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Social housing in Denmark

Authors:
  • Planetary Guardians
Roskilde University, Denmark
RESEARCH PAPERS
from the Department of Social Sciences
Institut for Samfundsvidenskab og Erhvervsøkonomi
Research Paper no. 6/00
Social housing in Denmark
Lars A. Engberg
Roskilde University, Denmark
Research Paper no. 6/00
Social housing in Denmark
Lars A. Engberg
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Research Papers from the Department of Social Sciences, Roskilde
University, Denmark.
Working paper series
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ISSN 1399-1396
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Abstract
The working paper is a presentation and discussion of the general institutional
framework of the Danish social housing sector, illustrated by two case studies of
social housing in Elsinore and Odense. First, a brief introduction to the Danish
housing market is provided, and the general structure of the social housing
sector is outlined, touching upon a number of key policy-initiatives. Second, the
two case studies in Elsinore and Odense are presented and analysed with respect
to issues of efficiency, residents’ participation, social cohesion and governance.
In both studies, the analysis moves from the level of housing estates and housing
associations to the municipal level. Finally, the key observations are synthesised
and related to a discussion of social housing reform in the 90s.
Keywords: Social housing, Danish housing market, tenants’
democracy
Address for correspondence: SBI, Postboks 119, 2970 Hørsholm.
E-mail: lae@sbi.dk
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Social housing in Denmark
By Lars A. Engberg, Roskilde University, Denmark
TABLE OF CONTENTS
Part 1. The Danish housing market ................................................................................................................. 7
Composition of the Danish housing stock......................................................................................... 7
Housing subsidies .....................................................................................................................................8
Direct subsidies .........................................................................................................................................8
Indirect subsidies ......................................................................................................................................9
Maintenance and standard of housing stock .......................................................................................9
Private rental housing.............................................................................................................................10
Co-operative housing .............................................................................................................................10
Part 2. Social housing in Denmark .................................................................................................................11
General conditions .......................................................................................................................................11
The democratic and administrative structure of the social housing sector .................................12
Allocation of social housing..................................................................................................................13
Municipal allocation of social housing apartments: The 25%-rule...............................................13
Finance reform ........................................................................................................................................14
Tenants’ boards of appeal .....................................................................................................................15
The Urban Committee ................................................................................................................................16
Part 3: Social housing in Elsinore and Odense ............................................................................................17
Social housing in Elsinore...........................................................................................................................17
Elsinore housing association ................................................................................................................17
Efficiency .......................................................................................................................................................18
Staff-tenant ratios....................................................................................................................................18
Rent-levels ................................................................................................................................................19
Figure: Rent-levels at Vapnagård and Sundparken ..........................................................................19
Vapnagård ......................................................................................................................................................20
Efficiency..................................................................................................................................................20
Residents’ participation..........................................................................................................................21
The budget approval procedure...........................................................................................................21
Legitimacy.................................................................................................................................................22
Right of disposition (‘Råderet’) ............................................................................................................22
Social cohesion ........................................................................................................................................23
Sundparken ....................................................................................................................................................23
Efficiency..................................................................................................................................................23
Residents’ participation..........................................................................................................................24
Social cohesion ........................................................................................................................................24
Present and future performance of Elsinore housing association......................................................25
HB as facilitator of the local democratic processes .........................................................................25
Administrative reform............................................................................................................................26
The situation of ethnic minorities is an issue ....................................................................................26
Social segregation ....................................................................................................................................26
Changes in the allocation system.........................................................................................................27
Policy: To ‘balance’ the composition of tenants...............................................................................27
Governance....................................................................................................................................................27
A new housing allocation agreement ..................................................................................................28
“Lifestyle communities” ........................................................................................................................29
Accountability..........................................................................................................................................29
Rents or taxes?.........................................................................................................................................30
Privatisation..............................................................................................................................................30
Social housing in Odense ............................................................................................................................31
Højstrup..........................................................................................................................................................31
Vollsmose.......................................................................................................................................................31
Granparken ....................................................................................................................................................32
Efficiency..................................................................................................................................................32
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Residents’ participation..........................................................................................................................32
Social cohesion ........................................................................................................................................33
Egeparken ......................................................................................................................................................33
Efficiency..................................................................................................................................................33
Residents’ participation..........................................................................................................................34
Social cohesion ........................................................................................................................................34
Hybenhaven...................................................................................................................................................35
Efficiency..................................................................................................................................................35
Residents’ participation..........................................................................................................................35
Social cohesion ........................................................................................................................................36
Present performance of Højstrup Andelsboligforening .......................................................................36
Residents’ participation..........................................................................................................................36
Administrative changes in Højstrup....................................................................................................37
Social segregation ....................................................................................................................................37
Governance....................................................................................................................................................38
A new housing allocation policy in Odense municipality ...............................................................38
The Urban Committee process in Vollsmose...................................................................................40
Part 4: Modernisation of the Danish social housing sector in the 90s ....................................................41
Efficiency..................................................................................................................................................41
Equity ........................................................................................................................................................42
Present performance ..............................................................................................................................43
Social capital.............................................................................................................................................44
Social cohesion ........................................................................................................................................44
Ethnic segregation and the ‘ghetto’-debate .......................................................................................45
Governance: Dilemmas of decentralisation ......................................................................................46
The ‘ownership-gene' .............................................................................................................................48
References ...........................................................................................................................................................50
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1. Introduction
Part 1. The Danish housing market
Composition of the Danish housing stock
In 1998, there were 2.46 million dwellings in Denmark, and about half of all
dwellings were owner-occupied. 1.1 million dwellings or about 45 per cent of the
housing stock consisted of rented property, and 70 per cent of all rented dwellings
was multi-storey housing. In the last two decades the relative share of social housing
has risen compared with private rental housing, and in 1998 the number of
dwellings in the social housing sector exceeded that of privately rented dwellings.
The social housing sector accounts for about 20 per cent of the total housing stock,
and since 1980 the number of social housing dwellings has risen by 50 per cent.
Figure 1: Changes in type of ownership, 1980 - 1998.
Type of ownership
1,000 dwellings 1980 1985 1990 1995 1998
Private ownership: 1,099 1,181 1,217 1,224 1,260
Single family housing 780 826 853 866 899
Apartments 65 95 85 102 112
Rental property: 880 935 993 1,076 1,105
Private 466 443 432 454 457
Social housing 304 356 395 445 466
Co-operative housing 45 70 105 124 146
Public housing 65 66 61 53 35
Other 131 122 143 126 96
Total 2,109 2,228 2,353 2,427 2,461
Source: Bolig- og Byministeriet 1998: Bygge- og boligpolitisk oversigt 1997-1998, p. 83.
From 1980 to 1998 the number of households increased from 2.1 million to 2.5
million, an annual growth rate in the housing stock of 3.9 per cent. In the same
period, the overall population growth was 1 per cent, and the citizen-household
ratio thus decreased from 2.3 in 1980 to 2.1 citizens per dwelling in 1998. The
average size of housing units per citizen increased from 46 square metres in 1980 to
51 square metres in 1998 (Bolig- og Byministeriet 1998: 82).
About two thirds of the Danish population live in 1.2 million owner homes,
typically single-family houses. The majority of these were build during the 60s and
70s, at the height of the housing boom in the 70s almost 70 per cent of all dwellings
being built were owner homes. Because of high inflation the burden of interest
payments was reduced, and tax deductions for mortgage interest payments provided
a financial incentive to become a home owner and to borrow money to finance the
house, with credits going up to 80 per cent of property values.
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Figure 2: Type of housing and tenure.
1,000 households 1980 1985 1990 1995 1998
Farmhouses (‘stuehuse’) 165 161 156 150 140
Detached one-family houses 878 919 959 975 999
Other one-family houses 154 205 266 299 308
Multi-family buildings 891 899 922 948 959
Other 2144506455
Total 2,109 2,228 2,353 2,427 2,461
Person per household 2.33 2.24 2.14 2.11 2.1
Square metre per person 48 48 50 51 51
Source: Bolig- og Byministeriet 1988: Bygge- og boligpolitisk oversigt 1997-1998, p. 82.
Housing subsidies
The level of direct and indirect housing subsidies in Denmark is high in comparison
with other European countries. The subsidies take the forms of interest payment
subsidies (social housing and co-operative housing) tax subsidies (private housing)
individual housing allowances and subsidies for housing construction and
refurbishment. In 1997, direct public expenditures in the field of housing amounted
to about DKK 15 billion, or approximately 2.5 per cent of all public expenditures.
Figure 3: Direct housing subsidies, 1997.
DKK Mio Percentage
Individual housing subsidies 8,165 55.1
Housing benefit 6,191 41.7
Rent rebate 1,975 13.3
Subsidised housing construction 5,304 35.8
Interest payment subsidies 4,342 29.3
Lump sum subsidies 961 6.5
Housing renewal 1,324 8.9
Other subsidies 35 0.2
Public expenditures, total 14,828 100
Source: Bolig- og Byministeriet 1998: Bygge- og boligpolitisk oversigt 1997-1998: 77.
Direct subsidies
More than half of all direct housing subsidies consists of individual allowances, in
the form of a housing benefit scheme (‘boligydelse’) and a rent rebate scheme
(‘boligsikring’). These allowances are financed by local authorities, which in turn are
refunded to a large extent by national government. Persons eligible for social
pensions are also eligible for housing benefits, a subsidy whereby the rent is reduced
to 15 per cent of the pensioner’s income. The rent rebate scheme is a means-tested
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rent-supplement eligible for tenants in rented public or private housing. The means
test is based on a calculation of household income, the size of the apartment and the
level of the rent. About half of all tenants receive housing subsidies. Public
expenditures for ‘boligydelse’ constitute the bulk of direct individual allowances,
growing from DKK 7.4 billion in 1993 to DKK 8.2 billion in 1997. In comparison,
‘boligsikring’ accounted for DKK 1.9 billion in 1997. Close to half a million Danish
households receive a housing allowance. In the autumn of 1998 eligibility and
means-test criteria of both schemes were tightened with effect from 1999, in order
to cut down public expenditures. The other major direct housing subsidy is in the
area of housing construction. Subsidies are granted for the construction of social
and co-operative housing estates. In 1997, these subsidies amounted to DKK 5.3
billion, three thirds financed by central government and one third by local
government. Also, the state finances housing rehabilitation, in 1997 DKK 1.3 billion
was given to renewal of the housing stock.
Indirect subsidies
Denmark has a high level of indirect housing subsidies through tax deductions for
owner-occupied housing. Expenditures deriving from mortgage payments are tax
deductible, the value of these deductions have been continuously reduced since mid
80s. In 1994 the tax allowance was 50 per cent, in 1998 it was reduced to 46 per cent
to be further reduced to an average of 32.4 per cent in 2001.
Maintenance and standard of housing stock
The Danish housing stock is relatively young, half of all dwellings have been built
after 1950, and one third after 1970. Still, the issue of inadequate housing standards
has been a major public concern, and a process of housing rehabilitation and
renewal of the larger urban communities was initiated in the 80s and 90s. In 1980,
424,000 dwellings or 20 per cent of the housing stock lacked one or more basic
amenities (central heating, toilet and shower facilities). In 1998 this number was
reduced to 219,000 or 9 per cent of the housing stock. 97 per cent of all homes have
toilets, 91 per cent have a bath and 95 per cent have central heating.
Figure 4: Development in standard of housing stock.
1,000 dwellings 1980 1985 1990 199
5
199
8
Dwellings with basic amenities 1,685 1,851 2,027 2,17
0
2,24
2
Built before 1900 142 155 169 186 197
1900-1939 458 454 477 508 526
1940-1969 698 713 717 73
2
739
Built after 1970 414 529 665 743 781
Dwellings without basic amenities 424 377 326 256 219
Built before 1900 122 104 90 72 61
1900-1939 223 197 168 13
4
11
4
1940-1969 65 63 58 44 38
Built after 1970 12 14 10 7 6
Source: Bolig- og Byministeriet 1998: Bygge- og boligpolitisk oversigt 1997-1998, p. 86.
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Danish policies of urban renewal and housing rehabilitation have developed from a
narrow focus on unhealthy housing before 1970 to sophisticated and complex urban
renewal strategies in the 90s (Hansen & Skifter Andersen 1999: 95-113). Before
1970, rehabilitation policies aimed at the prevention of unhealthy housing
conditions, though public authorities only to a limited degree exerted their powers
to modernise unhealthy housing. After 1970, a slum clearance programme reflected
a growing public interest in urban renewal, and local authorities pursued a policy of
housing demolition and reconstruction. This strategy resulted in protests from
residents who wanted to preserve and modernise existing properties. From mid 70s
and onwards residents were to a higher degree involved in the renewal process and
more emphasis was placed on refurbishing the existing housing stock. In the 80s,
the Urban Renewal Act set the agenda for a renewal policy that gave both landlords
and residents a veto in relation to specific parts of the publicly initiated renovation
effort. In the 90s, an important change in regulation strategies emerged with the
Private Urban Renewal Act. The act introduced an indirect approach to urban
renewal in which landlords and residents were expected to initiate and to a large
degree govern the rehabilitation process. The act applies to private rental housing,
social housing and private co-operatives, and for all sectors public subsidies are
available to slow down rent increases.
Private rental housing
The private rental sector is relatively old in comparison with the other Danish
housing sectors, about 60 per cent of the housing stock was built before 1940.
About 90 per cent of all private rental housing is subject to a system of strict rent
control. In principle, rents should reflect the costs associated with the running of
the housing estates. Landlords have to account for incomes and expenditures
associated with running of the housing estate, and rents are fixed according to the
budgeted costs plus a capital yield calculated as a percentage of the property’s 1973
value (Hansen & Skifter Andersen 1999: 102). After 1991, rent levels on new private
rental housing are regulated on market terms, resulting in higher prices and few
waiting lists.
A consequence of the rent control system is that rent levels in the private rental
sector do not reflect a supply and demand relationship, and because of relative
cheap rents there is an excessive demand for private rental housing, particularly in
Copenhagen and in the major cities of Århus, Aalborg and Odense. Critiques argue,
that keeping rents down creates a barrier to mobility on the housing market, when
persons occupying cheap flats have little incentive to move on to more expensive,
private ownership. Typically, access to rented housing depends on personal
connections to landlords.
Co-operative housing
Co-operative housing is an intermediate form of housing provision situated between
rental- and ownership-based housing. As a result of changes made to the Rent
Restriction Act in 1980, private landlords were obliged to offer the tenants to buy
their flats on a co-operative basis before selling off the property (Boligministeriet
1988). Some private landlords also offered tenants to buy the housing estates on a
voluntary basis, and the effect was that a considerable number of tenants collectively
bought the housing estates in which they lived. The Co-operative Housing Act sets
out the general rule-framework regulating co-operative housing associations.
Formally, a co-operative housing society is an association that acquires a property
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with the aim of allowing its members to occupy a dwelling in this property. Each
member of the co-operative owns a share of the society’s capital, and not a specific
dwelling. Therefore, the individual member has no right to deduct interests on loans
raised by the society in contrast to private owners, and the member does not have to
pay the rental value of the dwelling. All shareholders are members of the
association. They have the right to voice their opinions and vote on matters of
concern to the association on general meetings, meetings that constitute the
supreme authority of the co-operative. The general meeting elects a board of
directors taking care of day-to-day management, and if the property is large a
housing administrator is often appointed.
To ensure access to co-operative housing a system of price regulation has been
introduced, establishing an upper limit to the price development of shares. In brief,
this price ceiling is achieved by setting the prices of individual shares based on a
calculation of the net capital of the association (assets minus liabilities). Each
individual shareholder’s part of the net capital is then calculated according to a
distribution percentage agreed upon by the general meeting, most times relative to
the floor area of each dwelling. When shares are sold the transfer has to be
approved by the board of directors, a procedure which is a prohibitive measure to
prevent unregulated increases in prices. There are around 125,000 co-operative
housing units in Denmark, and the number of units built is regulated in a quota
system, stipulating a maximum of approx. 750 new dwellings a year.
Part 2. Social housing in Denmark
General conditions
Access to social housing in Denmark is universal. In the larger social housing estates
priority of access is granted to families with children and 25 per cent of all housing
units are reserved for persons with special housing needs, a scheme administered by
local government. The social housing sector is private in that the housing stock is
owned by non-profit housing associations, but the sector is subject to detailed
public regulation. Most of the 470,000 housing units are relatively new, as only 5 per
cent were build prior to 1940.
There are approximately 700 social housing associations in Denmark, primarily
located close to an urban environment. Each association is divided into individual
housing sections, of which there are close to 7,000. In 1970 there were about
230,000 non-profit housing dwellings. In 1984 the number had risen to 360,000
dwellings, and in 1998 the number reached 466,000, the social housing stock in
Denmark has thus doubled over the last three decades. Traditionally the distribution
of new social housing units has been regulated by means of a quota system decided
upon by the Danish Parliament ‘Folketinget’ and administered by the Ministry of
Housing and Urban Affairs. In 1994 the authorisation system was however
decentralised to the level of local government. Individual building societies have to
apply to the municipality for financial support and the city council now decides
upon the number of new social housing estates to be constructed in the municipality
guaranteeing that the legal conditions imposed on social housing are met.
Historically, the role of the social housing sector has been to provide universal
access to adequate housing. To realise this objective, social housing rents have been
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regulated in order to make them stay within the means of persons with relative low
incomes. The social housing sector is a non-profit sector based on the principle that
rents and expenditures should balance, the costs of living in social housing should
not exceed the direct building expenses in combination with financial and
administrative costs of running the estates. Profits that may accrue are earmarked
for building and maintenance purposes. Each local housing section is a financially
independent unit, and no cross-subsidy or pooling of costs between housing
sections is in principle possible.
The democratic and administrative structure of the social housing sector
The social housing sector has a tradition of tenants’ participation and self-
governance. With the Social Housing Act of 1997 further administrative and
financial decision-making power has been placed in the hands of tenants. A social
housing association is divided into housing sections. Tenants who live in a housing
section elect a section board (‘afdelingsbestyrelse’) responsible for daily management
and financial governance of the section. Tenants are entitled to exert influence on
the dispositions of the section board at board meetings and once or twice a year
common issues are debated at the tenants’ assembly (‘beboermødet’) for all tenants in
the housing section. The primary areas of decision-making include the section
budget, physical renewal of the state and collective house rules (‘husorden’)
regulating every-day behaviour in the estate. Because tenants decide upon the level
of expenditures (in co-operation with the housing association) a policy of rent-
stability is typically pursued with great zeal.
With effect from January 1998 the prerogatives of the section board have been
reduced in return for tenants’ direct participation in the decision-making processes.
Before 1998 individual section boards endorsed annual budgets before the
governing body of the association finally approved them. As of 1 January 1998
section budgets have to be approved by the tenants at the tenants’ assembly. The
section board can delegate decision-making power to ad hoc groups formed by
tenants. In 1991 a 2%-rule was introduced, prohibiting housing sections to increase
their running expenses with more than 2 per cent per annum thus restricting the
financial space subject to democratic decision-making. The rule has been criticised
by representatives of the social housing sector and it was abolished on 1 January
1999.
The social housing association (‘almen boligorganisation’) tends to the primary
management of the association and the housing sections. Also, the housing
association administers the allocation of flats and makes decisions to initiate new
building projects, which however have to be sanctioned by local government. Each
association is subject to the authority of a governing body, a housing council
(‘repræsentantskab’) composed by a majority of tenants’ representatives and the
members of the executive board of directors (‘selskabsbestyrelse’) which is nominated by
the council. As the governing body the housing council has to adopt the annual
budgets of the housing association, and it decides upon all major administrative and
financial issues of the association, i.e. whether to sell off real estate (non-housing
units) or initiate major physical changes in the housing stock. The housing council
can delegate specific prerogatives to the level of section boards. The executive board
of directors is responsible for the implementation of policies decided upon by the
housing council, and the committee appoints a housing director in charge of daily
management. The chairman or deputy chairman has to be a tenant, and tenants
constitute the majority in the board of directors. Prior to 1998 three types of
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housing associations existed, co-operative societies, self-governing associations and
joint-stock companies differing somewhat in their organisational features, but with
the Social Housing Act of 1997 these differences have been harmonised in line with
the outline above.
Traditionally local government has played a decisive role in the running of social
housing associations together with other actors typically unions that have played a
historical role in the development of social housing. Following changes introduced
with the Social Housing Act of 1997 local government is no longer automatically
represented in the governing body of housing associations. It is now up to the
housing council to decide whether the municipality should nominate a
representative to the board of directors. The primary role of local government is to
supervise that social housing administrations comply with the comprehensive and
detailed legislative framework regulating their activities. To perform this task the city
council has to sanction a number of decisions relating to the financial and
administrative operations of housing associations. The city council has to make sure
that the physical condition of housing estates is acceptable, and it sanctions the level
of rents in new and existing housing estates and control that the principle of a
balance between costs and expenditures is maintained. For this end it carries out an
annual auditing of the housing association’s accounts. If the housing association
decides upon a change in statutes this change has to be approved by the city council.
As mentioned above, local government is in a position to decide the quota of new
social housing units to be build in the municipality and the municipality has to
provide a guarantee for loans relating to new housing constructions and major
repairs.
Allocation of social housing
As stipulated by law the allocation of housing units in the social housing sector is
regulated in a system of external and internal waiting lists. Everybody can subscribe
to the external waiting list while the internal waiting list is only for tenants who
already live in social housing apartments and who want to move on to what they
consider a more desirable apartment. The internal waiting list has priority over the
external list with the consequence that newcomers have limited access to
apartments, in particular on the most attractive social housing estates. In some cases
the internal list only applies to a single housing section, in others it applies to all
housing units in one or several housing associations. The consequence of the
allocation system is that attractive apartments are only accessible to tenants who
have signed up for them, often for a considerable number of years. The waiting list
system is administered by the housing associations. In co-operation with individual
housing estates the associations decide on the structure of the system, i.e. the
grouping of associations and estates in relation to specific lists. In the Greater
Copenhagen area the social housing associations have a central allocation office,
situated at Copenhagen Central Station.
Municipal allocation of social housing apartments: The 25%-rule
According to law, local authorities are entitled to dispose of every fourth vacant
social housing apartment in a municipality. The rule makes sure that the
municipality has accessible housing available for persons with a housing need. If a
municipality makes use of the scheme it has to cover costs associated with vacating
the housing units and to put up a guarantee for the tenant’s deposit. Not all
municipalities lay claim to this right, often a voluntary agreement between one or
14
more of the larger housing estates and the municipality exists in which vacancies are
allocated to the social administration of the municipality on an ad hoc basis. With
the Social Housing Act of 1997 a pilot scheme was introduced allowing housing
associations and municipalities to experiment with housing allocation rules. The idea
behind the scheme is to allow for a more flexible allocation policy taking into
account local circumstances and to promote a more balanced composition of
tenants (Bolig- og Byministeriet 1998, b). The scheme introduces the possibility that
housing associations can abolish the waiting list system and reserve a number of
apartments for specific target groups and that local government may dispose of
more than 25 per cent of vacant dwellings.
Finance reform
The legislative framework regulating the financial aspect of the social housing sector
has undergone a number of changes, most recently with the amendment to the
Social Housing Act of 1998 introducing a finance reform of the sector. New social
housing estates are financed in the following way: Local government covers 14 per
cent of building expenses (before 1998 only 7 per cent), tenants pay 2 per cent and
84 per cent is covered by a loan in a private mortgage credit institute. Tenants’ share
of repayments amount to 4.3 per cent of annual capital expenses and the difference
between this share and overall repayments is subsidised by the state. With the
finance reform the tenants’ users’ fees have been de-coupled from the mortgage,
now tenants pay 3.6 per cent per year of the initial cost. This amount is adjusted
with 75 per cent of the price index (or the wage index if this is lower) and when
mortgages are repaid after 35 to 40 years the level of tenants payments is frozen.
Previously, a maximum ceiling on production costs existed stipulating that these
should not exceed a maximum amount per square meter, in 1995 the recommended
price ranged from 9,980 DKK/square metre in Copenhagen to 8,400 DKK/square
metre in some rural areas in Jutland. However, with effect from 1 January 1998 this
maximum ceiling was abolished.
The main purpose of the finance reform was to reduce state expenditures in
connection to new housing constructions by gradually increasing self-financing in
the sector in the long-term perspective (Lovforslag nr. L 46). Social housing has
been financed with price regulated index bonds making the period of repayment
dependant on the inflation rate. With the finance reform bonds with a fixed 30-year
repayment period were introduced with the effect that tenants’ user payments
increase after 20 years with a proportionate reduction in public expenditures as a
consequence. Another objective with the reform was to use existing resources in the
social housing sector in a more flexible way making it possible to shift the main
burden of subsidising disadvantaged housing sectors from the state to the sector
itself.
When mortgages are paid back tenants continue to pay rents which are channelled
into funds allowing for the continuous modernisation of the existing housing stock
as well as the construction of new social housing units. The individual housing
association has a disposition fund that functions as a financial buffer zone in that it
allows for a certain re-allocation of money between housing sections which are in
principle financially independent units. The fund collects obligatory financial
contributions from housing sections and tenants payments from housing sections
that have paid back their mortgages. The disposition fund subsidises housing
sections with financial difficulties due to voids, major repairs etc., and it contributes
towards the financing of new housing constructions.
15
Tenants who live in housing sections built prior to 1970 pay an annual contribution
to The National Building Fund (‘Landsbyggefonden’) as a part of their rent. Tenants’
contributions amount to approximately DKK 620 million per year, and the Fund re-
channels the funds back to the social housing sector through 3 separate distribution
mechanisms: 1) Each social housing association is entitled to 60 per cent of its
contributions paid since 1980 in order to subsidise housing constructions, repairs
and maintenance. 2) 27.5 per cent of annual contributions are earmarked for a
modernisation fund that subsidises shoddy construction work and environmental
programmes. Only housing sections planned prior to 1 July 1986 have access to the
modernisation fund. 3) 12.5 of annual contributions are put into the National
Disposition Fund, a fund that subsidises running expenses of less well off housing
sections.
Because of The National Building Fund the social housing sector is largely
financially self-sustained with respect to the subsidisation of existing housing units.
However, the fund has not been able to cover all costs associated with new housing
constructions since expenditures for renewal and housing repairs have risen over the
last decades. With the amendment of The Social Housing Act of 1998 the fund will
be allocated more resources in the future. After 1 January 2000 half of all tenants
payments from existing housing sections in which mortgages have been paid back
will go into the fund, and one third of payments from new housing units after
tenants contributions have been frozen after 35 years of repayment. The reform also
introduces a new Housing Construction Fund (‘Nybyggerifonden’) set up to collect
rents from housing financed after 1 January 1999. The financial flow into the fund
will gather momentum when mortgages will be repaid in 30 or 40 years time at
which stage the fund is intended to finance new social housing units.
The number of housing sections that have paid back their mortgages is increasing
and in the coming years the social housing sector will have access to a financial
resource allowing it to pay a larger part of physical and social modernisation
programmes decided upon in the sector.
Tenants’ boards of appeal
In 1998 legislation in the area of tenants’ rights was integrated in the Social Renting
Act of 1998 (‘Den almene lejelov af 1998’). A key innovation in the new act was the
introduction of tenants’ boards of appeal (‘beboerklagenævn’) which were set up to
solve disputes between tenants and housing associations. The two most frequent
types of dispute occur in relation to vacations and house-rule violations. When
tenants vacate their apartment the housing association repairs it. If the two parties
cannot agree to the level of costs associated with this repair the board inspects the
apartment and issues a ruling to settle the conflict. Another frequent dispute relates
to house-rule offences. If tenants continually violate local house rules the board of
appeal issues the tenant a notice to quit, and the board steps in to mediate in the
conflict. The complaint has to be taken to court for a tenant to be put out of an
apartment, the board has no authority to do so. The tenants’ board of appeal is
composed by three persons; an impartial chairperson with a legal background, a
representative of the landlord and a tenants’ representative. In the case of house-rule
violations a social counsellor, typically a social worker employed by local
government, attends the board in order to give advice with respect to the kind of
sanctions judged appropriate. The counsellor has no voting right.
16
The Urban Committee
On the Danish housing market, costs and rents are regulated in the rental, social and
co-operative housing sectors. As a consequence, housing costs in these three sectors
are lower than in the market regulated private sector. Because of this, demand
exceeds supply in the regulated sectors and the result is a housing market with little
mobility especially in the Greater Copenhagen area. The skewed rent structure on
the housing market has had an impact on the social housing sector (Skifter
Andersen 1999). Because of the difficulties getting access to other parts of the
housing market, social housing has functioned as a last reserve satisfying persons
with temporary and acute housing needs. After a period of time these persons
moved out again, rendering the social composition of tenants unstable in the long
term in some housing sections. In some housing sections the relative proportion of
socially disadvantaged persons has gone up as a result of the municipal allocation
scheme while persons with relatively more social and cultural resources have opted
for other means of satisfying their housing needs like owner-occupied or co-operate
housing.
In 1993 a newly elected social democratic coalition government established an
Urban Committee as a response to a ‘ghetto-debate’ raised by a number of social
democratic mayors from the Greater Copenhagen area. The mayors criticized ethnic
segregation on the housing market and warned that some of the worst off housing
estates were turning into ‘ghettos’. A survey made at the time showed that 72 of the
275 municipalities in Denmark claimed to have one or more troubled housing areas,
and most of these were social housing estates.
In 1994 the Urban Committee initiated an action programme targeted at the social
housing sector to combat the negative consequences of social and ethnic
segregation. The key elements in the programme were 1) a re-financing scheme of
DKK 10 billion strengthening the market position of newly built social housing
estates by lowering rents while financing a physical ‘face-lift’ and the initiation of
social and cultural initiatives on the estates. 2) A lump-sum of DKK 1.6 billion
covering the period 1994 to 1997 to support a social development strategy in
deprived housing estates. The fund financed 8 innovative Action Models; formalised
partnerships between municipalities, the social housing sector and other interested
parties co-ordinating area-based social development strategies. In addition, 100
social workers were employed as community developers in various social housing
estates (Vestergaard et.al. 1997). For the partnerships to apply for co-funding they
had to put forward detailed intervention plans outlining a multidimensional
approach to social development in the locality. The relative burden of financing the
activities was gradually shifted from the state to the municipalities over the 4-year
period.
In 1997 the Urban Committee launched an Urban Regeneration Programme (1997-
2001) combining Danish and international experiences with area-based urban
regeneration (Norvig Larsen 1999). The programme funded partnership coalitions
in seven neighbourhoods in five cities. To qualify for funding the neighbourhoods
had to show a record of physical and social disadvantage in combination with a
history of associative activities at the neighbourhood level. The same year the social
democratic/social liberal government decided to a continuation of the Urban
Committee Programme until the year 2005. The new programme has a budget of
DKK 300 million financed by the state (2/3) and The National Building Fund (1/3).
The Association of Local Governments opted out of the Urban Committee process
17
stating that local governments did not wish to extend their engagement for another
period (Vestergaard 1998).
Part 3: Social housing in Elsinore and Odense
In the following two case studies are presented in order to further explore aspects of
Danish experiences with social housing. The first study1 focuses on ‘Helsingør
Boligselskab’ (HB) in the municipality of Elsinore, and the two housing estates
Vapnagård and Sundparken. The second study expands upon the experiences of
‘Andelsboligforeningen Højstrup’ (Højstrup) in the municipality of Odense and the
three housing estates Granparken, Egeparken and Hybenhaven in the Vollsmose
area.
Social housing in Elsinore
In 1997 there were 26,662 dwellings in Elsinore, 46 per cent of these dwellings were
owner-occupied, 23 per cent were privately rented housing while 29 per cent
belonged to the social housing sector. Vapnagård constitutes 22 per cent of the total
social housing stock in Elsinore (Vestergaard 1998: 18).
Elsinore housing association
Elsinore housing association (Helsingør Boligselskab, ”HB”) is a self-governing
non-profit housing organisation administering 32 housing estates with 4,612
housing units, and it is the largest non-profit housing organisation in Elsinore
municipality. Vapnagård is the largest housing estate in Elsinore, it has 1,712
housing units divided into 57 housing blocks of 3 and 4 stories and it houses almost
4,000 tenants. Sundparken is a smaller estate with 392 apartments in blocks of 3 to 5
stories in yellow brick.
Before 1997 the governing body of HB (‘selskabsbestyrelsen’) was composed of 2
representatives nominated by the political parties in Elsinore, 1 representative from
the housing association and 7 tenants’ representatives elected by the section boards.
After 1 January 1997 a new structure has been introduced in which a housing council
(‘repræsentantskab’) of 62 persons is the new governing authority of the association.
The council nominates an executive board of directors of 11 persons who are also
members of the council. The executive board of directors is composed of 2
representatives from HB, 7 tenants and 2 persons with “particular knowledge of
social housing affairs” nominated by Elsinore municipality. Tenants elect all
members of the housing council. Each housing section elects one representative for
each 150 housing units.
In the new structure, the political level of Elsinore municipality is no longer
represented. Historically, the appointed political representatives were not necessarily
city councillors but nominees from political parties in Elsinore, and sometimes these
nominees had little specific interests in social housing affairs. Also, the city council
disapproved of the double role of councillors who were on the governing board of
the housing association, and when the council debated questions relating to HB the
1 The studies are based on personal interviews with representatives from the
two housing associations, representatives of local section boards and local
government officials. Also, a number of written sources supplement the
presentation as is indicated in the text.
18
councillors were considered disqualified and did not take part in debates. Thus,
when the new structure was implemented the housing council and the city council
agreed to the change and the municipality instead nominates instead the two
representatives with “particular knowledge” of the social housing sector. The
housing council has decided to conduct meetings three times a year instead of one
as prescribed by legislation.
Efficiency
Each housing section is financially independent and pays an administrative fee to
HB in return for services, in 1997 the fee was DKK 1,678 per housing unit.
Housing upkeep is planned with a 10-year time horizon. This allows for
accumulation of resources thereby preventing major fluctuations in rent levels. The
housing association administers the financial flows and has a certain freedom to
optimise on capital returns. In principle, the association can increase expenditure
levels by employing more personnel, and by engaging in more activities without
charging higher rents if it is successful in various profit-making activities. Profits are
typically derived from higher return on capital or from fees derived from building
activities.
HB’s core activity is to provide adequate social housing, but the association can
embark upon a number of secondary activities such as external housing
administration or technical service delivery. Any potential losses are to be covered
by tenants and HB concentrates on primary activities. As a rule HB appreciates
economic stability and avoids a risk-oriented financial strategy. In the late 70s and
early 80s HB experienced a period of continuous deficits and the housing
association does not wish to repeat that experience. Therefore a budget policy is
pursued which enables the association to shift budgetary items from ad hoc posts to
planned expenditures. Such a policy increases overall savings and creates a buffer
zone against budget deficits and unforeseen costs. The orientation towards
proactive planning and budgetary procedures was implemented when a legal
obligation to do so was introduced around 1993.
In 1997 there was a surplus of DKK 1.15 million on the association’s account which
balances around DKK 18 million. The debit side is composed of administrative
expenditures (in 1997: DKK 10.63 million), interest payments (1997: DKK 4.9
million) and others, while revenues consisted of administration fees (DKK: 9.3
million), yields (DKK: 6.8 million) and others (Helsingør Boligselskab, regnskab for
året 1997). With the Social Housing Act of 1997 it was made mandatory to increase
the financial transparency of the housing association and a number of separate
accounts need to be made on specific issues such as the repair shop, the technical
department etc. In 1997 all housing sections had made appropriations for future
renewal and repairs corresponding to DKK 59.3 million or DKK 168 per housing
square metre.
Staff-tenant ratios
At Vapnagård there is one caretaker for each 110 tenancies, at Sundparken there is a
caretaker for each 130 tenancies. HB employs altogether 85 persons (administration,
inspection and care taking) and houses approximately 9,500 tenants. The latter ratio
has been stabile in a period of 8-10 years, but the association experiences a growing
workload because of an increasingly detailed regulation and more personnel will
have to be hired in the future.
19
Rent-levels
Rent levels vary from about DKK 350 per square metre to DKK 800 per square
metre in the most recent and therefore most expensive housing sections. The policy
is to gradually adjust for price developments and in a dialogue with each housing
section to encourage adequate savings for maintenance and repairs. Some housing
sections choose to lower rents as much as possible with the effect that maintenance
is inadequate, and maintenance turns into a matter of more costly renovation. On
the two housing estates of Vapnagård and Sundparken rent-levels have developed as
follows:
Figure 5: Rent-levels at Vapnagård and Sundparken
Rents, DKK/
Square metre/year
1985 1992 1998 1999
Vapnagård
Ordinary apartments 288 419 484 500
Attic flats 519 566 585
Sundparken 211 338 395 401
In general, HB judges that tenants are more or less satisfied with the connection
between rent-levels and quality of housing. In some housing sections tenants opt for
low rents and the quality is accordingly. In one case tenants complained that
expenditure levels were too high and some tenants thought that the local authority
made a profit on the estates. Therefore, HB organised an information campaign
explaining ownership relations and administrative procedures. Budgets are presented
and debated at the annual meetings between tenants and the housing administration,
and the administration experiences that conflict levels decrease when tenants
understand and accept the proposed budgets and get the feeling that there is a
balance between costs and benefits.
Most of the housing sections in HB are from the 60s and 70s, and the number of
unencumbered sections is rising. Because of the finance reform this liquidation of
capital does not fully benefit the association and its tenants. From 1 January 2000
half of all rents goes into the local disposition fund while the other half is
channelled into the parallel system at national level covering the social housing
sector. From the perspective of HB it makes sense to re-allocate funds in this way
between housing associations at the national level because they are different in size
and ages and have unequal economic circumstances. The current political situation
in Elsinore (and in Denmark) dictates that social housing associations should
administer and modernise the existing housing stock and only to a limited degree
engage in building activities. Therefore, the association expects that it will be
possible to strike a reasonable balance between incomes and expenditures in the
future financial regime.
In the beginning of 1997 there were 5,571 persons on the waiting lists and 2,345 of
these were active. Out of this group of active applicants 348 were already members
of the housing association waiting for another apartment while 1,997 were persons
waiting to access a social housing apartment from the outside. Each person has to
pay an annual lump sum of DKK 100 to be registered on the waiting lists. At
present there are almost no voids in HB. But this situation is likely to change;
20
demographics show that the number of potential flat-dwellers will go down and HB
expects more competition for customers in the future.
Vapnagård
Vapnagård is situated on the western edge of the city of Elsinore close to the Sound.
The estate is composed of 57 buildings of 3-4 stories and it has a bit more than
1,700 apartments. A number of services are situated in close proximity to the estate
such as public transport, the social department of the municipality, a shopping
centre, a swimming hall, sports facilities, educational institutions, a bowling centre
and a cinema etc. In 1998, close to 4,000 tenants lived at Vapnagård.
Vapnagård was constructed in 1969/71 and designed to form a small housing
community in the larger community of Elsinore. From the outset in the 70s the
estate suffered from financial problems primarily because of high rates of turnover.
In the 80s problems of physical deterioration were added to the hardship of the
estate, in particular problems with roofs, concrete rot, high levels of energy
consumption and neglect of outdoor facilities. But because Vapnagård did not have
serious rent losses due to voids it did not qualify for renewal subsidies in the early
renewal schemes of the mid 80s (Vestergaard 1988, b).
To deal with the situation tenants’ representatives, in co-operation with HB and
Elsinore municipality, initiated a process of social and physical modernisation. The
main elements of this regeneration strategy developed by the partners were 1) A
comprehensive physical renovation of the estate. 2) A strengthening of the role of
local government in the area especially in the areas of day care and leisure the
partnership established a Service Centre “Vapnagårdparken” providing services to
youth and tenants with an ethnic background. 3) The initiation of a social cohesion
strategy “Vapnagård in the 90s” based on principles of community work and
voluntary involvement.
From 1992 to 1995 the estate went through a major renovation and renewal
process. Four architectural firms were in charge of the renovation and they entered
into a close dialogue with tenants in each housing block. Miniature models of the
different blocks were used to visualise the renovation proposals, and the
architectural designs had to be approved by tenants. For each block about 10
consultations were arranged, involving about 7-800 tenants all together at
Vapnagård. All housing blocks were modernised and re-painted and roofs were
fixed by adding an extra attic level. Initially the estate had 4-500 4- and 5-room
apartments of 120/140 square metre but from the early 80s and onwards a number
of these have been split into smaller units, and when the process is finished
Vapnagård will have 200 of these larger apartments left.
Efficiency
The financial situation of Vapnagård has changed as a consequence of the renewal
process. In each successive year after the renovation the estate has had an annual
surplus of approximately DKK 1 million allowing for the initiation of a number of
further modernisation initiatives. When the physical renovation was over in 1995/6
the estate was subject to a re-financing scheme that lowered rents with an average of
300 DKK/month per apartment. At the same time the decentralisation process has
been cost generating because section boards have pushed up standards in each
21
section by introducing playgrounds and other common facilities, and it will be a few
more years before the level of expenditures stabilise or decrease.
The combination of physical renewal and rent reductions has reduced the number
of people vacating Vapnagård. In 1992-1994 the rate of turnover was about 16-18
per cent, in 1999 it has been reduced to 10-12 per cent. In 1992 DKK 3 million was
spent on expenses related to removals, in 1997 Vapnagård sustained a loss of DKK
900,000.
Expenses for drinking water constitute a relatively large proportion of running
expenditures in the estate and in 1988 an environmental action programme was
introduced encouraging tenants to economise with the resources and especially with
water but this far it has not been successful in reducing water consumption levels. In
the future the introduction of ‘green accounts’ is considered an important financial
governance mechanism. Because of green taxes on energy, pollution and water
green accounting systems are cost saving, but in addition they also provoke a
discussion of lifestyles and patterns of social interaction playing a potential role in
the future stimulation of local democracy in Vapnagård.
Residents’ participation
Originally, Vapnagård was one political and administrative unit with a section board
covering all housing sections. In the late 70s the estate was split up into 11
financially semi-independent housing sections each with their own section board of
5 tenants, a chairman, deputy chairman, treasurer, a secretary and a fifth tenant
without a title. Each section has its own caretaker, and some characterise the units
as 11 independent villages. All financial decisions have to be approved by the
chairman and the deputy chairman of the section board. Each section is composed
of 4 to 6 housing blocks and has a budget of DKK 240,000 to 360,000. The same
structure is repeated at the level of Vapnagård, which is governed by a section board
(‘fællesbestyrelse’) composed by a chairman, a deputy chairman, a treasurer and
secretary together with the 11 local section board chairmen. The members of the
Vapnagård section board who are not nominated by the local section boards are
directly elected at the general assembly once a year, each household has two votes.
The advantage of the decentralised structure is that section boards are quick to pick
up on specific needs and preferences, and within the specified limits of the budget
they have a degree of local discretion to accommodate these. As in other
decentralised structures the phenomenon of ‘free riding’ occurs, sometimes
individual housing sections disagree about the sharing of costs and seek to transfer
these to other sections or to the collective accounts of Vapnagård. The renovation
process in 1992-95 mobilised a substantial number of tenants who were given a
chance to influence their immediate living environment. Thus, a considerable
impetus was given to the democratic system, and at the peak of the process 7-800
tenants participated. Today, about 55 to 60 tenants are actively involved in the
section boards, and they perform the continuous task of day-to-day management in
a dialogue with their neighbours and HB.
The budget approval procedure
From 1 January 1997 tenants have had to approve budgets proposed by the housing
association on annual tenants’ assemblies in the individual housing sections. Prior to
the assemblies budgets are negotiated between HB and the local section boards. HB
22
emphasise that budgets are presented by section board members to qualify the
democratic process, but often tenants’ representatives are reluctant to do so, and
both board members and administrative staff have been trained to perform the task
better. In principle, the approval procedure forces the section board to become
more accountable to its constituency. Now tenants have to agree on a number of
decisions with respect to how savings are spent on repairs, what social activities
should be funded etc. At Vapnagård the annual budgets balance around DKK 80
million and few dare to question these numbers or propose changes. Therefore it is
important how budgets are presented, and the costs of different activities and
proposals are divided on individual apartments to make it easier for each household
to relate to the budget. Paradoxically, when for instance the cost of publishing a
tenants’ newsletter equal to DKK 150,000 is split up on each apartment it appears
to be an insignificant amount and few wish to discuss or criticise the issue.
Tenants find it difficult to mount the rostrum at the assembly and when the staff of
the housing association or a chairman from the section board in detail argue why the
budget has to look the way it does few tenants enter into a dialogue or oppose the
budget. Some board members criticise that their powers have been reduced, but
what often happens is that tenants use the opportunity to go up against a high-
handed board chairman. In general, most tenants have been slow to realise and take
advantage of the new prerogative. The consequence is that the debate on the budget
lasts for 15 minutes just to move on to issues relating to ”house rules.” Tenants
decide upon house rules in a number of areas, for instance with respect to pets. A
majority of tenants can decide to forbid the possession of pets with the
consequence that the minority will have to put away their cats and dogs.
Legitimacy
The democratic governance system at Vapnagård is faced with a number of
challenges. In the early 70s it was not unusual that 4-500 tenants participated at
meetings, today this number has been reduced considerably. It has proved difficult
to recruit new board members, the average member is typically 50 years plus and the
younger generations in Vapnagård do not participate. A common barrier is that
existing members are reluctant to support new ideas and proposals with the result
that tenants are easily discouraged from participating. Further, there is a tendency
that specific controversies and personal conflicts sometimes dominate meeting
agendas, in practice the borderline between the privacy of tenants and collective
‘policy-making’ can be hard to determine.
None of the ethnic groups take part in the democratic structure of Vapnagård. In
1995 the Turkish group turned up in large numbers at a board meeting requesting a
Turkish television channel on the cable television at Vapnagård. But the board
turned down the request with reference to the costs and since then no ethnic group
has been actively involved in the democratic bodies of the estate.
Right of disposition (‘Råderet’)
In 1994 the concept of a ‘disposition right’ was introduced by law stipulating a set of
rules within which tenants are allowed to dispose of their apartment, i.e. do
maintenance and repairs etc. Previous to the introduction of this right, sometimes
tenants made considerable alterations to their apartments and when they moved out
HB demanded that the apartment be reversed to its original state. Typically this
process was very costly and the lack of clear rules sparked off frequent conflicts.
23
With the disposition right, tenants are entitled to carry out some alterations without
a specific permission, while other (major) physical changes to individual apartments
have to be approved by the housing association. If acceptance is granted tenants are
reimbursed. The regulation of the disposition right is somewhat bureaucratic, and
tenants sometimes engage in do-it-yourself activities without consulting the
administration. Despite the detailed regulation set a considerable element of
administrative discretion still exists, and some tenants at Vapnagård find that the
agreement only serves the interests of the housing association.
Social cohesion
Surveys at Vapnagård indicate that the degree of tenants’ satisfaction is high, and
that only with respect to feelings of safety the score is low. In order to address this
issue a local police officer is stationed in the area a few hours every week in the first
half of 1999, and tenants representatives consider the initiative a success. Judging by
crime figures the rate of petty crime has dropped, but most importantly the police
has on a number of occasions repeated the point that in fact the crime rate at
Vapnagård is low compared with other parts of Elsinore.
For a number of years a part-time social worker has been employed in the area,
funded by the Urban Committee. Once a week the social workers, the chairman of
the area committee, the police officer and a housing inspector meet to evaluate the
social life of the estate, and tenants are invited to approach the group with problems
or requests.
Tenants’ representatives criticise the lack of adequate institutional backup in relation
to specific disadvantaged groups at Vapnagård especially mentally disabled persons.
In the 80s the psychiatric sector in Denmark was restructured, a number of regional
institutions housing the mentally ill were shut down and responsibility for provision
of services to this group was transferred to the municipal level. It is not unusual that
the municipality assigns an apartment to a mentally ill person who has considerable
difficulties living alone. Often neighbours complain to the police who refer them to
the housing association, which in turn contacts the municipality. The tenants
representatives argue that this group of persons basically is in need of sheltered
housing and the services needed to provide protection and that personal assistance
of this kind are not automatically generated within the context of normal social
housing estates. But the municipality appears to lack the adequate means to
systematically help this group and to make sure that they do not drop out of
necessary treatment, causing problems to both the mentally ill and the tenants of
Vapnagård.
Sundparken
Sundparken is a 3- and 5-storey housing estate in yellow brick situated close to the
Sound. The estate was built between 1960 and 62. 785 tenants live in 392
apartments. It takes 5 to 6 years on the external waiting list to access Sundparken.
Efficiency
The rent is DKK 401 per square metre per year. A caretaker and two assisting
caretakers are in charge of daily maintenance. For the last 10 years Sundparken has
implemented a number of physical improvements in turn improving the
environmental profile of the estate. In Elsinore the water rate is DKK 40.25 per m3
and Sundparken has managed to cut down water use 30 per cent on cold water and
24
6.5 per cent on the warm water introducing water saving mixer taps, toilets and
showers. Energy consumption is now thermostatically controlled, and a system of
pre-sorting of waste has been introduced with the effect that no garbage has been
transported to the waste disposal site for the last 3 years. Tenants should carry out
the pre-sorting themselves, the caretakers only assist with cardboard and batteries
and the system functions without problems. The green campaign has cost DKK 1.7
million financed out of rents, and no tenants have disapproved of the
improvements.
Residents’ participation
The section board has 5 members and the head of the board has been a chairman
for 32 years. The chairman is also the entrepreneur behind most of the renovation
and modernisation initiatives, in close co-operation with the caretakers and HB.
Two other male members on the board have been active for 24 years, while two
female newcomers have been active only for 2 years. At the annual tenants’ meeting,
in average one third of all tenants participate, depending very much on the meeting
agenda. Experiences with the approval procedure of section’s budget are positive,
the section board presents the budget proposal on transparency sheets and tenants
have no difficulties asking questions and debating the budget.
Sundparken has 32 families of different ethnic origin. The section board makes it
clear to all Danish and ethnic newcomers that they have to live by the house-rules,
and the different ethnic groups easily adapt to these rules of everyday life in
Sundparken. There are no ethnic representatives on the section board but the
chairman encourages tenants to make use of the board if they experience problems
or have requests relating to their housing situation. Sundparken has television,
telephone and Internet-access on the same cable network and in 1997 the tenants
voted about the composition of TV channels on the system. The different channel
preferences of the ethnic groups did not receive enough votes to be included in the
channel package as they had apparently misunderstood the voting procedures, and a
decision was made to include 4 channels that individual families could subscribe to,
paying DKK 20 per month.
Social cohesion
Typical complaints relate to noise, and when HB receives a complaint from a tenant
at Sundparken they refer it to the section board. The members discuss what to do
with it and mostly they contact the tenant and sort out problems in a dialogue
between the involved parties. It is not unusual that old-timers complain that new
occupants make too much noise outside working-hours when they move in, and the
chairman intervenes by explaining to the complainant that such noise is
unavoidable. If a conflict between tenants escalates, typically living on the same
staircase, all households in the staircase are invited to a meeting at HB where the
conflict is discussed in the open. A report is made of the meeting, and in most cases
problems are solved.
The section board at Sundparken plays a role in the social life of the community,
and it steps in if suddenly tenants cannot care for themselves. When tenants
approach the board with information about social problems such personal
information is treated with confidentiality. If for instance a tenant begins to suffer
from senile dementia, the board contacts HB which in turn informs the social
administration of Elsinore municipality. It is a difficult task for the members to
25
assess whether to intervene or not, and it is problematic if steps are taken without a
good reason. In general, most people find it difficult to take on a responsibility for
the social wellbeing of neighbours who appear to have problems, and to some
tenants this responsibility is a barrier to becoming a member of the board. Thus,
performing the social role is a balancing act, only possible if a relationship based on
trust exists between board members and tenants. The board does not engage in
outreach social work addressing problems of social isolation or solitude at
Sundparken. Maybe because there is a tradition of privacy, as the chairman
expresses it: “We have lived on the same stairwell with another married couple since
1968, we always greet each other but we have never been in for a cup of tea.”
Present and future performance of Elsinore housing association
Elsinore housing association has no explicitly formulated management philosophies
or development strategies. There is an ongoing debate on local housing issues in the
political and administrative structures very much inspired by national debates in the
social housing sector, but the highest authority of HB - the housing council - has
not articulated or formalised any specific policies or strategies. However, from
interviews with administrative and political leaders of the association it is possible to
induce a number of themes and perspectives that occupy HB as a housing
organisation.
HB as facilitator of the local democratic processes
In HB it is felt that the democratic governance system functions to the satisfaction
of all interested parties, there is a high degree of openness and financial and
administrative accountability. However, the members of the housing council are still
in a phase during which they have to define and develop the content and procedures
of the council, and single issues and personal complaints more than discussions of
policies and development strategies sometimes dominate meetings. HB finds that a
primary task in the future would be to assist and stimulate the democratic processes
on the housing estates by encouraging tenants to reflect upon general issues and
strategies for the future development of their estates. Most of the active tenants are
50 years and above. They have been active in unions, political parties and different
voluntary associations and they bring with them schooling and interests in
democratic procedures and processes. In contrast, the younger generations do not
automatically share this culture and they do not find the time nor the incentives to
become involved and to modernise the democratic system in the long-term
perspective these younger cohorts need to been involved.
The practical dimension is an important starting point for facilitating tenants’
participation. Meetings have to be arranged in attractive, available facilities, people
need to be invited in due time etc. The legal framework of social housing is both
complex and continuously changing, and courses and training programmes are made
available to tenants representatives. Also dissemination of information is important.
Previously tenants were in charge of publishing a newsletter covering all estates in
HB while a professional journalist is now employed as an editor assisting a tenants’
news group in carrying out the task.
From HB’s perspective the tenants’ democracy is faced with a number of paradoxes.
Guidance and training programmes have a positive effect on the quality of the
decision-making processes. At the same time the increasingly complex regulation
has as a consequence that tenants representatives become experts who are quick to
26
point out if new proposals clash with existing rule-sets thus discouraging a broader,
lay-based involvement. Section boards have a limited economic decision-making
space (which was made even narrower by the 2% rule now abolished) and housing
administrators seek to set out explicitly the limitations democratic decision making
in a continuous dialogue with tenants. The housing association recognise that not all
tenants articulate their preferences and sometimes a balance has to be struck
between the advantages of the democratic system of self-governance and adopting
the housing environment to the needs of tenants with specific problems and a less
self-reliant lifestyle.
Administrative reform
Beginning October 1999 all housing associations will have to implement a system of
administrative auditing allowing for an external quality control of the efficiency of
individual housing administrations. Up until now tenants have had no way of
evaluating the size of administrative fees, and with the introduction of a procedure
of administrative auditing HB expects more visibility with respect to the relative
costs of housing administrations.
The situation of ethnic minorities is an issue
Ethnic minorities inhabit 8 per cent of all apartments at Sundparken, at Vapnagård
the percentage is 12. There are few incidences of serious race-related conflicts on
the housing estates but a tendency that some housing estates experience a clash of
lifestyles, especially in relation to the population of gypsies who are perceived to
have another approach to the living environment than the average Danish family. In
some cases, section boards express the wish that the number of ethnic families in
each staircase, block and housing estate should not exceed a certain threshold in
order to maintain an ethnic profile in which Danes compose the majority.
Obviously, the housing association cannot comply with such demands but to some
extent the attempt is made to consider potential conflicts and allocate persons in
order to avoid these. Socially, the ethnic minorities typically benefit from tight
family-based social relations and they rarely end up in conflict situations with the
administration that result in a notice to quit their apartment. The attitude in HB is
that refugees and immigrants should be living on all of the estates of the association
and not concentrated in one or a few of these and the association tries within
existing rules to disperse ethnic residents as much as possible.
Social segregation
From the housing association’s perspective the segregation problem occurs when
municipal housing allocation stimulates an ongoing negative spiral in which the
relatively strong and well off tenants exit the estates and less well off persons enter,
in turn causing more people to move out. Therefore HB wishes to influence the
local community to enter into a dialogue about measures to prevent such negative,
self-perpetuating development tendencies. Also in relation to the allocation of
specific individuals HB wishes to have a say, the association finds that it is a
problem that the municipality decides that a person on the municipal scheme should
receive a specific apartment without consulting the association. Some of the persons
who are provided an apartment through the municipality have substantial personal
and behavioural difficulties, and the housing association finds that their life style in
some cases dominates the housing environment, typically if people are addicted to
alcohol or drugs.
27
HB finds it frustrating to see how the social housing sector is stigmatised in the
public eye, when ¾ of all estates are well-functioning living environments of high
quality and low costs. Per definition the sector will always have to assist persons
who have difficulties providing for themselves, and some tenants have a lifestyle
that draws negative attention in the media and the general public. But housing
disadvantaged groups is a basic success criteria and it should not be considered a
problem or turned into a stigma, the social housing sector now provides housing for
persons who 20 or 30 years ago were living under very bad housing conditions.
Changes in the allocation system
The general attitude in Elsinore housing association appears to be that the allocation
system is fair in that it allows equal access to everybody irrespective of market
strength. However, the system has a number of negative side effects. Tenants move
gradually towards the cheapest housing estates, which are often also the most
attractive estates because rent levels were determined by the economic situation in
their period of construction. Because of this traffic access to attractive housing
segments is barred to persons not already living in social housing, one can wait for
30 years and still be surpassed by persons on the internal waiting list. Also, tenants
have to wait a very long time before they access e.g. non-detached terrace houses
considered to be very attractive. Therefore, this type of housing is not available to
families with children though it matches very well the needs of this family type.
Another negative consequence of the system is that it causes high turnover rates in
the least attractive housing sections where tenants dwell until they qualify for the
apartment of their choice. Often the least attractive apartments are the most
expensive. High turnover rates result in rising expenses for repairs and
refurbishment thus further enhancing a negative differentiation between price and
quality. At Vapnagård it was found that new tenants moved in to get access to the
internal waiting list and once they qualified for another apartment they moved out
again. To reduce this traffic, tenants now have to stay for 2 years at Vapnagård
before they get access to the internal waiting list in the housing association.
Policy: To ‘balance’ the composition of tenants
The strategy chosen by HB to overcome some of these problems is to pursue a
policy of attracting tenants with more resources by experimenting with changes in
the allocation system. HB has been authorised to reserve a number of vacant
apartments at Vapnagård to specific target groups not on the waiting lists. These
groups are commuters working in Elsinore and living outside of the municipality
and persons above 50 without children. This rule applies to Vapnagård but it does
not apply to Sundparken. Now couples without children have access to four-room
apartments, while normally each household is entitled to an apartment with one
more room than the number of persons in the household. This far the scheme has
had little effect, only few apartments have been rented to people outside of the
waiting lists.
Governance
For the last three decades the municipality of Elsinore has gone through a phase of
economic transition in which manufacturing industries have been pushed out of the
market to be replaced by service and trade industries (Vestergaard 1998: 17). Today,
a considerable part of the blue-collar workers who lost their jobs live at Vapnagård,
Sundparken and other social housing estates in Elsinore. The social democratic
28
party has been in power since 1919 but was defeated by the conservatives in the
local government elections of 1994. The new conservative majority was against the
decision to modernise Vapnagård by adding attic apartments arguing that the social
problems of the area had to be stabilised and that building more flats would only
attract more problems. However, the renewal plan had been adopted before the
change of political regimes and today there is a general satisfaction with the result in
the city council.
The shift in majority has meant a stop to the construction of social housing
dwellings for families (‘almene familieboliger’) in Elsinore, and instead co-operative
housing and housing for the elderly has been prioritised. In the late 80s Elsinore
municipality sold out its share of communal housing units and for the last 10-12
years the municipality has employed the 25%-rule extensively in co-operation with
HB. As the largest social housing association in Elsinore HB has traditionally played
an important part in solving problems of housing need and social disadvantage in
the municipality together with four other larger housing associations. A primary
interest of Elsinore municipality is to place the burden of housing administration
and problem solving in the social housing sector allowing the municipality to
conduct its supervisory role and facilitate ad hoc problem solving in co-operation
with the sector. Recently, the city council of Elsinore has put an end to an initiative
that was intended to make the private rental housing sector in the municipality
accept a “social quota” in parallel to the social sector. All private landlords in the
municipality were contacted and offered a lump sum for each apartment made
available to the municipal housing scheme, but no landlords accepted the offer.
A new housing allocation agreement
In 1996-7 there was a political shift in attitudes in the municipality towards including
more housing associations in the municipal scheme and in 1998 a new allocation
agreement was agreed upon by all housing associations in Elsinore. The municipality
was dissatisfied with the previous agreement. In principle all citizens were entitled to
enter the scheme if they were in need of housing and the problem was that the
number of persons waiting for an apartment was very high in some periods. The
implication was that some applicants managed to find alternative accommodation
while a number of persons with serious housing problems suffered from the long
wait.
The previous allocation agreement was voluntary. When the municipality was
assigned a vacancy it nominated a person for this and the association was then free
to decide whether to accept this person or not. A degree of mistrust existed among
the housing associations: “Do the other associations know how to count to four?”
and there was a tendency that associations were “free-riding” trying to shift the
burden of accommodating persons on the municipal scheme on to the other
associations. In particular HB complained that the association was too solitary in
taking on a social responsibility.
In 1999 a new agreement has been set up between all social housing associations in
Elsinore and Elsinore municipality. The agreement establishes a procedure by which
the associations decide upon the distribution of persons on the scheme in a dialogue
with the municipality. Most importantly the associations now enter a continuous
dialogue about the allocation issue and they register allocations creating visibility
with respect to the relative distribution of persons on the scheme. The agreement
strengthens the discretionary powers of the housing associations in that they now
29
decide the specific allocation of persons in the scheme. When the municipal waiting
list is gone the agreement is renegotiated between the parties.
Up until this shift in allocation policy the section board of Sundparken has argued
that internal moves at Sundparken should not be considered as vacancies. After the
agreement this practice was changed and now every 4th vacant apartment is reported
as vacant.
In 1998 the city council decided to tighten the entitlement criteria for access to the
25%-scheme, according to the municipal housing office because too many persons
made use of the scheme for the sake of convenience. Only persons within the
following categories now qualify for access to the scheme: 1) Citizens who stay for
24 hours in the municipal asylum (‘husvildebolig’). 2) Refugees who are subject to
the Integration Act 3) Citizens who have been discharged from a refuge. 4) Citizens
with problems of abuse who are subject to or have left treatment. 5) Families with
special needs due to handicaps. As a rule the municipality does not allot an
apartment to families or individuals outside these categories and persons who have a
temporary housing problem without a previous history of social or physical
problems are encouraged to find a place to live on their own accord. The asylum is
not an attractive place to live and faced with this rule a number of persons have
been able to do so. In 1998 the municipality needed 170 housing units but in the
spring of 1999 the demand had dropped to 85 units.
“Lifestyle communities”
Currently the housing associations and Elsinore municipality discuss whether to
develop minor housing estates of 20 to 40 housing units for ”lifestyle” communities
such as the elderly or ethnic minorities. HB has proposed that an estate should be
built for the group of gypsies in the municipality. The suggestion has not been
debated in the city council but individual councillors have reacted positively to the
idea, finding that if specific ethnic or social groups express a wish to live together
they should be encouraged to do so.
Accountability
Tenants who disagree with the rulings of a housing association are entitled to voice
their dissatisfaction free of charge to the municipality as the supervising authority. If
the municipal administration supports the ruling of the housing administration,
which is often the case, it frequently occurs that tenants contact a city councillor to
have him or her advocate their case vis-à-vis the municipal administration. In 1998 a
tenant’s board of appeal was established in Elsinore. Compared with similar boards
in the private rental sector the number of complaints has proved to be small, in
Elsinore the two sectors are of approximately the same size. Tenants have either not
yet discovered the new boards or the degree of tenant satisfaction is higher
compared with the private sector. The issues of complaint that tenants can bring to
the board primarily relate to costs of vacating apartments and house rule violations.
Before 1998 when tenants were given notice to quit their apartment they were
thrown out of the housing association. The municipality would have to provide
them with another place to live in another association, and this category of tenants
who had difficulties living with local house rules could thus circulate from one
association to the next. After 1998 the situation changed. If a tenant’s behaviour is
unacceptable to the housing association the municipality is contacted and in the case
30
that the tenant is a social assistance recipient he or she has a particular social worker
as a contact person in the social administration. The social worker will provide the
tenant with an ultimatum: If he or she does not comply with local house rules notice
is given to terminate the tenancy. The only housing alternative is the asylum and if
the tenant cannot accept this there is no alternative housing available in the
municipality.
Rents or taxes?
The city council has to approve of subsidises for loans in relation to new housing
construction and major repairs, and when the housing association takes out a
mortgage to finance e.g. maintenance or repairs the municipality needs to sanction
this. As a rule the municipality hesitates to issue too many guarantees to the social
housing sector and a continuous disagreement exists in relation to such loan
guarantees for repairs at Vapnagård. From the point of view of the municipality it is
important that the level of mortgaging does not exceed property values, as the
municipality has twice sustained financial losses because mortgages were redeemed
in relation to guarantees provided in the local co-operative housing sector. Often
housing sections wish to prolong loans as much as possible to keep rents down
pushing part of the financial burden into the future. If the period of repayment is as
long as the service life of the new installation for which the loan is granted (e.g. a
bathroom) another loan will eventually have to be made for the next renewal phase
etc. The result is that tenants will never be in a position to make adequate
appropriations for future renewals. From the municipal perspective tenant’s
deposits for renewal should be increased to meet the majority of the costs associated
with maintaining the buildings. The fact that they have apparently been too small
does not automatically entail that the local authorities should expose themselves to
the financial risks of excessive mortgaging.
A parallel case of diverging interests occurred when the 224 new attic apartments at
Vapnagård had been construed. New pipes caused the level of copper in the
drinking water to exceed acceptable thresholds. The local media reported the
situation and the city council demanded a solution to the problem. Changing all
pipes would cost DKK 10 million and HB suggested a sharing of the financial
burden which the municipality did not agree to. To modify the expense HB then
proposed to replace copper pipes only in contact with drinking water but the city
council demanded all pipes renewed. Eventually, HB financed the expenditure and
was partly subsidised by The National Building Fund.
Privatisation
The issue of privatising social housing has been debated in Elsinore, especially the
option of converting social housing estates into co-operative housing units. But the
city council does not pursue the issue, because without ownership to social housing
the municipality cannot decide to sell out property. Though individual tenants may
raise the issue, Elsinore housing association does not embark upon the discussion.
Representatives from HB estimate that they could sell off ¾ of the housing stock
over night, but to do so would be anti-social, leaving the worst-off among the
population with the least attractive remainder of the social housing sector. From the
perspective of Elsinore housing association privatising the sector would enhance the
urban segregation process, abolish a well-functioning housing culture and imply that
the state would be inhibited in its access to the provision of adequate housing for
the needy.
31
Social housing in Odense
In 1998 184,224 people lived in the municipality of Odense, of the 88,000 dwellings
23,000, or about 25 per cent, were social housing dwellings. 21 social housing
associations operate in the municipality differing in size between 10 and
approximately 6,000 housing units (Østergaard 1999a).
Højstrup
Historically ‘Andelsboligforeningen Højstrup’ (Højstrup) is a housing association
governed by the tenants who are members of the association. The governing body
of the association, the housing council (‘repræsentantskab’) is composed by elected
tenants who appoint an executive board of directors. The housing association
employs about 75 persons and administers social housing dwellings that house close
to 10,000 tenants in Odense.
Vollsmose
Vollsmose is a neighbourhood situated 4 kilometres outside the city centre of
Odense. 9 large housing sections totalling 3,638 apartments occupy a rectangular
area framed by 4 main roads, in the middle of the territory there is a bog (‘mose’)
hence the name Vollsmose. A shopping centre, 2 primary schools and a gymnasium,
a local football club, a swimming bath, a nursery home and a local branch of the
social administration are some of the main facilities situated in the area. The 9
housing sections differ in composition, three sections are composed of non-
detached town houses, three sections contain 3- and 4-storey blocks while three
combine non-detached town houses with 2-, 4-, 8- and 12-story housing blocks.
Close to 10,000 tenants reside in the area and 40 per cent of these are of other
ethnic origin than Danish. 70 per cent of the tenants are outside the labour market,
and children make up one third of the total number of residents in Vollsmose.
Beginning mid and late 70s Vollsmose went into a negative spiral. Increasing
number of voids led to rising costs and a relative concentration of socially
disadvantaged persons allotted an apartment in the area by Odense municipality
while the relatively well-off tenants to some extent vacated the area. Today
Vollsmose is famous for its negative reputation. At almost regular intervals the
media report incidences of crime and vandalism and especially the 3 housing
sections Egeparken, Birkeparken and Bøgeparken with the high-rise blocks appear
problem-ridden.
In a recent questionnaire tenants in three housing sections (including Egeparken) in
Vollsmose were asked how they found every-day life at the area (Gottschalk,
Engberg & Pedersen 2000). The emerging picture was one of mixed feelings. Most
respondents were frustrated that Vollsmose was stigmatised as a ‘ghetto’ and they
expressed anxiety about the relatively high rates of petty crime and vandalism, in
particular occurring on the three tower blocks. The responding Danes were divided
into two groups. One group expressed a negative attitude towards ‘strangers’ (‘de
fremmede’) at Vollsmose, arguing that the relative composition of tenants should be
changed to avoid the Danish segment become a minority. Another group found that
Vollsmose was an interesting place because of the many ethnic groups and
complained that too little was done to integrate ‘the new Danes’ (‘ny-danskere’) in
society. Some of the ethnic respondents argued that there were too many Danes
with social problems living at Vollsmose, and a few respondents accused some
Danes of being racist. Most of the comments written by tenants with an ethnic
32
background called for better opportunities of social interaction with Danes and
other ethnic groups. Though annoyed with the supposed ghetto image both Danish
and ethnic respondents had a positive attitude towards Vollsmose and they
emphasised the local nature with its green vegetation and bog in the centre of the
area.
Vollsmose has received funding from the Urban Committee, and a steering committee
of 21 members has been set up to formulate and implement a social development
strategy for Vollsmose. The committee administers a local fund for tenants’
activities and discusses various social projects and initiatives. An action committee
composed of the heads of the 9 section boards facilitates co-operation on a daily
basis between the housing sections who prior to the partnership process had little
mutual contact. As a result of this partnership strategy a number of social and
cultural projects have been set up including activities for children, ethnic women
who are about to give birth and a club facility for ethnic youths who are also
encouraged to participate in voluntary activities. Three Drop-in-Centres
(‘væresteder’) now serve hot meals, arrange excursions etc. Also, a team of three
tenants’ advisors has been employed by the three housing associations operating in
the area.
Granparken
Granparken is an estate composed of 3- and 4-storey blocks, it has 504 apartments
and about 1300 residents. The estate was constructed in 1968 and it was the first
housing section in Vollsmose.
Efficiency
One caretaker and 4 assistants are in charge of daily maintenance. In 1999 the rent
was DKK 330 square metre per year (compared with DKK 303 in 1994). The
administrative fee to Højstrup amounts to DKK 2,220 per housing unit per year.
Residents’ participation
The section board has 7 members, 4 men and 3 women, who meet on a monthly
basis. A tenants’ advisor employed by Højstrup is typically invited to inform about
ongoing activities and events at Vollsmose and often the board supports ideas and
initiatives suggested by the advisor like setting up permanent barbecues and
windbreakers in the estate. The board has delegated the task of making activities for
children to a local youth club and the section board continuously assesses the social
and cultural activities on the estate and supports these through the tenant-managed
fund. Granparken has an after-school facility and a tenant has set up a computer-
café for local children. Also, the physical state of the housing section is evaluated in
co-operation with the caretaker and sometimes a housing manager from Højstrup,
and with certain intervals the board members decide how to prioritise the daily
upkeep.
None of the different ethnic groups living in Granparken are represented on the
section board despite the fact that they constitute about half of all tenants in the
estate. The board co-operates with an Arabic contact person who translates
information and facilitates the dialogue between the ethnic communities and the
section board. This person has run for board elections but has not been elected
apparently because no ethnic residents participated in the elections.
33
In 1998 the section board received 76 complaints from tenants, either directly from
tenants at Granparken or from Højstrup, the association passes on individual
complaints to the board, the association has to respond to complaints within 14
days of receiving these. The policy of the board is to assess each complaint as
quickly as possible. Most of the complaints related to problems with noise and
domestic animals, of the 76 complaints all but one were settled with the section
boards interference, one was passed on to the tenants’ appeal board in Odense on
the complainants request.
Social cohesion
Granparken does not suffer from problems of vandalism or social conflict and the
board members have no problems maintaining order on the estate. When house
rules are violated they are reported as complaints to the board, and as a rule
conflicts are settled in a dialogue between the parties. In the few instances where
drug peddling was observed the board contacted Højstrup and the community
police, and if the resident continues selling drugs he is given notice to quit his
apartment. The board members appreciate very much the process of co-operation
between the 9 estates that has been initiated with the Urban Committee funding in
Vollsmose. The chairmen and members of the different section boards now meet
on a regular basis in the action committee, and the exchange of knowledge and
experience is a valuable input to the activities of the local boards. Historically, the 9
individual housing sections have negative experience with cross sectional co-
operation. But as a result of the process the tenant’s representatives have become
familiar with the other housing sections and according to the chairman of
Granparken section board they have realised that they share a common objective; to
improve the negative image of Vollsmose.
Egeparken
Egeparken has a block of 13 storeys, a block of 7 storeys, 4 blocks of 4 storeys and
70 non-detached town houses. The estate has 487 housing units, and in 1998 the
average rent was DKK 403 per square metre per year. 1475 tenants live in
Egeparken.
Efficiency
The estate has recently gone through two major phases of physical renovation. In
1994-5 half of all apartments of the 7-storey block were changed from 1- and 4-
room apartments to 2- and 3-room apartments to get rid of the 1-room apartments
considered by Højstrup to be of inadequate size. Also, a community house for
tenants was built in the centre of the estate. The housing section financed the costs
of DKK 38.5 million by obtaining a loan. Through a process of re-mortgaging the
rents of the modernised apartments were lowered to the level of existing rents at
Egeparken. 1 January 1999 a second phase of modernisation ended. As a result of
mortgage re-financing revenues of DKK 23.5 million were generated allowing for a
number of physical improvements. The outdoor environment has been improved,
staircases have been painted and elevators, roofs, garages, ventilation systems have
been modernised. Esthetical improvements like colouring staircases and improving
the outdoor environment have been implemented in process of dialogue with the
residents. In 1998 expenditures for vandalism at Egeparken amounted to DKK
500,000.
34
Residents’ participation
5 women and 2 men compose the section board of Egeparken, and all members
have been active for a number of years. The section board arranges social and
cultural activities in co-operation with local voluntary associations, e.g. summer and
Christmas markets, feasts and excursions, and the board supports a number of
organised activities for children co-ordinating these with youth workers employed
by Odense municipality. Some years ago 2 Turkish women were elected to the
section board but they only participated for a short while and no further experience
with integrating the ethnic communities in the participatory structure exists. The
board members have discussed how to deal with this problem of legitimacy and the
idea has been voiced to introduce a quota system according to which a certain
percentage of the board members should represent ethnic residents. In this respect
it is a problem that about 70 different ethnic groups live at Vollsmose but a
suggestion is to increase the number of representatives to 9 and reserve 4 seats for
the large Somali, Turk, Bosnian and Arab communities.
Social cohesion
The tenants’ meeting house is open three nights a week. It has a café run by a
voluntary association that arranges music events and a ‘Drop-in Centre’ that
functions as a meeting place for persons with few social networks and tenants with
psychological or addiction-related problems; every second week 2 psychological
practitioners visit the centre. During school holidays activities are arranged for
children, and with profits from the café the voluntary association sponsored a weeks
holiday trip for local children in 1998. Also, Egeparken has recently set up a football
team. All newcomers are welcomed with “chocolate and information” and
introduced to the social and cultural life of the estate. It has proved easier to attract
new residents to take part in the different activities than it has with “old-timers”.
The number of tenants who cannot take care of themselves at Egeparken is low,
and only in a few instances the housing section has contacted the social authorities if
people have behaved in an unacceptable way to themselves or their neighbours.
The degree of social interaction and dialogue between Danish and ethnic residents is
low at Egeparken. According to the chairman of the section board the only
successful multicultural event took place when Danish and Bosnian folk dancers
entertained together. According to the chairman of the section board the explicit
purpose of modifying the 7-storey block was to make it less attractive to ethnic
families with many children by reducing the size of apartments in order to increase
the relative number of Danish residents in the housing section. The objective was
however not realised as the renovation had just been carried out when Bosnian
refugees moved to Vollsmose and many of these settled at Egeparken.
On a number of occasions Egeparken has received negative media attention as one
of the three most problem-ridden housing sections at Vollsmose. The negative
interest peaked at the turn of the year 1998-99 when elderly residents were the
victims of a series of forced entries committed by youngsters kicking in doors and
robbing the elderly who could not defend themselves. The few culprits committing
the crimes have been caught by the police and tenants of Egeparken have installed
entry phones and more secure front doors as a countermeasure.
A survey showed a high degree of discontent among tenants at Egeparken with
respect to social and physical aspects of the housing estate (Gottschalk, Engberg og
35
Pedersen 2000). In general, tenants found that too many people living at Egeparken
have social problems like alcoholism or drug-addiction and they expressed their fear
of moving around in the area after dark. Many respondents were frustrated that
Vollsmose has been stigmatised as a ghetto in Odense and some had found the
negative reputation a barrier in relation to entering the labour market.
Hybenhaven
Hybenhaven is a high-density/low-rise housing estate with 245 housing units and
550 tenants. The average rent per square metre in 1999 was DKK 466 compared
with DKK 433 in 1994.
Efficiency
The account in Hybenhaven balances around DKK 10.3 million, the relative size of
the different items are illustrated in the following figure:
Source; Andelsboligforeningen Højstrup, “Resultatopgørelse afdeling 15, perioden 01.0198 – 31.12.98”.
Tenants decide upon expenses relating to maintenance and appropriation for future
renewals, consumption (water etc.) cleaning, collective goods like club facilities or
laundries and social activities. They have no say with respect to the level of
repayments or the administrative fee paid to Højstrup.
Residents’ participation
The section board in Hybenhaven has 5 members, 3 women and 2 men. The board
members work to improve the physical and social environment of Hybenhaven and
they support the Urban Committee process of co-operation and social development
at Vollsmose. The members of the board regularly inspect the physical environment
of Hybenhaven, individual gardens have to be kept properly and tenants are kindly
asked to keep their garden in order if this is not the case. To encourage gardening
the household with the best looking garden is awarded a prize. The section board
has delegated a number of specific tasks to ad hoc tenant’s groups. Currently a
group works to set up a playground deciding upon questions of design and price
and the working group has invited tenants at Hybenhaven to join in painting the
new playground when it will be set up.
Account, Hybenhaven 1999.
Laundry and
communit y house
1%
Section board and
tenant' s activi ties
1%
Savings and others
2%
Wat er, se wer ,
electricity, renovation
3%
Housing admini strat ion
6%
Cleaning
6%
Maintenance and
appropr iati on for f uture
renewals
14%
Repayments &
interests, t ax on real
estate, insurance
67%
36
The chairman of the board disagrees with the policy objective of changing the
composition of tenants at Vollsmose; instead policies should be developed in order
to improve living conditions of people residing in the area. The tenant’s
representatives work to facilitate tenants’ activities and they wish to reformulate the
role of the section board leaving behind elements of autocratic decision making and
replacing these with direct participation and co-operation. In this process it is
important to educate tenants to take advantage of the time and resources made
available by the board, and to pursue a policy of identifying possibilities and
opportunities instead of putting up restrictions to tenants’ autonomy.
Social cohesion
The declared policy of the section board is to mobilise tenants in the development
of the social and cultural life of the estate but in practice most initiatives are taken
by a core group of active tenants. Apart from the section board there is an active
voluntary association at Hybenhaven that arranges sports or other leisure activities
almost every day especially in the summertime. Once every week the section board
invites people for a walk in the centre of Vollsmose or at the nearby Odense Stream
area. Recently the number of vacations has gone up at Hybenhaven and more
tenants with an ethnic background have moved into the estate. Differences in
customs and lifestyle patterns have in some cases sparked off conflicts, for instance
when some tenants did not know how to make use of the waste pre-sorting system.
The section board addresses frustrations when they occur. Often conflicts relate to
the practical use of common facilities or to the informal rules of social interaction
existing between residents, and the strategy pursued by the board is therefore to
communicate these informal rules to newcomers when they arrive at Hybenhaven.
Present performance of Højstrup Andelsboligforening
Residents’ participation
The decentralisation of decision-making power to the section boards and in
particular to the tenants’ assembly following the Social Housing Act of 1997 has
involved a number of challenges to the housing association. The housing council
has had to redefine its role from one of detailed involvement in the day-to-day
decisions of individual housing sections to one of identifying and debating policies
and principles. To encourage residents’ participation the housing administration
emphasises a continuous contact and dialogue with the section boards. Sometimes
the boards make decisions that administrators disagree with, but a close dialogue
settles conflicts and prevents that differences of opinion turn into problems in the
relationship between administration and tenants.
Højstrup finds it difficult to enter into a discussion with tenants about the budget
approval procedure. In general tenants have no proper knowledge of what they are
dealing with and they are often more keen on discussing topics like whether dogs
should be allowed or new television channels introduced. Budgets are distributed in
advance of tenants’ assemblies and Højstrup adds explanatory comments to all
entries explaining which ones that are potentially subject to decision making. As a
rule, tenants have limited influence on the running posts. They may decide whether
to pay the association for snow clearing or do it themselves, or whether the housing
section should employ a full-time or a part-time caretaker. But the relative
proportion of such costs in the overall budget is low and a basic level of service
provision is a necessary prerequisite for a well-functioning estate. Once budgets
37
have been approved the financial management is entirely in the hands of the
housing administration; all financial dispositions of individual housing sections have
to be sanctioned by the administration.
When Højstrup compares tenants’ democracy on the three estates residents are
more active at Hybenhaven than at Granparken and Egeparken, the rule seems to
be that tenants participate less the bigger the estate. The mere size of particularly
Egeparken is a barrier to community feelings and responsibility, the social networks
among tenants appear to be less strong and they never fully develop the potentially
positive aspects of the neighbourhood dimension. Also, Vollsmose is a multicultural
community and the lack of positive experience relating to the integration of ethnic
groups in the democratic structure is a problem. The percentage of tenants who
vote for the extreme right is relatively high at Vollsmose compared with other
neighbourhoods in Odense and tenants’ meetings are sometimes marked by
negative confrontations between Danes and residents with an ethnic background.
Administrative changes in Højstrup
At Højstrup an effort is made to become more service-oriented in the daily
interaction with tenants. For a long period the demand for social housing has
exceeded the supply, and because of this both caretakers and administrative staff has
tended to become less service-minded towards tenants. Therefore, a key challenge is
to make the housing administration more customer-oriented. In order to modernise
the delivery of housing services the association is occupied with the possibility of
differentiating between base-line products and individual services to accommodate
differences in tenants’ preferences allowing for a more individualised service profile.
The extension and detail of rules regulating the social sector is considerable and the
housing association finds that it is important to get rid of the sectors negative image
as being too tightly regulated. The concept of the “disposition right” is formulated
in too narrow terms, according to law improvements must not be of a “luxurious
nature” and only improvements below DKK 40,000 can be reimbursed while a new
kitchen or a bathroom typically is more expensive.
Social segregation
Højstrup experiences how the socially most stabile or well-off amongst the tenants
migrate out of Vollsmose via the internal waiting list to find accommodation at
other social housing estates in Odense, while tenants with less personal and financial
resources stay on. Due to the migration vacant apartments are left available for
persons in the municipal allocation scheme thus further reinforcing the tendency
that the socially disadvantaged tenants become concentrated in Vollsmose. The
administrative leaders in the housing administration would like to abolish the
internal waiting list to get an available supply of attractive social housing apartments.
The housing council – in charge of renting issues - is opposed to such a change and
defends tenants’ preference of access, and tenants in the council argue that
abolishing the internal waiting list would not increase the number of tenants with
more personal resources at Vollsmose.
38
Figure 6: Apartments from Granparken, Egeparken and Hybenhaven made available for the
municipal housing allocation scheme.
Højstrup 1995 1996 1997 1998 Total per cent of
apartments
Granparken, 504 apartments 23 17 19 27 86 9 per cent
Egeparken, 487 apartments 20 48 28 31 127 26 per cent
Hybenhaven, 245 apartments 5 6 6 10 27 11 per cent
Total 1,236 apartments 45 71 53 68 240 19.50 per cent
Source: Østergaard 1999a.
To move on the debate and experiment with alternative allocation mechanisms
Højstrup and other social housing associations in Odense have introduced a number
of experimental rules sanctioned by the Ministry of Housing regarding the allocation
of social housing units in Vollsmose. Inspired by similar experiments in Århus
Højstrup has reserved a number of apartments for students in Granparken and
Egeparken with the explicit objective to attract other categories of tenants to the
area. The housing association finds that Odense municipality has avoided addressing
the problems at Vollsmose. The concentration of social problems has been visible
for more than a decade, but the municipality has been reluctant to develop a
comprehensive response. However, with the recent introduction of a new allocation
agreement and a renewed focus on co-operation and partnerships in Vollsmose this
situation may potentially change in the future.
Governance
For the entire post-war period the social democratic party has ruled Odense
municipality. From 80 to 90 the city council pursued a policy of setting up as many
social housing dwellings as possible, and an agreement was made with the Ministry
of Housing that social housing quotas not utilised by neighbouring municipalities
were transferred to Odense. Primarily due to economic considerations this policy
came to a halt in the early 90s, and with the decentralisation of the quota system in
94 a considerable cutback in the number of new social housing dwellings was
effectuated. Today a broad consensus exists among the parties of the city council
that social housing is too cost-generating in that it typically attracts people with
financial problems from all over Funen to Odense. The number of new social
housing units has been reduced consequently, in the period between 1998-2001 only
20 new units will be built per year. In 1998 the municipality arranged a campaign to
mobilise private landlords in the effort to provide housing for persons on the
municipal allocation scheme outside of the social housing sector. The campaign was
unsuccessful, only one landlord in a nearby municipality agreed to make housing
units available to the municipal housing allocation scheme.
A new housing allocation policy in Odense municipality
Historically, when new refugees arrived to Odense the declared settlements policy
was to disperse the arrivals in various parts of the city to avoid a concentration of
ethnic minorities in “social ghettos” (Odense kommune 1998). Therefore the
allocation agreement included an informal “8%-rule”; new refugees arriving in
Odense were not allotted a vacancy from a housing estate in which more than 8 per
cent of the tenants already had an ethnic background, a rule that was later abolished
39
because it was unlawful. Despite this policy there has been a concentration of ethnic
groups in specific housing areas throughout the 90s because of the uneven
distribution of vacancies and due to the fact that tenants with an ethnic origin have
chosen to live with people of their own cultural and social background.
In 1988 a voluntary agreement was made between Odense municipality and all social
housing associations stipulating that every second vacant 1-room apartment and
every tenth 2-, 3-, 4- and 5-room apartment were to be allocated for the municipal
housing scheme. From 1991 to 1995 the annual number of allocated housing units
was approximately 400. From 1996 to 1998 the number rose to 600 units, and the
municipality has estimated the future demand for municipal housing allocation to be
approximately 600 housing units. The increasing demand should be measured
against the fact that Odense municipality has sold out of its municipally owned
social housing stock. In 1990 the municipality owned 937 dwellings, and in 1998 the
number was 519. In 1996 Bosnian refugees arrived in Odense, and the municipality
cancelled the existing agreement from 1988 enforcing the 25%-rule in order to
provide housing for the refugees.
Influenced by various events of social unrest in Vollsmose Odense city council has
debated the municipal housing policy on a number of occasions and in 1998 a new
allocation policy to counteract the relative concentration of socially disadvantaged
persons in areas as Vollsmose was adopted. The main objective of the new policy is
to establish a closer co-operation between the social administration and the three
large housing associations in Odense with respect to the administration of the
municipal housing scheme. Up until the agreement the logic of the system was the
matching of vacant apartments with the waiting list of the municipal housing
allocation scheme. Now a routine has bee set up by which a case-by-case assessment
of individual applicants is combined with a consideration of the social composition
of tenants in the housing section where the vacancy is available. The goal is to
achieve a more balanced distribution of persons on the scheme and the new
agreement introduces the concept of “socially sustainable” housing sections, i.e.
housing sections with a majority of socially well-functioning tenants. In the future,
such relatively privileged estates will have to accept a larger share of persons
allocated by the municipality while the most disadvantaged housing sections will be
excluded from the scheme. The implication is that some housing estates and
sections will have to accept that up to every second vacant apartment is passed on
to the municipality.
As a part of the general shift in housing policy housing associations in Odense have
made a number of exemptions from the existing rules by allowing people outside
the waiting lists access to a social housing apartment. In some housing sections
priority of access is given to students and young people, in other sections all 2-room
apartments are reserved for people aged 55 and up and in some cases newcomers
are allowed to bypass waiting lists. The agreement encourages the establishment of
small-scale “lifestyle communities” composed of people with particular social
problems who are encouraged to form a commune. In the case of mentally disabled
persons, such communes facilitate professional assistance on a day-to-day basis, e.g.
by including a place of residence for a social worker as a part of the community. It
will be difficult to establish these communities on the existing housing stock due to
low vacancy rates and the idea is to be implemented with respect to the construction
of future social housing estates. The concept of lifestyle community also includes
ethnic minorities, 25 per cent of the apartments in a new estate in Odense have been
40
reserved for ethnic minorities. The idea behind this decision is to promote a housing
environment in which small groups of ethnic minorities live together with Danes in
order to avoid a large-scale concentration of ethnic residents in relatively deprived
neighbourhoods.
The change of allocation policy 1 January 1999 implies that the socially worst off
housing estates are excluded from the municipal allocation scheme, including
Granparken and Egeparken. To implement the new agreement the municipal quota
of 600 housing units will have to be distributed to other areas than Vollsmose, and
housing administrators anticipate some criticism from estates being included in the
new deal.
The Urban Committee process in Vollsmose
Odense municipality and the three housing associations operating in Vollsmose
have set up a steering committee to implement a social development strategy in the
area. Being a partnership, ideally co-operation in the steering committee should be
based on consensus and reciprocity but obviously the parties disagree on a number
of points and the process of defining authority relationships and solving these
differences of opinion has been a challenge to all involved. In some instances non-
public committee members wish to play an employer’s role vis-à-vis municipal
project employees, in other situations it has been difficult for administrative
representatives to relate to tenants as representatives of an autonomous democratic
housing structure. These differences of opinion surface with respect to discussions
of the social development strategy. Tenants argue that the development of
recreational facilities should be prioritised while the municipality wishes to target
effort towards the specific needs of socially disadvantaged tenants. Setting up the
three Drop-in-Centres the social administration emphasised the latter position while
tenants representatives wanted these facilities to be ordinary tenants’ meeting places.
Local representatives (housing administrators, tenants, social workers) in unison
criticise Odense public administration and the city council of paying too little
attention to the problems of Vollsmose and the preferences articulated by local
actors. Developing area-based strategies entails a co-ordination effort on behalf of
the different public administrations operating in the area and such efforts are yet to
be fully developed, e.g. in the area of children’s living conditions at Vollsmose.
However, the three chairmen of the section boards at Egeparken, Granparken and
Hybenhaven express enthusiasm with respect to the initiated Urban Committee
process anchored in the steering committee. As tenants representatives they have
experienced a marked change in the attitude of Odense municipality towards the
committee. Initially the committee did not receive much attention from the
municipality and its main function was to administer a small amount of money. This
situation has changed and the feeling is now that the politico-administrative system
in Odense seriously wants to commit itself in relation to the situation at Vollsmose.
The 21 members have gradually developed reciprocal social relationships and during
a seminar about urban development and project steering in the fall of 1998 the
members decided to make a conference addressing the problems of Vollsmose. May
1999 120 persons participated in a conference including political and administrative
leaders of the municipality who discussed Vollsmose with the many local actors
working or living in the area.
41
All 120 participants were asked to write down what they considered the most
important topics of discussion, and 10 working groups were made that further
elaborated on the themes emerging from this process. These themes touched upon
issues like “political responsibility”, “community and co-operation”, “crime and
vandalism”, “planning and democracy”, “image problems”, “the composition of
tenants”, “children’s living conditions”, “traffic” just to mention a few. A similar
conference was organised in 1995 but at that time the outcome was negative. The
participating citizens felt they were promised radical changes at Vollsmose and they
became disillusioned with the slow progress of the resulting process. This time
conference participants were invited to elaborate upon a development strategy for
Vollsmose starting with the premise that initiatives and policies should be developed
within the framework of the existing social, cultural and political resources of the
residents in Vollsmose.
Part 4: Modernisation of the Danish social housing sector in
the 90s
Social housing in Denmark is in principle a private mode of housing provision that
is subsidised by the state and made subject to detailed public regulation. The ‘social’
dimension primarily relates to the fact that public authorities have access to a certain
part of the housing stock. The demand for social housing exceeds the supply, since
1994 there has only been about 200 voids annually out of a total population of
500,000 dwellings. Despite this apparently privileged market position the social
housing sector has been perceived as crisis-ridden by political actors within and
particularly outside the sector itself, and it has been continuously subject to
administrative, financial and political reform initiatives in the 90s.
The main reform trends centre around three strategies: 1) A service-oriented
strategy intended to increase the competitiveness of the sector in relation to the
private housing market. 2) A democratisation strategy to support and strengthen the
system of tenant’s self-governance, the democratic dimension is a primary source of
legitimacy and serves as a (cost saving) lay-input in the day-to-day management of
housing estates. 3) A social cohesion strategy, the sector is a non-profit social
housing sector with a responsibility to accommodate the housing needs of socially
disadvantaged population groups, and the development of an institutional capacity
to facilitate social cohesion in problem-ridden housing estates has been a primary
objective. From a reform perspective the three objectives need to be balanced
against each other in the pursuit of cost-effective management under circumstances
of detailed public regulation.
Efficiency
Housing sections are financially independent units and costs associated with
improvements are directly transferred to rents. Thus tenants are tempted to adopt a
short-term perspective keeping rents down while housing administrators emphasise
a long-term perspective, but as a rule adequate appropriations for future
improvements is accepted by all parties as a key element in the continuous
modernisation of the housing stock. Financial government is an important topic on
the agenda of section boards and with the further decentralisation of budgetary
powers to the level of tenants’ assemblies the link between the democratic mode of
organisation and local choice of economic strategy has been further strengthened. In
many housing sections green accounting systems have been introduced (e.g.
42
Sundparken) describing the local and global environmental effects of activities in the
estates (Jensen 1999). Green accounting systems allow tenants to scrutinise past
activities and life styles patterns in the search for potential reductions in levels of
energy consumption and pollution and they potentially result in a noticeable
reduction in running expenses while adding a substantial input to the democratic
processes in the estates.
About 500 housing sections totalling 155,000 dwellings have received financial
support from the Urban Committee in the general effort to strengthen the market
position of the social housing sector, about half of these were situated in the
Greater Copenhagen Area and one fourth in the largest provincial cities. All housing
sections were struggling with high vacation levels, a concentration of social
problems, physical decay and stigmatisation. A key element in the programme was a
re-financing scheme of DKK 10 billion. In 1997 the refinancing of mortgages had
resulted in revenue of DKK 6 billion equal to an annual rent reduction of DKK 430
million for a 30-year time-span (Pedersen 1998). Housing sections subject to the re-
financing scheme set up new loans in total sizing the revenue of DKK 6 billion in
order to finance physical refurbishment, and the overall outcome of the process was
a balance between revenues derived from mortgage re-financing and the physical
modernisation of the estates. The relative distribution of rent reductions and
physical improvements differ between estates and in average the outcome of rent
reductions varies from DKK 48 per square metre to DKK 61 per square metre
(ibid).
Equity
Amongst tenants there is a high degree of satisfaction with the allocation system.
Because rents depend upon costs at the time of construction typically the most
attractive apartments are also the cheapest while the least attractive are the most
expensive, and tenants tend to regard the waiting list system as a fair alternative to
the market since everybody can sign up for an apartment. The system allows no
arbitrary eligibility criteria, tenants sign up for their prioritised apartment and they
will eventually get it if they wait long enough, sometimes a lifetime. In the
administration of the 25% allocation rule a tendency exists that the scheme is not
always administered according to law. This happens if the internal moving chain is
set in motion before the apartment is reported “vacant” to the municipality
somewhere else, typically in a less attractive housing section. However, as illustrated
above there is a trend to include most social housing associations in the municipal
allocation schemes (e.g. as in the case of Sundparken).
For some years there has been a push for reform of the allocation system. In
particular because there is little access of newcomers to the sector when no
attractive apartments are available, and because the system further enhances the
segregation process on the housing market. Also, it is cost generating that some
housing sections in effect function as transit sections from which tenants move on
to housing sections of their priority according to internal waiting lists. Both
Vollsmose and Vapnagård have functioned as access gates to other social housing
sections, in Vapnagård an end was put to this traffic with the introduction of the
rule that newcomers had to live in the estate for 2 years before qualifying for the
internal waiting list.
Both cases illustrate a shift in allocation policies towards attempts to engineer the
composition of the tenant population by means of reserving a number of dwellings
43
for specific target groups and encouraging the establishment of “lifestyle-
communities”. The explicit objective of the experimental allocation scheme in
Granparken and Egeparken is to attract what is considered as more resourceful
categories of tenants than the ones residing in the estates. In a number of
municipalities including Elsinore the concept of “green apartments” has been
introduced, apartments available to commuters if they move to the municipality
hereby cutting down traffic (hence “green”).
Present performance
From a housing administrator’s perspective it is a promise of continuity that tasks
and purposes are clearly defined and housing activities comprehensively regulated by
law. The disadvantage is that the sector depends to a high degree upon political
processes at the national and local levels and this dependency relationship is felt as a
barrier to a more autonomous development direction within the sector.
Many reform-issues surface debates in the sector and different housing
administrations pursue different modernisation strategies. However, the growing
market-orientation is likely to result in increased visibility with respect to levels and
composition of housing expenditures when housing administrations introduce
procedures by which users get access to information about the price and quality of
the services provided. With the introduction of administrative auditing systems
differences in expenditure levels and types of service among different housing
associations will be illuminated, and residents will be given an opportunity to
compare for instance the relative proportion of rents allocated to administration. To
the extent that such mechanisms of comparability are implemented the next step
may be that tenants “shop” between different housing associations on the basis of
comparison of costs, service levels etc. Such experiments with mechanisms of
visibility is likely to strengthen accountability in housing administrations and allow
tenants greater freedom of choice with respect to the quality and level of service in
each housing section, potentially leading to competition between housing
administrations.
Another key issue often touched upon is the balance between individual and
collective norms and modes of organisation in provision of social housing.
Residents of the 90s are more prone to demand individualised solutions to their
specific needs and interests and they take for granted that they can opt out of e.g.
the democratic culture of the estate if they wish to do so. To modernise the sector,
debaters argue that a balance will have to be struck between maintaining the basic
dimension of collectivism while allowing for increased flexibility and adaptation to
more individualised lifestyle patterns, as illustrated by the debates on the
“disposition right”.
In the early 80s the rule was that tenants were obliged to hand over the apartment in
a state similar to the one they had received it in maybe 15 years earlier when they
rented it. The implication of this rule was that some associations fully modernised
vacant flats and charged former residents. Around 1985 an end was put to this
practice and a debate emerged on the rights and obligations of tenants living in
social housing and gradually more action space was introduced to adapt rule-sets to
a more individualised lifestyle. The question is how much tenants autonomy and
rule flexibility can be allowed within the institutional setting of non-profit social
housing, especially with respect to capitalising on property financed by the state?
Should tenants be compensated for improvements made and benefit from increase
44
in value of property, or allowed to capitalise on improvements made to the flat
when they move on?
Social capital
A number of synergy effects are derived from the system of residents’ participation
in the administration and governance of housing estates. The combination of
professional administrations and a decentralised participatory structure facilitates
residents’ mobilisation in the day-to-day physical and social development of the
housing environment. Section boards function as conflict-mediators and they
facilitate tenants’ participation in the production of collective goods in the estate as
the cornerstones of the local participatory structure.
Still, the democratic system of representation and tenant’s participation in the social
housing sector is faced with a number of challenges, especially one of revitalising
tenants’ interests in participating, and the system is faced with traditional dilemmas
of balancing elite-directed and participatory democratic principles. From the
perspective of the housing administration it is an advantage that the boards take on
administrative tasks in co-operation with the administration, often a strong
chairman or a handful of very active tenants become experts on the increasingly
complex procedures and regulations run the section boards. But a risk exists that a
division is created between ‘bureaucratic’ tenants who are experts and lay tenants
with still less insight into the new and complex rules and regulations in the sector.
Jensen (1997: 507) argues that increased competition and market orientation in the
sector conflicts with a continuous development of the democratic system. Because
social housing associations emphasise the development of a service profile they tend
to restrict themselves with respect to demands put on tenants for active
participation in the democratic and administrative running of the housing estates.
Jensen argues further that the increased political demand for tenant’s participation
as materialised in recent legislative changes tend to strengthen the position of
already active political elites to the detriment of recruiting new participants.
The typical active household is a blue-collar middle-aged couple who has been
active for longer periods of time (Skifter Andersen 1999b). In sections with a low
degree of residents’ participation a primary reason is the lack of communal facilities
(ibid.) but with the Urban Committee process and the modernisation process in
general more and more estates are well-equipped with tenants’ meeting places. Also,
the issue of size is important, with the introduction of a decentralised structure in
Vapnagård residents’ participation was more firmly anchored in all of the housing
sections while the experiences from Vollsmose indicate the difficulties of nourishing
the participation process if housing sections are too large.
Social cohesion
Because of the segregation process on the housing market relatively large
proportions of residents in social housing estates are outside the labour market, in
Vollsmose it was 7 out of 10 in a population of close to 10,000, and many residents
stay in their housing area during daytime hours. The municipal housing scheme has
further accelerated the segregation process resulting in a relative concentration of
socially disadvantaged population groups in the least attractive housing sections with
the largest number of voids. Typical social problems relate to alcoholism and drug-
addiction and a discrepancy exists between ‘ordinary’ tenants who see no reason to
45
become socially involved “just because they live in social housing” and tenants with
special difficulties and housing needs. When coping with these problems tenants
pursue different strategies. As shown above, some section board members take on a
policing role easing problems by making tenants move out while others emphasise
the role of social mediator trying to assist people in adapting to house rules, and
most times the two aspects are intertwined.
The Urban Committee Programme has to some extent slowed down the segregation
process. The combination of rent reductions and a comprehensive process of
physical renewal has had a positive impact on moving patterns, slowing down the
vacation rate particularly amongst the well-off segments of the tenant population.
Further, there is a tendency that more tenants have become involved as a result of
the social development strategy, and the tenants’ advisors scheme has been
successful in reducing the overall levels of social problems especially in relation to
youth-related issues (Skifter Andersen 1999b).
Ethnic segregation and the ‘ghetto’-debate
About half of all refugees and immigrants in Denmark live in the social housing
sector (Boligministeriet 1996) and a relatively high proportion of the ethnic
minorities live in the socially most disadvantaged housing estates. Empirical analyses
of social and ethnic segregation show a relative concentration of ethnic groups in
the oldest parts of the social housing sector. These estates are typically situated in
larger cities and in a relatively small number of small and middle-size municipalities
(Skifter Andersen & Ærø 1997). From 1984-93 the share of ethnic minorities living
in the most troubled housing estates tripled and it is expected to further increase in
the future (Hummelgaard et al. 1997).
There is a lack of research on ethnic participation but experience indicates that the
percentage of ethnic minorities in the representative institutions of the social
housing sector is small and experience from Elsinore and Odense does not
contradict this observation. Thus, in the social housing sector there is a growing
distance between the trend towards further decentralisation of political and financial
decision-making power and the lack of participation by ethnic communities. The
emergence of the “ghetto” debate in the early 90s illustrated that the relative
concentration of ethnic communities on social housing estates was perceived as a
problem, in the language of everyday life all ethnic residents are often referred to as
‘de fremmede’; “the foreigner’s” in the sense of strangers.
Indirect discrimination occurs when for instance a number of physical and
administrative changes are implemented like modifying housing blocks or
substituting priority of access to families with a priority given to persons above 50
without children in order to restrict the access of residents with an ethnic
background. In both Elsinore and Odense the relative concentration of ethnic
groups has been perceived as a problem by actors at all levels from local authorities
to housing administrators and tenants. The standard response has been to pursue a
“policy of dispersion” in an effort to prevent that tenants with an ethnic
background outnumber Danish residents. However, with the introduction of the
notion of “lifestyle style communities” in the recent allocation agreements
negotiated in both municipalities a shift of policy in relation to the “ghetto” is
discernible with more emphasis on positive aspects of cultural and ethnic difference.
46
Governance: Dilemmas of decentralisation
The social housing sector is subject to different and somewhat conflicting regulative
principles and development trends. This can be illustrated by the concepts of
‘functional’ and ‘geographical’ principles of policy as shown in the figure below. On
the horisontal axis functional integration refers to the co-ordination of policies and
institutional practices in order to standardise public activities and implement
principles of equity, equality, efficiency, material redistribution etc. From a public
regulatory perspective functional integration in the social housing sector involves
the provision of adequate housing, universal access, equality of treatment and cost-
effectiveness as primary policy objectives implemented by law.
On the vertical axis in the figure, geographical integration refers to the decentralisation
of policies and institutional practices in order to adapt these to the local diversity of
needs and preferences. The governance perspective in both case studies show how
legislative changes pushing forward political and administrative decentralisation
were interpreted and adapted to the local housing context in processes of
negotiation and conflict primarily between actors in the social housing sector and
the local authorities. The emphasis upon local partnerships as motors of social
development strategies promoted by the Urban Committee Programme, the
introduction of local rule exemptions with respect to allocation procedures and the
newly negotiated allocation agreements are examples of decentralisation as
geographical integration.
A point is that the decentralised nature of the Danish political structure makes it
legitimate to pursue a policy of geographical integration, but a number of tensions
between the two organisational principles occur at all levels depending on the
context. The phenomenon of “cash-box reasoning” (‘kassetænkning’) by which local
governments push on financial burdens to other actors is an illustration:
Municipalities sell out publicly owned social housing while emphasising the social
responsibility of the social housing sector. The municipality of Copenhagen has
recently sold approximately 45,000 rented housing apartments most of which have
been turned into co-operative housing units.
The result was a positive effect on the municipal budgets when the overall number
of housing units available for the 25%-scheme decreased hereby pushing the burden
of social housing on to other municipalities and to the social housing sector. In
many municipalities specific rules have been adopted with respect to entitlement
criteria for access to social housing. In some municipalities the local rule
configuration is construed with the explicit aim of excluding sections of the
population (typically with low personal incomes) from access to social housing
(Skifter Andersen 1999a). Hereby, the municipality avoids the burden of financing
e.g. social transfers to social assistance receivers from another municipality.
47
Figure 7: Functional and geographic principles of policy
Global perspective
Functional Pluralistic
Organisation organisation
Local perspective
Source: Inspired by Jørgensen 1991: 197.
Changes in allocation policies: Geographic integration
The municipal housing allocation scheme is subject to disputes and conflicts
between actors in the social housing sector and local governments, in Odense and
Elsinore the 25%-rule had been employed for a number of years before a more
systematic co-ordination of the scheme was set up between the parties. The new
procedures to co-ordinate the allocation policy in order to engineer the tenant
composition marks a move away from functional principles of policy (equality of
treatment and access) towards geographic integration with emphasis on local
allocation criteria. Both case studies illustrate how the rule-system of the social
housing sector is adopted to local preferences the point being that this increased
rule-flexibility tends to facilitate social cohesion while allowing for some degree of
discrimination and inequality of access in order to impact the composition of the
tenant population. In Odense the basic argument is that in the long-term
perspective a housing area like Vollsmose with a disproportionate high share of
socially disadvantaged tenants will become socially ‘stabilised’ if the municipal
housing allocation is directed towards other social housing areas.
Reform changes in the Danish social housing sector balance between the private
and the public features of the sector. The private aspect comes into play when the
basic mode of housing provision is pushed towards that of private ownership while
the public aspect surface with the argument that the housing environment should be
targeted towards the social needs of specific disadvantaged groups (in the direction
Geographic
integration
Functional
integration
48
of ‘sheltered housing’). The two aspects sometimes conflict as when tenants’
complain that community workers approach them as social clients.
From the municipal point of view, the social housing sector has been too reluctant
to accept social responsibility. Instead of trying to solve social problems there has
been a tendency to take on a policing role with respect to tenants who did not easily
fit into the social norms and modes of behaviour. Against this view tenants and
housing administrators emphasise the difference between social policy and housing
policy. They argue that the current policy of developing social capital among tenants
on social housing estates should not be a blind for a transfer of social responsibility
from local government to housing co-operations, and the community development
strategy should not be financed by rents alone. The primary task of the housing
organisations should be one of identifying and giving voice to social problems, not
to take on a fundamental responsibility of helping individuals to become
reintegrated into society, a task which is too comprehensive to be limited to the
social housing sector alone. As a housing administrator expresses it: “To expect that
the most disadvantaged areas have to care for the tenants allocated from the
municipality is like asking people who have fallen in the harbour to pull themselves
up by the hair.”
The ‘ownership-gene'
An attitude sometimes expressed amongst right-winged parties is that social housing
should be for the socially disadvantaged only while the average well-off citizen
should stay away from the ‘ghetto’. Because of the state subsidy the state should
pursue a policy of housing the socially disadvantaged in the sector thus
implementing a systematic policy of housing segregation. The social democratic
coalition government responds by modernising the sector and it tries to shift the
social burden more towards other housing sectors. Moral and political pressure has
been put on private landowners but with little or no result especially with respect to
housing refugees and ethnic minorities. Recently the Minister of Housing
introduced the notion of the ‘ownership-gene’ to underline the advantages
associated with home-ownership in the debate on the future of the social housing
sector in Denmark (Andersen 1999). With reference to Vollsmose the argument was
put forward that the extent of social problems could be reduced with the
introduction of a better mix of ownership relations. In line with this type of
reasoning the municipality of Ballerup is currently experimenting with the concept
of ‘joint-ownership housing’ (‘medejerboliger’), in a new housing estate 10 ordinary
social housing apartments lie next to 30 joint-ownership apartments in which
tenants pay a larger deposit in return for greater autonomy with respect to how they
wish to decorate their flats.
Privatisation of the Danish social housing stock is currently not on the political
agenda. If representatives of a housing council would decide to sell-off social
housing units such a move would have to be approved by the local authority as well
as the Minister of Housing. Therefore, it would most likely require a combination of
a liberal political regime at the local as well as the national level for the issue to be
brought forward. Debating the future of the Danish social housing sector,
spokesmen and -women of the sector point out that they could probably sell out the
most attractive housing units over night. But the result would be a considerable
reduction in the number of tenants with enough personal resources to become
involved in the social, democratic and cultural life of the social housing estates,
hereby undermining the tradition of social housing in Denmark. If a choice were
49
made to sell off the worst off sections instead this would leave the most
disadvantaged tenants with high maintenance costs and without the social and
practical backup of the housing associations. And they argue, that privatisation
would go against the basic rationale of the social housing sector: To provide housing
for persons in need by securing public access to dispose of a certain part of the
housing market.
50
References
Andersen, Jytte. 1999. Udnyt ejergénet i bypolitik. Kronik i Jyllands-Posten,
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boligbevægelsens historie, Boligselskabernes Landsforening.
Lovforslag nr. L 46: Forslag til Lov om ændring af lov om almene boliger samt
støttede private andelsboliger m.v., By- og Boligministeriet, 8. Kontor, j.nr. B-5211-
18.
51
Norvig Larsen, Jacob. 1999: Citizen involvement in Community Revitalisation
Projects, working paper, SBI.
Odense kommune. 1998. Tværmagistral Arbejdsgruppe vedr. ny bosætningspolitik i Odense
Kommune.
Pedersen, Dan Ove. 1998. Improving Local Social Housing Competitiveness –
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Indikatorer på segregation og boligsociale problemer i kommunerne, SBI, SBI-rapport 287.
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Skifter Andersen, Hans 1999b. Hovedkonklusioner, undersøgelsesmetoder og
sammenfatning, working paper, SBI.
Vestergaard, Hedvig et.al 1997. De 8 modelområder. Evaluering af et
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Østergaard, Børge. 1999b. Vollsmose’s planlægning og udbygning, working paper,
SBI.
52
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Jesper Jespersen, Jørgen Birk
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Public Administration and the
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53
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The Cognitive Turn(s) in EU Studies
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Roles in transition! Politicians and
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Hvorfor tager faglærte ufaglært arbejde?
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SCOT in Action
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Susana Borrás
Science, technology and
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Politics
... programa de eliminación de arrabales refleja un creciente interés del público en la renovación urbana y las autoridades locales llevaron a cabo una política de demolición y reconstrucción de viviendas. Esta estrategia dio lugar a protestas de los residentes que querían preservar y modernizar las propiedades existentes (Engberg, 2000). ...
Thesis
Los debates en torno a los enfoques de la intervención de los asentamientos informales se ha centrado principalmente en las actuaciones adelantadas en las ciudades de América Latina, África y Asia, dejando de lado los procesos y formas de intervención dadas en algunas ciudades europeas, actuaciones que lograron revertir la urbanización informal a partir de la constitución de marcos institucionales y normativos, la formulación e implementación de políticas, planes y programas urbanísticos y sociales dirigidos a la atención de esta problemática. En este estudio se plantearon dos objetivos principales, el primero buscó develar las interacciones sociales, ambientales e institucionales que propiciaron la configuración de los modelos de intervención de los asentamientos informales en Madrid entre 1975-2015 dirigidos a garantizar el derecho a la vivienda adecuada a las familias en situación de pobreza y exclusión, y su vinculación a las estructuras del bienestar en España... Debates about intervention approaches on informal settlements have focused mainly on the actions carried out in the cities of Latin America, Africa and Asia, leaving aside the processes and forms of intervention given in some European cities, actions that managed to revert informal urbanization through the constitution of institutional and regulatory frameworks, the formulation and implementation of specific urban and social policies, plans and programs aimed at respond this problem.This study had two main objectives. The first sought to unveil the social, environmental and institutional interactions that led to the configuration of intervention models of informal settlements in Madrid between 1975-2015 aimed at guaranteeing the right to adequate housing for families in poverty and exclusion situation as well as their connection to welfare structures in Spain. The second, aimed to identify the substantive and specific contributions of Social Work to the constitution of the public housing provision system and to the social integration of the families living in the shanty towns of Madrid. Special attention has payed to neighborhoods remodeling and rehousing programs implemented in that period of study...
... Because of relative cheap rents in elderly part of the sector, there is an excessive demand for private housing particularly in Copenhagen and in the major cities of Aarhus, Aalborg and Odense. Keeping rents down creates a barrier to mobility on the housing market, because persons occupying cheap flats have little incentive to move on to more expensive private ownership (Engberg, 2000:10, Vestergaard, 2001. ...
Article
Public housing is a public sector that has been severely affected by privatization policies. Not so in Denmark, however, where public housing is not provided directly by the State but is run by independent housing associations: the “common housing” sector. This sector is the outcome of a compromise between the social-democratic movement and liberal-conservative parties in the 1920-30s. The social-democrats were politically too weak to implement their “municipal socialism” programme, which included (municipal) State-owned housing. This weakness, however, has in fact proven itself to be strength in the face of recent State-led privatization and mercantilization schemes. This experience problematizes the assumptions underlying the historical construction of the welfare State and its role in stewarding resources that are put in common, particularly in the sphere of housing. Instituting the common beyond the direct reach of the State is a lesson that can be learnt from the demise of social-democratic welfare statism.
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Full-text available
Access to decent and affordable housing is a fundamental human need and a human right (UN, 1948). The UNECE Social Housing Study finds that housing is the least affordable human right of all. At least 100 million low- and middle-income people in the UNECE region are housing cost overburdened; they spend more than 40 per cent of their disposable income on housing. High housing costs for low-income households leave limited resources for other basic needs, such as food, health, clothing and transportation. This means that the lack of affordable housing makes other human rights increasingly unaffordable. Housing systems are diverse and context specific. However, in the UNECE region, they share certain characteristics. In nearly all UNECE countries, there is some support for those who cannot afford housing costs. Although each country defines social housing differently, social housing is an integral part of housing systems that are designed to fulfill a housing need for those who cannot compete in the market, afford to be homeowners or rent decent housing in the private market. When the owner occupied sector and the private rental sector suffer, as was the case in the recent crisis, the demand for affordable housing options increases. The social and affordable housing sector faces two challenges at the moment: increased need and reduced funds. This study highlights that the number of households registered on social housing lists in the UNECE member States has risen since the start of the global financial crisis. However, the crisis has made state spending cuts necessary and inevitable. These have disproportionally affected the housing sector. “Everywhere, there is great need for safe, decent, and affordable housing at the lowest income levels” (Peppercorn and Taffin, 2013, p. The global financial crisis has changed the context in which housing systems operate, and the future is uncertain (Stephens and Norris, 2011). In the past, social housing may have provided a home for the vulnerable and poor in the majority of UNECE countries. However, the recent crisis has not only increased but also diversified the social housing need. The elderly, young (first-time buyers), middle-income households as well as vulnerable and special groups are in housing need. Current challenges offer opportunities to re-examine the sector, adjust it to the new dynamic of the housing market and meet new aspirations, such as energy efficiency and customer adjusted design. The UNECE Social Housing Study and this summary contribute to bringing social housing to the forefront of the housing agenda of UNECE countries and to providing general guidance for policymakers whose actions can have an effect on where and how people live. The study identifies current trends and challenges and provides advice on social housing policy at the international level. The report offers information in support of further discussion, in-depth and context specific research for advancing social housing development by governments, local authorities, investors, private developers and NGOs to advance social housing as a critical housing option.
Article
Full-text available
The position of social housing is currently changing in many European countries. In this connection this paper describes Denmark’s social housing provision, and analyses recent developments in Danish social and affordable housing. Social housing has retained its formal position in the housing system, despite remarkable changes in who is served and its current inability to deliver affordable housing in pressure areas. The paper discusses how political and other stakeholders are approaching the housing issue, and how commentators are thinking about the future. It evaluates recent developments in the plan to build 5000 new affordable housing units in Copenhagen (in fulfilment of the mayor’s electoral promise).
FolkeBolig. BoligFolk. Politik og praksis i boligbevaegelsens historie
  • Olaf Lind
  • Jonas Og
  • Møller
Lind, Olaf og Jonas Møller. 1994. FolkeBolig. BoligFolk. Politik og praksis i boligbevaegelsens historie, Boligselskabernes Landsforening.
Hovedkonklusioner, undersøgelsesmetoder og sammenfatning, working paper, SBI
  • Skifter Andersen
  • Hans 1999b
Skifter Andersen, Hans 1999b. Hovedkonklusioner, undersøgelsesmetoder og sammenfatning, working paper, SBI.
Bygge-og boligpolitisk oversigt
Bolig og Byministeriet 1998a. Bygge-og boligpolitisk oversigt 1997-1998.
The Administration of Labour Market Policy in Denmark in the 1980s
  • Henning Jørgensen
Jørgensen, Henning. 1991. The Administration of Labour Market Policy in Denmark in the 1980s, in Knudsen, Tim (ed.): Welfare Administration in Denmark, Copenhagen, Ministry of Finance.
Forslag til Lov om aendring af lov om almene boliger samt støttede private andelsboliger m.v., By-og Boligministeriet
  • Lovforslag Nr L
Lovforslag nr. L 46: Forslag til Lov om aendring af lov om almene boliger samt støttede private andelsboliger m.v., By-og Boligministeriet, 8. Kontor, j.nr. B-5211- 18.
Grønt regnskab for boligområder. SBI-rapport 303
  • Ole Jensen
  • Michael
Jensen, Ole Michael. 1999. Grønt regnskab for boligområder. SBI-rapport 303.
Udnyt ejergénet i bypolitik. Kronik i Jyllands-Posten, 23
  • References Andersen
References Andersen, Jytte. 1999. Udnyt ejergénet i bypolitik. Kronik i Jyllands-Posten, 23.02.99.
Citizen involvement in Community Revitalisation Projects, working paper, SBI
  • Norvig Larsen
Norvig Larsen, Jacob. 1999: Citizen involvement in Community Revitalisation Projects, working paper, SBI.
Boligformidlingsaftale mellem Odense Kommune og Boligselskaberne for boligsociale og flygtninge
  • Børge Østergaard
Østergaard, Børge. 1999a. Boligformidlingsaftale mellem Odense Kommune og Boligselskaberne for boligsociale og flygtninge, working paper, SBI.