Rational planning and restructuring in the so-called Vogelaar districts (the forty worst neighbourhoods in the Netherlands to be improved by the plan of former Minister Ella Vogelaar) sounds like a logical strategy, but it doesn't work.

PhD student Arne van Overmeeren (Real Estate & Housing) concludes that the situation is too complex in practice. He urges a more flexible, tailored and deliberated approach.

In the research for his doctoral dissertation, Van Overmeeren examined the changes in the stock policy of housing corporations. Approximately twenty years ago, this was aimed exclusively at housing construction or renovation, but it gradually shifted towards broad, area-specific undertakings. Corporations had to update their methods for this; they had to cooperate with parties in the districts and modify their approach to include social and economic activities. Focusing on Vogelaar districts was logical, according to Van Overmeeren. "This is a clear case of area-specific stock policy."

Van Overmeeren conducted a literature survey and a pilot study in Schiedam (Woonplus). On the basis of these studies, he formulated five methods for describing the stock policy: rational planning, incremental planning, political planning, collaborative planning and social planning. He tested the formulated methods in a survey and in case studies at Com•wonen and De Alliantie.

He concluded that the stock policy was the result of a combination of planning approaches and planning elements. "Rational planning alone doesn't work. It's a good starting point, allowing you to make your position clear," says Van Overmeeren. "Nevertheless, experts cannot determine the future of a complex Vogelaar district on the drawing table. There are just too many interests."

In the Rotterdam case study (Com•wonen), the planning approach was influenced by squatters, while in the Amsterdam case study (De Alliantie), the individual approach per inhabitant led to protests. This resulted in the creation of a consultation model.

In the Nieuwland (Schiedam), Indische Buurt (Amsterdam) and Oude Noorden (Rotterdam) Vogelaar districts, he observed all five studied planning approaches being used. The 'rational' starting point – the stock management plan – was quickly gnawed away due to the inevitability of additional collaborative elements. Social organizations and others started to get involved in the discussion. Incremental elements (step-by-step modifications) proved to be inevitable. Politicians also demanded a role in this.

In short, corporations that want to achieve spectacular results will have to become skilled in multiple approaches, adapting them not only to their own organizations, but also to their environment.  Arne van Overmeeren will defend his PhD dissertation "Area-specific stock policy of housing corporations: An analysis of planning approaches in Vogelaar districts" on 21 February. 

Published: February 2014