Klantgestuurd voorraadbeleid en empowerment: Over Te Woon en andere initiatieven van woningcorporaties
Central to this dissertation are client driven housing management from housing associations in The Netherlands and the empowerment effects this management has on its tenants. The central issue includes what client driven housing management is (definition), in which ways this can be devised, what the envisioned effects are and which effects this management successfully accomplishes. These are answered by means of seven sub questions. The focal point of this research shifts from an exploration of all the initiatives that can be found in client driven housing management, to the empowerment effect for its tenants of ‘Te Woon’ as one of these initiatives. In this summary the answers to the seven sub questions are briefly given.
What is client driven housing management (1) is answered by means of a literature study. In this dissertation client driven housing management is defined as “the management which actively involves the tenants in policy formulation and policy implementation concerning the housing quality, price and/or property rights of dwellings”. This definition includes initiatives ranging from kitchen improvement programmes offering a choice of designs, to programme formulation to improve neighbourhood quality. ‘Te Woon’ (also known as ‘the clients’ choice programme’) is included in this definition since it gives the tenants the opportunity to own a home and have control over the home. This has effect on the composition and quality of the (social) housing stock.
Contrary to normal sales programmes, Te Woon offers the tenants to purchase a dwelling with a discount and offers them a shared risk (by splitting profit or loss at the moment of re-sale between housing association and owner).
Moreover, the housing association is obliged to re-buy the home at the moment the tenant offers it. In this way the dwelling always re-enters the housing associations’ portfolio and doesn’t get lost from the social housing stock.
How can client driven housing management initiatives be ordered and valuated (2) is answered by using different approaches to management and tenant influence devised from literature. Housing associations in the Netherlands are limited in their actions and operations by law (amongst others the BBSH). The law prescribes certain main tasks to housing associations and several policy domains have been used to determine the policy subjects that can be addressed.
The influence the tenants can have on these subjects can be valuated by using the ladder of citizen participation. The ladder illustrates the grade to which the tenant has actually a say in matters and thus shares control with the housing association. In the most extreme case the tenant gets the full control over the dwelling by obtaining the property rights. Limitations are to be found in the legal system which prescribes the basic division of property rights between owners and users and in the laws concerning the rental housing market.
Based on a theoretical exploration of the opportunities for the transfer of control from the housing association to the tenants by comparing the grades of citizen control with the policy domains, one domain proves to be promising. The policy domain of ‘dwelling purchase and sale’ offers the most opportunities to transfer control since in the extreme case the tenant could own its own dwelling, the tenant gets full property rights and thus transcends the ladder of citizen participation. The policy domain purchase and sale of dwellings thus offers the most opportunities to provide tenants with freedom, autonomy and personal development (empowerment).
Which initiatives in client driven housing management can be found in the Dutch housing associations’ practice (3) is answered based on a survey amongst associations. The housing associations that participated reckoned every initiative that gave the tenant more than a single option to client driven housing management. The analysis of the initiatives mentioned by the housing associations showed that a few types of client driven housing management were numerous. Moreover, the analysis showed that the initiatives are rather limited to the housing policy domains concerning housing maintenance and improvement and purchase and sale of dwellings.
The opportunities offered to the tenants have been analysed using participation grades. The initiatives aim to offer tenants individual choice, focused on the interior of the dwelling (kitchens etc.) and offer mostly a choice between options: delegated (and limited) choices. Within the domain of purchase and sale of dwellings (including especially Te Woon) individual choice to own is stimulated and provides with different initiatives sharing risk and offering reductions on sales prices. The initiatives aiming on the option to buy offer the best perspective on personal development by offering the opportunity of transferring full control to the tenant. All the other initiatives that were found transfer less control and offer a limited choice and limited control to the tenants.
Which effects are envisioned as a result of client driven housing management (4) is answered through a literature review. The literature revealed a broad spectrum of effects ranging from housing quality and market effects to tenant empowerment and cultivating citizenship. Tenant empowerment in all her different forms is the core of this dissertation.
Empowerment can be interpreted in notions of power. Power can point at authority, energy and capacity. Authority empowerment describes the rights and duties and lines up with the property rights. It describes what you are allowed to do with a dwelling. Energy empowerment describes the motivation to act, the willingness. Energy empowerment can be devised in meaningfulness (caring), choice (freedom of choice and availability of choice options), impact (the expected cause-effect relation, knowledge of results) and competence (feeling and being capable to act). Capacity empowerment describes the ability to act and can be measured in scales for control (influence on own life and circumstances), self image (self esteem) and security (feeling safe at home). Economical empowerment can be mentioned as a fourth form of empowerment. It is defined as the opportunity to profit. For example this can be by offering a reduction on the price thereby making the home affordable and providing the opportunity to save by means of the mortgage and to profit by means of selling at a higher price.
The different forms of empowerment are interrelated. Within energy empowerment, capacity empowerment aspects are enclosed. Without the authority or the right to act, the opportunity to profit can be denied. But willing and feeling able to act and having the right to do so, are related as well: when someone thinks (s)he isn’t able to do something, this (negatively) influences the will to act.
The choice option to own a dwelling is, theoretically speaking, again the most promising initiative within client driven housing management since it possibly touches upon the willingness, the abilities, the rights (to be allowed) and the possibility of profiting.
What are the effects that housing associations aim for with Te Woon (5) is answered by means of interviewing housing associations’ staff. The motivation for the Te Woon initiative can be traced back to the ideals of the paternalistic housing associations: to educate people in housing. Nowadays this paternalistic view on housing of the housing associations shares importance with a (internal) financial motive. Housing associations (since they have been privatised) are in need of cash flow to keep their maintenance and redevelopment tasks going. The housing associations expect as an effect of Te Woon both financial revenues and tenant empowerment at the same time.
The option to buy gives tenants the opportunity to control their dwelling and gain (some) control over their living environment. It should thereby lead to an improvement in the living quality in the neighbourhood and improve the independence of the tenants. However, the need to sell dwellings to generate cash flow for reinvestment, conflicts with the freedom of choice of the tenants. Housing associations are tempted to improve the amount of sold homes by putting pressure upon tenants to buy.
Besides, the housing associations’ staff expects different short and long term effects from Te Woon. Tenant empowerment can be found in different forms as an envisioned effect (ranging from improving independence to improving participation and engagement and from personal development to improving their financial position). Other envisioned effects include a positive effect on the living quality in the neighbourhood, alongside with housing quality differentiation (both in homes as in tenants). Long term effects that are mentioned include an improvement in the general functioning of the housing market.
What are the empowerment effects that tenants expect from Te Woon (6) is answered by means of explorative in depth interviews with tenants. Although tenants do expect effects of Te Woon, they do express hesitations and reservations in their expectations.
Tenants do believe that owner occupiers take better care of their home and that sales will improve the living quality in the neighbourhood. However, they do not expect a swift change. In addition, they ask for a more active attitude from the housing association in the approach of problems in the living and neighbourhood quality and ask the association to speak up (in their name) towards the municipality.
From the interviews it becomes clear that the tenants experience only little effect on energy empowerment aspects. The experiences of impact and choice are limited by the experience of competence and lack of meaningfulness of the option to buy. As the tenants state “this (rental) house is my own home allready” and thus buying the property doesn’t add that much. Unless there can be a financial benefit from owning by reducing the regular (monthly) costs. Only the tenants who actually became homeowners and the tenants who are considering the option to buy in the future, possibly experienced energy empowerment. The owner occupiers indeed experienced both authority and economical empowerment.
What are the actual experienced empowerment effects of Te Woon (7) is evaluated based on a telephone survey among tenants. The effects of sale and the influence of the choice option within Te Woon are approached by means of energy and capacity empowerment.
Making use of the capacity empowerment scales for control, self image and security, the experiences of tenants have been evaluated. The results illustrate that owner occupiers already experienced more capacity empowerment than the rental tenants. Owner occupiers experience higher levels of control and this is related to the higher education and incomes they already had. The rental tenants derive more security from the home and even more when they experience less control. The actual tenancy (owner occupied or rental) and the authority empowerment (property rights position) seem to be inversely related to capacity empowerment. The rental home is a safe haven for the tenants while owner occupiers the experience more freedom to act with their home (as a result of the property rights they have gained). The owner occupiers who decided to buy for the reduced price seem to have experienced empowerment in all the forms. This groups’ characteristics are similar to the rental tenants when it comes to income, education and general trust. The fact that they decided to buy (with a reduction) and feel like normal home owners, points at an empowerment effect in all four forms.
All the home owners experience authority empowerment and all owner occupiers are likely to benefit financially (economical empowerment). The empowerment effect among rental tenants, however limited, could be present. Small indicators point at an empowerment effect through competence (energy empowerment) by means of improving their knowledge about tenancies and the financial schemes involved in owning a home. This indication is mostly found among tenants who consider buying in the future.
Among the owner occupiers indicators for a disempowerment effect have been discovered as well. Their self image is relatively less positive compared to the rental tenants. This might be explained by a shift of reference group: from rental tenants to owner occupiers.
It can be concluded that Te Woon enables the empowered to buy their rental dwelling rather than that Te Woon empowers its tenants. Income and experience of control along with meaningfulness and the expected impact, seem to be predictors for the choice to buy. Rather than that these are influenced by Te Woon.
Considering client driven housing management it can be concluded that the most promising initiative, Te Woon, offers the tenants the option to actively be a part of housing policy. The transfer of (property) rights and duties from the housing association to the tenant offers the opportunity to be in control over the dwelling. The provisions in the contracts, such as reduced price and shared risks, cater for more differentiated homes in the housing stock. The owner occupiers profit both directly considering authority and economical empowerment. However, the contribution of Te Woon to energy and capacity empowerment remains diffuse. As a result, it is safe to conclude that the expectations are overexaggerated. The effects of Te Woon on, for example, the living quality in neighbourhoods are not tangible yet. Moreover, the tenants themselves have less high expectations.
In relation to other initiatives in client driven housing management, some tentative conclusions can be drawn. Offering individual choices have proven to be limited to choices from a limited set of options. As a result and within the boundaries of regulations, there is no transfer of rights and duties and thus cannot be spoken of authority empowerment. At most there is a delegated (limited) choice that can be made by the tenants. The development of initiatives delegating control could be further explored. Just as experiments with collective control. The question remains what the goals of initiatives like these should be and whether these are realistic expectations of the initiatives.