Are corporations equal to the task of property development? No, concludes PhD student Reinier van der Kuij in his thesis. Housing corporations need to start by formulating their goals clearly before they commence with construction, renovation or redevelopment.

How is it possible that a corporation can be satisfied with the construction of hundreds of apartments, while there is primarily a demand for single-family housing? Van der Kuij's astonishment at the inefficiency of the complex and multifaceted housing corporation sector was what stimulated him to begin this research. 'The aim of corporations is to help people who are unable to afford their own home,' explains Van der Kuij (Housing research group). 'This does not mean building new homes by definition.' They could also help by organising a mortgage or transforming buildings to meet the needs of different users. Unfortunately, this happens only rarely, he remarks in his thesis on 'Housing Corporations and Property Development: Fit for Use?’ One cause of this is a lack of well formulated long-term goals. Corporations currently prefer to formulate a single product: housing construction.

His thesis paints a picture of housing corporations who go to work like headless chickens. The result? 'Not a single one of our projects has succeeded in satisfying all the stakeholders.' This remark made by one of the interviewees summarises it nicely. The organisations studied in the research all make a basic investor's mistake: investments are made without first making the goal clear. And things often go amiss in decision-making too. The roles and relationship of the commissioning party and the contractor are not transparent, nor the manner in which decisions are made.

Much has improved since the start of the financial crisis. The transition from a seller's to a buyer's market means that ill-conceived housing development projects are severely punished by the market. The buyers have plenty of choice and simply refuse houses that do not meet their requirements. The recently introduced landlord levy has provided an extra impetus to corporations to resolve the chronic inefficiencies in their operations. High time, believes Van der Kuij, for if they do not do something then they are doomed.

He does not in any way dispute the necessity of social housing corporations. If only because the people who occupy the 2.3 million homes owned by these corporations deserve a future. So he developed an analysis method to identify the bottlenecks. This method offers instruments for organising the corporations more effectively, clarifying the responsibilities and resolving the bottlenecks. His method was successful in a number of case studies. Van der Kuij: 'And helping the sector was my goal. Social housing corporations are sleeping giants; it's time for them to wake up.'

Published: January 2014

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