However, the support should also increase the autonomy of the owner. 

Some advice from the study were extracted on the role authorities can take in supporting private owners: 

  • Subsidies can be a good form a support. However, the best way to subsidize projects and encourage autonomy of the owners is not to subsidize conservation, but investment (for example supporting the owner in renovating a part of the house in order to transform it into an accommodation facility). 
  • Low interest loans can also provide support while encouraging the autonomy of owners. They also encourage continuity in the partnership and work as a rotating fund for authorities (lower investment on the long term). 
  • Tailor-made regulations – supporting owners through the regulatory maze can yield benefits for both sides. It can help owners avoid certain costs, while authorities could just redirect time spent on the permits evaluation towards more coaching and support.

The study “Economic significance of historic manors and estates in the provinces of Utrecht, Overijssel and Gelderland” was commissioned by the provinces of Utrecht, Overijssel and Gelderland and was published by Witteveen+Bos in july 2012. The whole study can be read here.