PART II: Towards respectful Collaboration – Introducing a new Player into Urban Development
Chapter 2: Answers to changing Urban Environments
In this chapter we look at the four structural layers (organization, market, social structure and time) that are basic to urban planning. These layers are analyzed in respect to the current challenges they create and the opportunities they offer in relation to realizing a temporary settlement. The conclusions drawn show that indeed temporary settlements have the potential to contribute solutions to many current structural issues of urban planning and construction.
Despite existing shortages, housing production is stagnating and what does get built is hard to sell because of an impasse in the middle range of the market. Inflexible regulations have the effect that in many cases people are forced to pay high prices for low quality. Temporary settlements can contribute to an unclogging of this situation by opening up a new segment on the lower end of the housing market.
By making use of time and space gaps and mobilizing pioneer energy, the temporary settlement answers to problems on organizational and marketing levels as well. Temporary settlements can be instrumental in attracting the major production force, the “creative class” to municipalities by providing the kind of experimental space and room for creativity this group is interested in.
By contributing services as well as profile and identity the quality and livability of new neighborhoods is increased, raising their attractiveness and real estate value.
They offer investors and developers new business opportunities both in the field of low priced housing as well as by creating a new concept of “serviced” living.
Changing life-styles influence the use of the built environment with increasing speed. Temporality as an element in its own right in urban planning provides an instrument to respond to create flexible answers to changing urban environments.
The structural analysis presented in this chapter is applied
to the Venix town extension project Schuytgraaf in
II) Planning and organizational Structure
Why are Town Extension Projects like Schuytgraaf being built?
In the explanatory text to the zoning plan Schuytgraaf all relevant policy documents of National, Provincial, Regional, and Municipal levels are described in detail. Each of these governance levels formulates ambitions concerning housing, planning, traffic, sustainability, economy, ecology, archeology and other issues. All these guidelines have been professionally integrated in a most balanced way into an urban plan that is of utmost quality.
multi-facetted nature of the end result, the reason why the plan was made in
the first place, was rather one-dimensional: it was an
obligation of the national government. In 1991 the regional authorities ‘
Still Schuytgraaf is not just about housing. From the
‘Ambition-report’ of 1994 that started the process, it was clear
that the plan should focus on realizing a high spatial quality and
sustainability. The resulting plan strengthens the ecological zones that link
the ecological structures of Rhine and Linge rivers.
Archeological monuments are integrated into the plan, that
also contains a solid program of shops, offices and services, to name just a
few of the aspects that have been elaborated in addition to the housing
program. Because of the housing and other programs, there will be enough of a
catchments area to open a new train station that will also benefit the rest of
the Southern part of
A variety of
ambitions is being integrated into a plan that had as original objective simply
to produce housing. The ambitions are those of the municipality in its role as
representative of the general interest of the people of
There is a tension between the high qualitative ambition of general public interest on the one hand, that on the other hand will need to be realized by actors who depend for their business on more quantitative aspects. The process of bringing these two interests together in a public–private partnership has proven to be difficult and slow. It creates delays and much of the qualitative ambition level gets watered down under pressure of quantitative emergencies.
At first sight the project ‘Not the chicken, not the egg, but the nest!’ seems to increase this tension even further: even more ambitions, make things more complicated than they were already! Still it seems to be exactly this widening of the scope, this qualitative ambition that will assure that more quantitative, material interests will be served. Because it is this widening of the scope, that will assure that more groups who have interest in investing in Schuytgraaf, will join the process. This paradox will be the main focus of this chapter.
Municipalities in the
Even though the municipality signs contracts with the national government to produce certain amounts of houses, it has never done so itself. The city creates the conditions that allow others to build. The means needed are obtained through buying the land, improving it and selling it for a higher price. The land transactions are not intended to earn profit, but to steer the housing production and to gain sufficiently to realize ambitions of general interest. In the yearly land exploitation balance this is subject to democratic control by the municipal council.
In Schuytgraaf, however, (as well as in other places during the mid nineties) things took a rather different turn. A number of factors contributed to that.
A bad Start: The Municipal Position on the Land Market
In 1995 when the new
national planning policy ‘Vinex’ was published, anybody
could see that
There is, however, a difference in motives and possibilities to obtain land. A commercial company has to maintain the continuity of the business and will for that reason be prepared to pay higher prices. They are also able to pay these higher prices because they use the obtained land differently and as a result have other sources of income than the municipality. Besides of the sale of the land the price they had to pay for it can partly be compensated for by profits made from the constructions they build there. In other words the developer has both the building exploitation and the land exploitation to make ends meet, whereas the municipality only has the land exploitation. Next to this material advantage the project developers also had a time advantage. They could start buying land straight away, without time-consuming democratic decision making processes. Neither were they hindered by the bashfulness of the municipality, that had to acquire grounds located (at that time) inside the boundaries of the neighbor municipality.
As a result the municipality did not have a starting position that allowed the usual way of executing the project, in which land policy is used top-down to dictate planning policies and which does not include larger risks for the city than making calculation errors.
Reduced Municipal Influence
Because of this bad
a modus of collaboration could be found some firm negotiations had to be
undertaken to bring the goals and objectives of the different partners closer
together. For the municipality the goal was to fulfill the targets of
the national government, to realize a high standard of housing quality and to
defend the general interest of the population of
By then, five of the
ten years that
The Public Private Partnership, a new Type of Organization with big Challenges
The contract that Stork, Amstelland, and the municipality signed, specifies the goals and objectives of the land exploitation company they founded by signing that contract: The foreseen (public-private) partnership is aimed on the one hand at developing the location in the area Schuytgraaf, and on the other hand at creating such conditions that in the area of Schuytgraaf high quality buildings can be developed and built, that give room to good quality, competitive houses, offices, shops and other commercial facilities.
The common denominator that could be found as the basis for cooperation was the objective to develop a neighborhood and realize high quality building. That is a rather narrow basis of agreement, considering the wide scope of aspirations.
Market parties might feel hindered in realizing these goals, if all sorts of ‘other things’ are being brought into the process, that from their perspective fall outside the made agreements. Those agreements should be met as efficiently and quickly as possible.
The project developers are not so much interested in the high quality buildings for their own sake, but in selling them. The municipality on the other hand is ultimately not interested in the high quality buildings themselves, but in the objectives of general benefit that these buildings serve.
The result is, that a simple subject like for example rain-water discharge can give endless discussions. For the project developers it is important that the exhausts are of good quality, that all standards and regulations on the matter are respected and that the price-quality balance is sane. Because they know that consumers are willing to pay more for environmentally friendly building, as long as the price difference stays in proportion. The municipality on the other hand is responsible for all sorts of objectives related to nature, environment and sustainability, but has less feeling for prices and marketing. From their perspective the ambitions are being ‘watered down’ too quickly.
The result of such a
process, that has negotiation rather than cooperation as a basis, risks to be
nothing more than the high quality buildings that are in the contract: a decent
new neighborhood like so many other decent new neighborhoods, that does not
really make anybody proud, leaving both parties dissatisfied because either the
quality or the profits are lower than preferable and possible. Ambitions on
innovations, environmental sustainability, a ‘real
A public private partnership has both social and commercial aspects. The municipality is new to a commercial line of thought, just like the market parties are not that much used to taking up social roles. It seems that the distance between the content ambitions of the municipality and the material interests of the market parties is too large to result in smooth cooperation. The collaboration is a bit artificial and depends on the careful use of contracts and share-holder meetings. That is something rather different than really ‘going for it’ together, what could be expected from parties that go as far as spelling out the nature of their collaboration in a contract.
What seems needed is more understanding for the interests of the other side. The municipality should understand that the general interest is not served at all, if very much desired facilities cost disproportionate amounts of money; that there is nothing wrong with following the rules of the market and being competitive. This shift in mentality has only been partially made by most civil servants. On the other hand the market parties need to be convinced that ambitious qualitative objectives could very well be united with optimization of profit. Indeed the Dutch are not interested in having their houses equipped with ‘golden taps’ but truly good housing of high quality always brings in its sales-price. And the quality of the living environment is definitely not just determined by the physical aspects that the developer can influence in his project development. Besides of physical quality it is determined by very fluid aspects like the image of the neighborhood, by identity, by ‘gezelligheid’, by style, fashion and similar matters that cannot be built, but that to a certain extent can be steered.
The contract that is at the base of the public-private partnership stipulates the risks and responsibilities of the partners in detail. Generally speaking all uncertain factors related to finding things in the ground that involve costs (be it contamination, archeological remains, explosives, or nature) are for the account of the GEM Schuytgraaf (which is the name of the PPP). Therefore these costs are shared equally between the municipality and the market parties.
The latter have the development of the constructions as their main source of profit, the land exploitation is a secondary source of income. The municipality however, has only the land exploitation to gain back its investments. This is favorable for the market parties, because they bear only half of the risk in the area that contains the most unpredictable risks.
The municipality maintains, besides of its role as shareholder of the GEM Schuytgraaf, the public legal responsibilities. This gives a double role and responsibility to the municipality. These two roles contain the possibility of being contradictory. This is solved by having separate people or departments deal with the different roles as much as possible.
New houses become better and more spacious. In 1985 the average new house had a content of 335 m3. In only fifteen years this rose by forty percent to 484 m3. So there is no doubt that the call for more space and more quality (the two are in the experience of many closely related) is being responded to by the market. Quality in their response is linked to space as well as to price: more expensive materials and building methods are applied. But the smaller houses from before the eighties are still around. Many of those who criticize the presumed low quality and uniformity of Vinex neighborhoods, must have older town extensions in mind, because (the plans for) Vinex are characterized by high quality, variation and spacious houses.
But is building high quality housing all there is to it?
determines the quality of a whole neighborhood? The example
of the Jordaan neighborhood in
Another example of
how the accumulation of social and symbolic capital of an area raises its
economic value is the Vinex neighborhood IJburg. Over the summer of 2003 a strip of building area,
which consisted of sand anyhow, was declared a beach. It soon became the hip
place to be for the
Clearly nothing had changed in IJburg itself or the general economic situation, the temporary beach was responsible.
The bottom line of the most recent major policy paper and other publications by the Dutch Housing Ministry, is that there should be a switch from a paternalistic ‘social housing approach’ to a more market oriented ‘living approach’. There is no governmental money at all any more to construct social housing. Housing corporations have to be self-sustaining since the nineties and they manage exceptionally well. So in order to realize its policies the government has to direct a sector which is financially independent from the government.
As a result of the generous governmental subsidies they received during five decades, the housing corporations have developed an impressive capital. In fact, they have 10 billion Euro more capital reserves than is strictly necessary to survive hard times. Previous expectations were that this figure will rise to 18 billion Euro in 2005. In the course of 2003 further investigations were done into the size, nature and possible use of this excess capital. The conclusion was that the sector could invest 2,5 billion Euro per year for a period of 6 years, without a danger of more than 5% chance to get near the minimal reserves level of 14 billion Euro. This would allow the sector to produce 240.000 housing units extra (or 10% of the total stock) on top of the 112.400 that are planned already.
Over less than ten years the balance of power in terms of capital has shifted considerably, without much noticeable change in roles or responsibilities. The result is that the Ministry can mainly ask the sector kindly to invest and place a moral call, to actively pursue the social tasks that the sector has.
These capital reserves allow the housing corporations to produce and rent out social housing, which simply is impossible for the ‘real’ market parties. Building a house in the social sector gives a loss of €60.000 upon delivery. The loss is high, because the standard of quality for social housing as the government dictates it, is high too. This loss cannot be recovered by rental income over the life duration of the house, because the social rents are determined independent from the costs, by politics. At the end of the life-span there still is a loss of €30.000.
Because of the generous legacy of half a century of state support, the sector is still able to provide social housing, but on the other hand they are expected to adopt a business like approach. The character of these two approaches that have to be combined, is rather different. Many housing corporations are still searching for the right balance in this contradictory task. They are up against a negative image that combines the worst of both sides: The ‘market’ still sees the corporations as slow bureaucratic organizations, spoiled with governmental support that allows them to give false competition to honest businesses that work hard for a living. On the other hand there are the municipalities and the customers, who start to doubt if the corporations still feel bound by their social character, for their businesslike approach gives the impression they are just as tough and profit oriented as any common project developer.
The idea of course was, that the whole system change would have the reverse effect and give the best of both worlds. The corporations should adopt a bit of the market driven approach of the businesses and still stay social. The market sector in turn, should learn the more social aspects of the corporations while keeping its efficiency. This second movement, of the market moving into the social sector that previously was state monopoly, is not noticeable yet. This might be an area however, where business opportunities could be accessed. A potential we will explore in more detail in the rest of this chapter, as well as in the chapter on privately commissioned housing (chapter 9).
The more businesslike approach that the housing corporations adopted after their independence in the late nineties, has done them well. After 1995 their sole source of new income was the customer, who should as a consequence be treated respectfully. Not government regulations were the focus of attention, but the wishes of the customer. At least on paper. Rather than the bookkeeping exercise of writing down the value of the houses over time being central, now it was the development of the value of the real estate that counted.
In order to cover the inevitable losses in the exploitation of social housing, older houses have to be sold. That way the corporation can continue an activity that in itself is not profitable. They balance the construction of new houses (with a loss of €60.000 each) with the profits made on older houses sold for a market compatible price.
The sales are not so much ideologically motivated to stimulate private ownership of affordable housing (or more negatively seen: a sale of community capital) but rather a practical move to assure the continuity of subsidized housing. This way the sector can keep their social objectives, even with a market oriented approach.
The Central Fund for Housing has calculated that on average the loss equals the gain of a sold house; so as long as a corporation sells a same amount of housing units as what they construct, a healthy balance is maintained.
mechanism assures a good balance in which the corporations continue to provide
affordable housing to the target group. The traditional target group, low
income families, seems to decrease, but other people enter as well. More than
before people with special needs live independently rather than in
institutions. They depend in most instances on social housing. Around half of
all households in
Cheap housing in the
In theory the number of cheap houses equals the number of people dependent on them because of their income. So in theory there should not be a shortage, which however does certainly exist in practice. This is a result of the fact that the relation between price and income is relevant for getting a house, not for living there. In other words, somebody who rents a corporation house which they got because of their low income at the time, but meanwhile earns a higher income (which is a rather common situation) will not leave the house simply because it has become too cheap. Nor will they be forced to leave on the basis of an income-dependent rent.
The result is a shortage that is felt even sharper by newcomers because in Arnhem, and many other places, houses are not rented out any more on the basis of (the lack of) income, but with time as a main criteria; the longer you have waited, the higher your chances get. This works to the disadvantage of poor newcomers, large groups of people who have not been able to build up this waiting-time like young people and refugees. In most instances they cannot claim priority on emergency criteria like bad health, but are still dependent on social housing because of their income. This includes young people, the starters on the housing market and people of any age who just got a refugee status. But imagine for example also a divorced man obliged to pay a large part of his income to his ex-wife, who stays with the children and therefore with the house. Such different groups of people are forced by the circumstances to rent something bad, or expensive, or bad and expensive, in the margins of the private market. For them the alternative is staying with mom and dad, a bench in the park or (in the case of refugees) paying €400 rent for a bunk-bed in a room shared with 3 strangers in the asylum-seeker center.
The principle that is at the base of the proposal for temporary settlements is, that it is unfair that government dictates a minimal quality level and a price, if this quality is not available for that price. Government should be able to steer in such a way that the desired level of quality can be provided by the market for that price, or the corporations must be able to deliver the needed quantity. If not, the standards are apparently set too high.
The housing corporations can provide the desired price/quality balance, but only because they own a heritage of state money for the purpose. As long as there are no alternatives for people who live too cheap compared to their income, as long as the corporations do not manage to offer sufficient supply and as long as no additional state resources flow into the sector, the situation is bureaucratic, short-sighted and counter-productive.
The goal of the quality standards and price limits is that even low-income people have access to quality housing. The present situation is that not all of them have this access. Worse even, the system is such that a growing number of people wind up paying more (for less quality) than would be the case without this government interference. All of these people are potential pioneers for the temporary settlement, not so much by choice, but forced by circumstances.
In the analysis of rules and regulations developed in the previous chapter an argument is made for minimal quality levels –for existing and new housing alike– that are truly minimal and limited to health and safety requirements.
In this chapter we plea for governmental indication of a reasonable price/quality standard. The market sector provides high quality for a high price and ‘normal’ quality for a ‘normal’ price. The housing corporations are able to provide ‘normal’ quality for a low price in limited quantity.
What is lacking on the Dutch housing market is a supply of minimal quality for a low price, because the standards for new social housing is well above the bare minimal. And what is worse, because of these high quality standards, the given possibilities fail to serve this market segment, which in many instances leads people to pay normal or even high prices for low quality. The possibilities to serve this market segment exist in theory, but are ruled out by governmental behavior that radiates the spirit of days long gone by.
countries individuals and marginal businesses who cannot afford market prices
simply build a makeshift construction themselves, because the government
can’t provide for them. The same gap in housing provision exists to a
lesser extent in the case of the
The average Dutch
person admittedly does not even come up with the idea to provide for their own
housing needs. People in the
In theory this
philosophy fits in perfectly well with the policies of the Dutch government as
stated in their general governance contract of
In her 65 page long letter to parliament of October 2003 the Minister of Housing and Planning specifies how this general idea will be implemented in the field of housing. The central exercise of the central government is to find a balance between social activity and the quality of the living environment. Because society could not be shaped as much as was thought in the past, the intention is to give more space to other partners. So the good intention is there, but legal changes take a long time to be implemented and in practice a real change, meaning that it is possible for those who wish, to take their own responsibility, is not noticeable yet.
The housing corporations were founded in the beginning of the twentieth century out of moral objectives. Labor unions, churches, companies or enlightened individuals, at any rate groups that were not poor themselves, made an effort to lighten the plight of the target group. This was maybe done in a rather paternalistic way, creating dependency, but at least it happened. It is, however, not a form that works today. Nevertheless, even today a growing need exists for the creation of housing corporations that serve the needs of the present starters, by making use of the possibilities of the present housing market.
Given the fact that certain rights exist, but are not available yet for the target group of the new system, these new housing corporations can only exist as an addition to the normal system, not as replacement or part of that system. A project like the Nest! can only function if it is based on free choice from the participants and free market forces. Regardless if the organizer be the government or whatever other organization, people should not be dependent on them for their housing. Because it is only on a voluntary base that one can decide to abstain from certain quality standards in the normal system, in return for a cheaper rent and availability without waiting. It is only on a voluntary basis that one can take responsibility for a temporary solution and take on the obligation to leave after a certain period of time.
The project should also be fully market driven, so be separated altogether from the social housing system. This would open a market segment that could be rather interesting for investors and developers. In the first place to enlarge the turn-over, which is dearly needed in recession times. But it would also open a possibility to serve social goals in an economically sustainable way. Now that housing corporations have started to work more market compatible, the time has come to finding ways where socially just solutions can also be market compatible and open the domain previously monopolized by the morally motivated, to market forces
Because of its temporary character, the Nest! project should be independent from the current housing organization. This implies that somebody who moves to the settlement should keep his or her place on the waiting-list. In this respect the settlement should be compared to a camping; rather than a normal neighborhood. It could even be considered that a housing corporation rewards pioneers with extra points or ‘waiting time’. After all, during the years they live in the settlement the corporation has less pressure on the waiting list.
It also seems logical that people who presently rent a house in the social segment, get permission to sublet it for a price no higher than what they pay themselves.
If that is not
permitted, the person would need to get a guarantee that at the end of the
project they can rent a house of similar quality as before. Considering that
the corporation has an extra unit at its disposal during the project this is
reasonable. They thus have some extra flexibility, which is much needed
considering the large reconstruction projects underway in other parts of
If finally somebody -in order to maximize their saving- gives up expensive housing or has non to begin with, it is their own responsibility to find something after the settlement has ended. Freedom does imply responsibilities too.
About 140.000 people
In 1995 a total of
100.000 houses were produced in the
This of course cannot
explain all, part of the problem are the complicated rules and regulations
described in the previous chapter. According to the Dutch network of project
developers, streamlining these complicated rules and regulations could put the
production back to 80.000. Complicated rules are a major cause of the
problems, but they were just as complicated in 2000 when the production was
high and houses were sold as soon as they got to the market. According to the
main scholar on housing issues of the
The housing monitor
2002, published by the regional body
An average of 137 people sign in for any house that will become available. The chance of success (defined as the number of houses rented, divided by the number of people actively searching in that group) is extremely low for starters and people from outside the region (3.2 and 3.3% respectively).
Few new houses are built and there is pressure on the existing ones, because rental housing is being sold and demolished in several large scale reconstruction operations in the town. Because of the high prices, the transfer from a rented house to an owned one becomes increasingly difficult. The rules for the distribution of rental housing have changed to the disadvantage of starters and people with a low income (or both). Therefore they are the target group for the Nest! project. It is this market-segment that seems to offer (additional) opportunities to get the housing sector going again.
Stagnation in the
An average sales price is momentarily around two-hundred-thousand Euros per house. This is affordable for an income of one and a half times the modal income. Even a simple row-house, normally the best way to enter the market for those who rent at present, gets out of reach. Because rents have not risen as much as the price of houses has gone up, the link between the rental and buying market is lost and that is one of the reasons why houses stay up for sale much longer. If moving to another house implies an incredible raise in expenses, people decide that the inconveniences of the present situation can be tolerated for a while longer. The market tries its best to overcome these obstacles. People wishing to move to Schuytgraaf for instance can get guarantees that the house they leave behind will be sold for a certain price. Project developers sometimes rent out new houses temporarily when there is difficulty selling them.
Those who are interested in Schuytgraaf do not need to worry if they have owned a house for at least five years. In that case they have built up a surplus value that they can use to pay the high prices of today. A lot of young families do not have that, which brings them in front of a very difficult decision. Mortgage providers have become more prudent, but won’t refuse a loan to a couple with a double income. In those cases divorce, or loss of one job can cause a disaster. The option to work less at some point, in order to dedicate more time to small children, is also not open anymore.
Consequence could be that Schuytgraaf will be different from previous new neighborhoods. There will be less, if any, starters. This will imply that the age stratification will be different, there will be fewer young families. This will give a different atmosphere in the neighborhood, there is likely to be a bit less of the pioneer spirit that young people moving into their first house bring along.
Of course the GEM Schuytgraaf does not use such general presumptions as a basis for its plans. In order to make an inventory of the market, a research bureau with a solid reputation in the field, has done a thorough research, of which a summery follows below.
The Kolpron Report
During the summer of 2002 ECORYS-Kolpron published a scenario study about possible housing programs for Schuytgraaf. Objective of the report is to map supply and demand on short and mid-term basis and to analyze the data, in order to allow formulation of ideal programs. By comparing those to the existing program, a valuable contribution to the discussion about the desired program can be made.
states that every year around 7000 people move to
Kolpron concludes that not only the number of one-person households will grow, but the number of families with children as well. This is correct in absolute terms. Relatively however, it is mainly the households with one person or one parent that are on the increase. In other words households are increasing with just one person to pay for the mortgage-dues. The percentage of households with two potential breadwinners decreases.
notices that the main interest for Schuytgraaf comes
group, however, that has houses to sell in order to be able to afford the price
of the houses in Schuytgraaf, is decreasing in
The number of
Another development that Kolpron notices could be of interest to project developers: Age wise, it is especially the group of people between 55 and 75 that increases. This emerging market could be approached with housing concepts that are more than just a house, but contain services and care included in packages that this group can afford.
municipalities in the
In order to attract customers from the region, Schuytgraaf will therefore have to have something to offer, that is substantially better than in the small municipalities, where no shortage exists, or they will have to link to the tastes of the people from Nijmegen who are urgently looking for housing.
In order to determine the types of houses that are in demand, Kolpron uses the “WBO 1998” (the nation Housing Needs Research). This was at the time the report was made, the most recent material available of its scope and quality. Using it is a bit tricky. In 1998 the economy was growing rapidly. Prices were going up in such a speed that people could calculate a much larger luxury to come within their reach soon enough. The same people might have changed their minds under the present economic circumstances about this better quality free standing house. Or rather they might have changed their perspective about their willingness and possibilities to pay for it. In this respect Kolpron remarks that an important condition is the supply of sufficient quality in a certain price-range, in comparison to the present housing situation and the supply of older houses.
The slow start of sales in Schuytgraaf proves that exactly this point seems to be difficult. People wait and stay in their present house. A bit less crudely stated, the new National Housing Needs Research “WBO 2002” notices a large demand for the more expensive rental housing as well as the cheaper ownership houses. The demand for the expensive ownership houses seems to be lower than previously estimated.
Who wants to live in Schuytgraaf?
The address-files of
those seriously interested in moving to Schuytgraaf
show that they come mainly from the region. About 1000 of a total of 5900
addresses is from
The people moving on to Schuytgraaf, Kolpron calculated, bring in a theoretical surplus-value of their present house that is on average at least between €58.500 and €78.000. This can be invested to make a next step in their so called housing-career. It seems that this conclusion was partially steered by the desire to reassure the commissioner of the research (GEM Schuytgraaf). People have indeed built up a surplus-value on their house, but the prices of new houses have risen just as quick, so they would need to invest almost all they have won to obtain a similar house in Schuytgraaf.
In their reaction to the 2004 government budget the Dutch project developers said that the proposed changes in the taxation system would work even further to the disadvantage of the people leaving a house for sale behind. Those responsible for developing Schuytgraaf have indicated that a major problem is not so much that people are not interested in buying the new houses in Schuytgraaf, but that they have a problem in getting their old houses sold.
And of course for investing their surplus-value, people will be mainly looking for a significant improvement compared to the present situation. A large number (of almost one out of ten) of all households from De Laar and Elderveld are inscribed for a house in Schuytgraaf and almost one out of seven of all households from Rijkerswoerd. These are not likely to leave their nice houses, until they have found a clearly better house in Schuytgraaf with a good price/quality balance. The people who can afford a house in Schuytgraaf have by definition a rather good house already which they won’t leave on a rash decision.
People subscribing for information in Schuytgraaf may well have inscribed in other locations as well and thus show up several times in the statistics. They could also be interested in the developments in order to keep an eye on the market, out of interest for the value of their own property and the perspectives of improvement. That does not justify the conclusion that they would move before the improvement in price and/or quality is there.
draws up a number of interesting market scenarios, that are based on research
about lifestyles and housing (which will be discussed in more detail further
down). The data used were those of the Dutch population in general, not of the
The first of three scenarios is the housing program as it is described in the zoning plan and the PPP contract. The second is a market competitive scenario. The third scenario is a sort of compromise, an in between version of the two foregoing. The three scenarios are better described as analyses of three program-variants. They are aimed at the question what sort of housing could be rented or sold to whom. There is less focus on developing stories of future situations that could be possible, considering different forces
The Nest! project feasibility study can be considered as a fourth scenario, which can be combined with each of the three prognoses. It is not based on the (very legitimate) question of how many houses can be sold or rented, but instead on the people in the region and especially in Arnhem who are looking for housing, on their wishes, needs and possibilities.
The data Kolpron lists, show that about half of those looking
urgently for housing are starters and that
And why build for those who already own a good house in Rijkerswoerd, when there are others who are much more in a hurry to find something, and who are less critical as to what it is?
Building for that market-segment gives breathing space at the bottom end of the market, that will allow stagnated processes to start back up again. A normal chain of movements that characterizes a healthy housing market can be reached best when the market is given some extra supply both at the lower end and at the top end of the market. That way people living too cheep or too expensive can find something appropriate for them and the middle segment which is most difficult (though in theory of more than sufficient supply) can be used for those who need it. This is why this fourth scenario will work only when applied in combination with one of the others, preferably the market scenario. The stagnation is such that only a concerted action on several fronts will give sufficiently quick results.
IV) The social Structure: Creating a Neighborhood Identity
People do not just buy a house, but a place to live, a home. ‘Living’ is related to a rather nondescript feeling of security, bonding, warmth. Project developers can provide the physical quality that is a precondition for the ‘being at home’ feeling, but can not do much more than hint at the real identity factors, rather than providing them. On a different scale, the image of a town is determined more and more by non-physical factors. Economic success depends increasingly on the comparative advantage of aspects like culture and diversity in a town, whereas technological infrastructure has merely become a precondition that can be found anywhere.
In the following analysis of the social structure of Schuytgraaf the factors that determine identity are
examined as well as the way they could be provided by the Nest! Project. “Identitime”
was the topic of one of the debates conducted with a variety of players in the
field throughout the summer of 2003. In this chapter quotes from this
“High Tea and Talk in
In Terra Nova
Jan Klerks pleas for small apartments for starters in
high rise buildings. This group of people who have finished studying and want
to live in the heart of the city would be willing to give up space and luxury
in return for a central location. His reasoning is that this
‘internet-generation’ has become footloose and place
their priorities different than older generations. People up to 25 prefer to
spend their money on travel, events, or new media, rather than on housing and
they are prepared to bear the consequences. This is indeed a group for which
little is built, so the presumption is justified that condominium housing which
is popular in
The ‘internet generation’, the ‘surfers on the housing market’ live in a network economy where it is important to gain access to goods and services, where use has replaced ownership.
The ‘pre-paid house’ that includes a range of services might be the concept serve this market.
apartments in high-rise buildings are not necessary the only option. The
priorities of this group are such that they are willing to accept the small
dimensions of a centrally located apartment in order to be where the action is.
Housing in the temporary settlement is within their budget as well as placing
them in the midst of where it all is happening: “Oh yes, I could very
well imagine going there. Others go to
What function do neighborhoods still have in anchoring social networks in a situation where more and more people become footloose? Will the communities of the future be virtual and will a neighborhood be just another place where one stays for a number of hours? Distances are loosing their importance. Nowadays transport is quick and relatively cheap, students can even travel for free. The developments in information and telecommunication technology make a lot of face-to-face visits redundant. In such a situation where civilians and companies alike become footloose, proximity looses its importance. The house becomes a place where one can rest and sleep and for the rest it is merely used as a base for a multitude of activities elsewhere. This touches upon the base of spatial planning.
The National Service for Spatial Planning has commissioned a research to find out how easy people are ready to change location and how easy they cover large distances to get to a location. It turned out that the social networks of the so called ‘front-runners’ in society were actually larger, although the differences were not that big. The group of ‘front-runners’ was determined by indicators like generation, education, life-style, gender roles, division of tasks, and location. The emotional ties of the front-runners to these larger networks were weaker, as were the expectations, but the intensity of the contacts was not less. So it seems that the need for social contact is the same as it has always been, just that today’s society offers less close to home possibilities to fulfill those needs. The result is a more spatially dispersed pattern of activities, because visiting the large number of network members requires traveling large distances.
This group had less ties in the neighborhood. They tied less importance to social aspects of their living environment. The bond with the neighborhood diminishes, which has consequences for the use of neighborhood facilities. In other words: the local bakery and the neighborhood center depend on the elderly, low educated and more traditional people. Because Vinex attracts young, modern, double-income families, the conclusion could be that as far as services and social bonding are concerned, the requirements in Schuytgraaf are rather limited.
This does not really seem to be the case according to the research of the ‘Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau‘.People still estimate the readiness of their neighbors to help with practical matters to be high and they do not hesitate to call for this help.
No shift towards a greater ego-centric attitude is noticeable, on the contrary. “Since the seventies the number of people agreeing to the statement that ‘people can be trusted in general’ has risen clearly. The opinions about social security do not show any signs of a diminishing solidarity either”. A central conclusion of this thorough study is, that no erosion of social cohesion has taken place, though there seems to be a shift of old forms of social cohesion towards newer ones.
Community still exists, but has less than before easily predictable patterns and places. The study notices that ‘geographical proximity, shared spiritual convictions and similar political views become less important then the same education or work environment and shared leisure-occupations’. The conclusion can be drawn from the Sociaal en Cultureel Planbureau study, that getting footloose is not a goal in itself at all, but rather a symptom of people still looking for fulfillment of the same needs in a new context. If the same opportunities could be offered in the direct environment to fulfill these needs like the Nest! Project offers, valuable travel-time can be saved.
It is also important to look at those segments of society that have less access to mobility. Children for instance have been relegated by an increasingly footloose society to specialized “islands”, like childcare centers, playgrounds, or entertainment events, which specifically target their needs. Traffic has made it too dangerous to play on the streets, increased mobility has made children dependent on adults to chauffeur them around to the “pockets” in society intended for them. The scope to which they can autonomously explore their own environment becomes increasingly limited. Children and other dependents are the ones most vulnerable to a society that has de-linked social contacts and social networks from neighborhoods and urban space.
A neighborhood where people know and are aware of each other and a residential environment that includes a broad range of functions and activities constitute important elements of a child and family friendly environment.
Shopping centers all
New neighborhoods are challenged by issues of uniformity, which tend to make them less attractive living environments. Anonymity and a sense of isolation is a big issue in contemporary settlements. It is something people often associate negatively with newly built settlements. What people often place first in their choice of neighborhoods is security. As experience shows security is impacted by the quality of physical construction as well as by the element of social contact. The social climate in a neighborhood directly impacts the feeling of security. Anonymous neighborhoods are felt to be more unsafe than environments where there is social contact and people know each other. Small shops, services and neighborhood activities are elements that can contribute to neighborhoods being more animated and unique, safe and lively.
There is a difference
between the image of the town as experienced by outsiders and the identity of
the people of
everybody inside and outside of
In the past, both
The themes freedom,
fashion, fun shopping and leisure offer a foundation for an Arnhem
Identity. Experts agree that image can be constructed to a certain extent, but
needs to use the base of what is there already. They say that small things
do much more for the reputation of a town than expensive advertisement
campaigns. Madonna’s move to
Being an attractive town of culture is definitely part of the image towards which Arnhem is working judging from its vision ‘Arnhem on the move towards 2015’ This vision was constructed from four possible scenario’s, which were debated with thousands of inhabitants. The vision offers four perspectives or ‘windows’: social, economic, physical and as a fourth one the overall aspect of attractiveness of the town. The vision is rather normative and it presumes that the future can be steered by programming development projects towards this vision.
One of these projects
has surpassed the phase of planning and paper and is being executed: “Arnhem Central”. The environment of the
In other words
This is strange.
Besides of the fact that the high speed train has few passengers compared to
normal trains or other forms of transport like cars, it is a rash conclusion
that it will be used to come to Arnhem. To give an
The zoning plan that forms the legal base for Schuytgraaf describes the neighborhood to be as follows: “Schuytgraaf will be a neighborhood with a high spatial quality and its own recognizable identity. The quality and identity of the neighborhood will be reinforced by the characteristics of the landscape, which together with newly created landscapes will be the fundamental planning principle of the neighborhood.” In a similar manner the landscape is being used in most Vinex neighborhoods to provide identity. The result is that ‘living near the water’ is the identity theme that pops up everywhere in this country that has quite a bit of water.
Given the fact that
one of the main assets of
However, by focusing
only on the more physical aspects, the real anchoring points for identity like
belonging, security, or participation are overlooked. In the present plans for Schuytgraaf, history is being quoted in a
Zef Hemel discusses this difference in the S&RO magazine 03/2003:”The exercise to transform a city with its continuity and its historical layers, should be distinguished clearly from a sort of ‘instant’ melancholic feeling which is marketed through all sort of typologies on the edge of town, in which there is a large discrepancy between the contents of the program and what the shape suggests. Without wanting to judge, I do think that the historic continuity of a town and the trend to suggest a kind of life style with shapes, are two different notions altogether.” There simply are limits to what can be created in terms of image and identity by physical means. The real anchoring points will have to be provided by the people who will move to Schuytgraaf and they cannot be generated by the mere provision of a bit of mediated history.
People identify with their neighborhoods to the extent that they can contribute to them. Participation in the shaping of the living environment supports a sense of ownership, pride and belonging. The temporary settlement can play a role in facilitating ways of inhabitant participation and involvement. This applies to all groups in the settlement, women, men, children, youth and elderly.
Will the Nest! Project re-create a reality that never existed, hint towards a social structure of some unspecified past in a similar way as the historical looking facades of the first Schuytgraaf houses have nothing to do with the past they imitate? Or rather than a way of fleeing the present to an artificial past, is it instead a flight forward to an impossible future, an utopia?
Neither one is the case. Just like the Mother Centers function like a modern ‘village water well’, the settlement too will function in a contemporary way. Mother Centers have initially been looked at suspiciously by progressive groups, because they feared that the achievements of the women’s emancipation movement would be denied rather than widened. More conservative forces on the contrary, saw in the same movement a threat to their monopolization of the theme of motherhood, which the Mother Centers gave a new and progressive interpretation.
There is a similar confusion in the reactions to the temporary settlement. Some imagine the narrow minded atmosphere of a nineteenth century village, an urban form given to a strict set of norms and values. Others imagine that the settlement becomes a sort of sect, an ideologically motivated commune, where only great visionaries can become a member. Both views miss the point. It is certainly not the idea that in its functioning or physical appearance the settlement will hint at a far gone past or an utopian future. It is something of here and now. It is designed to be market compatible and not binding in any way. The idea is to, while respecting the limitations of today, make use of the possibilities of today, in order to form a contemporary answer to universal themes like identity and community.
Our cities have always grown where the important things for the economy were available, like transport routes or/and raw materials. In an economy where human resources and especially knowledge are the most important factor of production, the city should develop where the best people are. Or rather the other way around, it should be made in a way that attracts the best people. This is tough for planners to anticipate. It is exactly the mobility of the most important production factor of our economy that could, however, be a big advantage. After all, contrary to the coal miners computer programmers have no limits to their location nor do they require huge investments. If their changing preferences and mobility are taken as a starting point, much can be won by places that are at present not (yet) fashionable. Creating the right conditions for a knowledge economy has neglected such immaterial aspects. It is simply too tough for planners, who are used to working with material data.
For example, the
In the rise of the creative class (New York, 2002) Richard Florida argues that it is not so much people with knowledge and technical skills that matter, but creative people.
They determine the success of the future companies and should be attracted by a tolerant open society. Since they are driven by ‘post material values’ they are not so much interested in the size of their house, but are instead attracted by an inspiring environment. The role of government in his view is assuring that the market has space to offer this group the climate in which they thrive, which could be done in his view by creating flexible services, for example not setting ridiculous regulations for childcare. This suggests that permitting developments like the Nest! Project will not only boost Arnhems identity, but also attract people that could be vital for the future economic developments of the town.
The identity of new neighborhoods, or rather the lack thereof, is much related to the dimension of time. The atmosphere of the place grows over time, but the houses need to be sold before that process can even start. Over time the identity of a neighborhood grows as the combination of the physical appearance and the sum of the identities of its inhabitants. The area gets a reputation, an image.
The identity of communities is also connected to the more direct dimension of time, to the amount of time people have, or do not have, to spend in their neighborhoods. For neighborhoods to be secure and alive and to have inhabitant participation and social cohesion there need to be people living there, that have some degree of time, and some degree of willingness to spend their time in their neighborhood.
Despite all firm words of the national government to facilitate rules and shorten procedures, it does in fact become more and more complicated and as a result time consuming to realize buildings. This is especially the case in complex exercises like entire neighborhoods. Even where the national government seems to make its requests lighter, there still are numerous well intended provincial and municipal civil servants ready to guide, direct or support processes, monitor indicators, or claim other supplementary reporting and meeting time.
The carefulness put in to avoid any possible risk on important issues like security, are necessary but simply time consuming.
Simultaneous to the slowing down of the production of our built environment, there is an acceleration of its use. Late nineteenth century popular neighborhoods, that were constructed as quick and cheap as possible to maximize profits, stood for a century before they were really outdated. By contrast, postwar neighborhoods have lost all their attraction after only half a century. Who knows if the architects who are now making plans for Vinex town extensions will get a chance to restructure their creations well before their pension.
The late nineteenth century popular neighborhoods had to be torn down or fundamentally renovated, because their physical state had become unacceptable. The present restructuring exercise is however more about functional and social problems. The planners simply can’t predict the quickly changing use for the full physical life-span of their project. The architects who reconstructed the Dutch towns after the fifties did not nor could have foreseen at all that once upon a time their neighborhoods would be inhabited mainly by people from Mediterranean background, that the standard of living would raise incredibly and that everybody would be much more mobile.
The speed of demographic and social change has increased both on a macro and micro level. On a macro-level factors like migration and changing life styles influence the use of the built environment ever quicker. The same is the case on the micro-level.
People do not know at more or less the age of 25 what the next 50 years will look like, nor do they stay for decades in the same house. They move for a job, to improve in quality, or because they divorce.
In services the speed of change is even faster. New insights in themes like education or care for the elderly have large impact on the requirements for the built environment. The service program for Schuytgraaf has been drastically adapted to the latest insights, before building has even started.
So there is a growing discrepancy between the speed of change in use and the slower realization of the built environment that has to house these functions. Therefore it is not a coincidence that issues of temporary use and mobility have a prominent place in contemporary architectural debate.
“Doubts about old securities that block decision making, result in temporality. What has been is not sufficient anymore and what comes is yet unclear. The result is the acceptance of temporality as a new social phenomena, that is not longer something inferior, but is now being seen as the manifestation of constant change.
Temporality offers possibilities that sustainability does not know, flux, savings, own initiative, less rules and such. In its ultimate consequence temporality could take the shape of a society without possessions, where everything is leased or rented. But as an answer to social problems it conflicts with this deep primal desire in human beings to warmth, protection and security, which is translated to possessions, owning a house and preferably two.” 
The built environment will not be something anymore to be used forever and needs to find ways to adapt to the increasing speed of experiencing identity. The temporary nature of the Nest! settlement is most adequate in this respect. In the temporary settlement experience is not induced by mock historic building forms that are very popular today, nor does history need to deposit a sedimentary layer, giving a contemporary experience of community is enough. There is no need for a solid form that remains long after the experience is over, like a statue that stands in the park long after the memory of the person it represents has gone. Experiencing the identity of the temporary settlement changes from day to day and simply ceases to exist after a few years, together with its physical form. But parts of it will sink into the slowly developing Schuytgraaf identity.
Existing examples of temporary settlements have got a temporary character because of their use rather than by the nature of their constructions. It often concerns squatted space, of which the possibility for use could end at any given moment. This is most often unused leftover space of low value, like harbor buildings, factory halls, terrain formerly used by the armed forces, or in some cases even an entire village.
After these areas or buildings have lost the value of their old use, but before a new function or redevelopment can raise the value again, pioneers grab their chance. They use the space, freedom and cheapness that these rough edges of the town have to offer.
This seems to be something completely different than what the Nest! Project intends to do. It is certainly not the idea to squat and besides there are few empty halls or other buildings in the Schuytgraaf-area. The essence of the Nest! lies in the use of ‘in between time’. This exists in Schuytgraaf as well.
When the agrarian use of the land has stopped or has become unprofitable by lack of
future perspectives, but before building preparations have started, there is a period of ‘in between time’.
The Nest! Project intends to use this time, because it would be a waste not to do so, because of the benefits of the use itself and because it can prelude to and prepare for the future use.
In this respect the Nest! Project is rather different from examples from the squat movement, because those resist the future use. They make use of the ‘in between time’ for its own sake and are by definition in conflict by whoever has interest in the new use.
The ‘Nest Project’ develops an innovative concept of participative planning and community development by making use of time slots in urban planning in a flexible and productive way. The proposed temporary settlement will create room for experimentation and social growth, enriching the many layers of identity involved in the building of a Vinex location.
Making use of the “in between time” will open perspectives for services that give the place identity as well.
It will be inevitable that shops and services in Schuytgraaf will follow the national trend of shopping areas becoming more uniform, because they are subject to the same economic forces. The temporary settlement could however limit the risk to the minimum by providing an optimal base for various shops to start building a circle of clients. During the period that the full neighborhood is not done yet, the scale is mainly interesting for smaller shops. In this environment where the large shops -to whom they cannot compete- are further away, they can exist and function well. During this period the area builds up a certain reputation, a place with nice, unusual little shops. This might provide enough basis for a transition into sustainability.
For those who take the initiative for experimentation, temporality is not so much a limiting factor but rather an aspect of a highly desired dynamism. Temporary conditions give strong involvement and activity. In a research about such spaces the conclusion was drawn that people move out as soon as they look for more permanence, This happens for example because they want to start a family. If the space itself gets legalized, and as a consequence looses its insecure temporary status, the intensity of the activities reduces. The true forefront or avant-garde of this movement, considers this a concession and they move on to new spaces, looking for a space for freedom of individual expression and experiences as well as collective projects and political engagement. They are looking for temporality as a permanent situation, for the possibilities that temporality offers as a goal in itself.
A basic thought behind the Nest! Project is that the undeniable qualities and energy of those who strive to an ‘eternal temporality’ do not need to express themselves in conflict with society. This can be achieved by the temporary settlement where the ‘in between time’ will be used legally and productively. Those who are attracted to the space and possibilities of new frontiers, will be the first to move on to the next field.
Many of the potential pioneers we talked with are not so much looking for a nomadic life full of adventure, but simply accept temporary situations, forced by circumstances. They are not able to find permanent housing or work. Temporality then becomes a means (for housing and saving expenses) and not a goal in itself. For them, the structure which uses the ‘in between time’ of different fields one after another, poses possibilities to pursue their goals.
Rather than already looking for the possibilities of new frontiers, they will be interested in the possibilities of more permanence in the present location.
Because they strive towards an ideal that is rather similar to the Vinex neighborhood they can take an advance on plans already developed in concept. Activities like tree planting or making a playground could be organized that prepare the final use of the location. Participation in the settlement from this perspective involves working towards a more permanent situation.
By moving the temporary settlement from field to field (with a minimal average duration of about a field per year) good use can be made of time gaps in the planning process. In most experimental spaces the link between the temporary and the different permanent use is problematic. When the place is successful, protests will start if and when it has to give way to the permanent destination of the space.
In the Nest! Project there is no contrast between the permanent and the temporary use. There is no objection to give way towards the permanent destination because that is what is the final objective of the settlement. Besides of that there is no pressure because an alternative exists in the next temporary field.
People like living in a neighborhood that is talked about as one of the places to live in. Vinex locations in general do not have a very positive image in this respect. In the case of Schuytgraaf one of the functions of the temporary settlement is that it can contribute to the image of Schuytgraaf as being different from a regular Vinex location, of being more alive and special. Schuytgraaf can get the image of the place to be.