Good governance does not have to be a purely “top-down” exercise. Providers of social and affordable housing have always taken a strong role in innovation and improving their sector. The first examples of social housing in Europe were not government-led, but independent initiatives of employers and civil society. While government regulation and frameworks are important for the social sector, to deliver stated public objectives, providers must also constantly improve.
A good example of provider innovation comes from the Netherlands, the nation with the highest percentage of social housing in Europe (around 30 per cent). Aedes, the national federation of social housing corporations (Woningcorporaties), which brings together 310 local providers of social housing, carries out a thorough annual “benchmarking” process to monitor the performance of its members.
This benchmarking process includes detailed analysis of tenant satisfaction, operating expenses, environmental sustainability, maintenance and renovations, availability, affordability, and new construction. The benchmark is vital to effective functioning of the social housing sector; it provides Aedes with better information to lobby policymakers for improvements in sector performance. It also allows oversight of individual providers and identify those struggling to meet objectives. These providers can then be assisted by the broader social housing sector. As the benchmarking process is provider-led, it can quickly adapt to changing sectoral standards or even unforeseen issues such as the COVID-19 pandemic.