Third Way Countries (2) Housing+

Originally published in jimsresearchnotes 17 June 2014:

The paths taken to developing a unitary rental market by the seven Third Way countries have been even more varied and contrasting than the 50-50 split between Western Bloc alignment and neutrality.

1. Type of ownership:

The three German-speaking countries, and particularly Germany and Switzerland, have much more diverse kinds of non-profit and part-profit rental housing in keeping with ordoliberal principles, while the others are more monolithic. The Netherlands and Denmark have predominantly private housing associations and Sweden is the odd-one out with local authority non-profit rental housing. There are also considerable differences in the degree of competition between non-profit rental organisations.

2. Size of unitary rental market:

Switzerland has the largest unitary rental market with over 65 percent of households, followed by the Netherlands where 35 percent of the housing stock is owned by non-profit housing associations plus a much smaller share than this owned by profit rental organisations.

How much we know about the unitary rental markets of the six countries varies enormously. The main problem remains language barriers, as much no doubt exists in the languages of Third Way countries. For this reason, the following overview only touches on what exists and is available in the English language (and concerning Sweden also what exists in Swedish).

The Netherlands: is the best documented, because there are several active housing researchers at the Delft University of Technology who are directly interested in the Dutch unitary rental market and who also publish in English. As a result, the Dutch unitary rental market is without doubt the most researched of all Third Way countries. The best known researchers of Dutch housing tenure, especially as it touches the unitary rental market, are Boelhouwer, Elsinga, Haffner, van der Heijden, Lawson, Oxley and Priemus. Of the Delft researchers, Haffner and Elsinga have been prominent, and I will have reason to return to examine their work more closely in future research notes.

Switzerland: is very fortunate to have a senior housing researcher in Philippe Thalmann who is well-versed in ordoliberalism and unitary rental markets as well as Swiss housing (Kemeny et. al., 2001 and 2005). More recently, Julie Lawson at Delft has began to research Switzerland’s unitary rental market (Lawson, 2009).

Germany: Knorr-Siedow in “Innovations from below? A new concept for social housing in Germany” published in Scanlon and Whitehead (2008) shows how state-owned public rental housing has been privatised and replaced by a variety of private initiatives. Our knowledge of the German unitary rental market is relatively undeveloped and much remains to be done. This is a dearth of research in the unitary rental market of the country with the largest population of Western Europe and the home of ordoliberalism. This is a dearth that continues to leave a gaping hole in our knowledge of unitary rental markets.

Austria: Christoph Reinprecht in Scanlon and Whitehead (2008) and Walter Matznetter (in Kemeny et al., 2001 and 2005) have begun to fill in the gaps but, again, much remains to be done.

Denmark: Lotte Jensen has done pioneering work on the difficulties experienced by right-of-centre governments to force through a right-to-buy policy against the Housing Associations. I will look at this again in a research note (in preparation) on “Why so dissimilar?” a comparative research project on Scandinavian housing that sets new standards for comparative housing research. However, the book is only available in Swedish, otherwise I would never have known of it.

Sweden: Its unitary rental market has been neglected by successive governments since 1990. This, too, is a matter I will return to in later research notes. Lena Magnusson-Turner (in Scanlon and Whitehead 2008) and Bo Bengtsson (both at IBF, the Institute for Housing and Urban Research at Uppsala University) are now the main researchers on Swedish rental housing.


Kemeny, Jim, Hans Tor Andersen, Walter Matznetter & Philippe Thalmann (2001) “Non-retrenchment reasons for state withdrawal: developing the social rental market in four countries” Institute for Housing and Urban Research Working Paper 40 (November)

Kemeny, Jim; Philippe Thalmann, and Jan Kersloot (2005) “Non-profit Housing Influencing, Leading and Dominating the Unitary Rental Market: three case studies” Housing Studies Vol. 20, No. 6, pp 855-872 (November)

Lawson, Julie (2009) “The Transformation of Social Housing Provision in Switzerland Mediated by Federalism, Direct Democracy and the Urban/rural Divide” European Journal of Housing Policy Vol. 9 No. 1 pp. 45-67

Scanlon, C. and Whitehead, C (eds) (2008) Social Housing in Europe II: a review of policies and outcomes LSE, London

Each Post is a freestanding short paper that has not been peer-reviewed before publishing. Notes may combine into the equivalent of a working paper for seminar purposes.

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