Woningbeheer : een onderzoek naar de sociaal - culturele waarden van huurders en verhuurders in het onderhoud van woningen in de non-profit sector

R.H.J. van Wezel

    Research output: Thesisinternal PhD, WU


    Houses are maintained by people. Recent research on housing management has had a technical, financial and legal character. In the Netherlands research preference is quantitative and policy oriented and norms and values of the participants are stated as context variables. In this thesis housing maintenance is seen as a technical as well as a social process. The process character is underlined. Conceptual and operational definitions of maintenance are used to chart the management related communication. Two actors in social housing management have been isolated: the landlord (housing associations) and the tenants. They maintain their houses in communication with one another. This study aims at highlighting the communication between tenant and housing association with regards to their views and values on housing management and how to deal with it in daily life.

    A number of arguments motivate a choice to study and analyze one strategic moment in the tenant - landlord relationship. It is the moment of a so called building renewal, that is a concrete technical renovation of the house carried out by a professional contractor, in order to bring the house up to modem standards so as to be able to let it for over 15 years from renovation. The building activities on the frame of the house are done without any change in rent. They concern for instance renewal of drains, wiring and the replacement of doors and windows. Besides these activities the tenants can opt for an upgrading of comfort in the house at a higher monthly rent. These upgrading activities consist of, for instance, a new kitchen, isolated window panes and - if possible - a different lay-out of the dwelling. At the time of the renewal the actors are forced to make explicit their ideas on how to use and maintain the house. They each view the house as possesion: for the landlord the house has exchange value, for the tenant the home has use value.

    The theme of this study relates to Habermas' theory of communicative action. His system - life-world dichotomy is the theoretical starting-point of this thesis. Life-world is defined as the whole set of frames of interpretation culturally passed on and of a linguistical nature. This whole is stated as an unproblematic background, out of which actors can define specific situations. The system - in Habermas' terms - forms a domain in which the actors are, by definition, not interested in consensus. However they encounter each other on the market, so to speak, and coordinate their actions strategically by means of money and power. The opposition system - life-world has been studied in more detail and made fit for empirical study with the help of four recent theses in the field of Building and Housing in the Netherlands. This exercise produced the following conceptual framework for field study. Presentation of the scheme with the six sensitizing concepts:

    This study empirically underpins Habermas' theory of communicative action. For that purpose some inspiration has been drawn from the scientific works on the ecology of habitat, and home economics. A housing association is a social institution, par excellence, with a social role; but it is also an efficiency-oriented non-profit organisation working on behalf of the working classes in the housing market. This work ethnographically studies the relationship between these kinds of landlords and their tenants. The fieldwork has been carried out in a domain between life-world and system: a interferential domain, in which system imperatives and life-world options are relevant simultaneously.

    A series of characteristics of three sites of study are presented in order to be able -to carry out a constant comparison of the data found in the different fields. In Amsterdam a complex of buildings is studied in a city context. In Oss actors are studied in a provincial setting. And in Musselkanaal the village setting is found. The geographical spread, size and religious background of each housing association is summed up as well as the phase in the professionalization of that specific housing association. This short introduction indicates the circumstances in which the data have been produced.

    A methodological account is given of how the data have been produced and analyzed in this study. The data are qualitative in nature and controlled on the basis of the triangulation principle. The importance of the conferment of meaning and the (re)production of norms and values is described with the help of international methodological literature. The idea that the researcher is also the measuring instrument creates tensions for the researcher: the 'softer a research technique the harder it is to do.'. The bias in the interpretation of action legitimations is a problem, although through alert observation, corrections can be written down at the same time as the, sometimes socially anticipated, expressions of the actors. Participant observation and the emic-etic approach are favoured by me, although in a modem form, namely as a commuting researcher. The in-depth interviews have been audio-taped and typed out verbatim.

    My personal working method is described and discussed in relation to the prescribed way of producing ethnography: nothing is seen as 'given' data but as produced data. With the help of an advanced computer program the data have been stored and systematically worked out.

    Two chapters contain the research material and my analyses. In the first I pose the question: which arc the disturbing factors about which people complain. And the second chapter deals with the question why people articulate opposed or corresponding validity claims. The first chapter is presented in two columns: on the left hand side the stories of some tenants and on the right hand side my interpretation. This enables the reader to follow the analysis him/herself. In sum the result of this analysis is that four major categories of choices are felt as important to the actors: material, method, tools and people. Tenant and landlord both practice housing maintenance: one in the do-it-yourself form and the other with the help of a professional contractor. They both undertake (re)building activities and both are forced to make choices: what kind of materials to use, with which tools to perform the tasks, how to go about it and with whom? At first sight the considerations are of a practical nature. The efficiency of the system seems decisive, but further study has been executed.

    The second chapter shows that these considerations are based on social-cultural values and that, most of the time, they are implicit and of unproblematised tacit knowledge out of the lifeworld. The dichotomized sensitizing concepts from the theoretical framework enables the researcher to read the data anew. With the catch-words which have been attributed to scenes described in the data, an abstract concept is generated in the form of a key social-cultural values. Six of these values have been produced: accessibility, safety, economizing, personalization, beauty and orderliness.

    The closing chapter provides the summary and conclusions drawn from the analyses. The four technical choices: material, tools, building methods and collaborators, are related to the six values, thus generating an example of an interferential domain in which system and life-world are both simultaneously valid and active in one specific situation. A schematic picture results in the following matrix:

    For some of the combinations in the matrix (1 to 8) an application is described and practical aspects of optimization of the communication between tenants and housing association are indicated. At the end of the study, I have tried to place the theme of housing management within a broader social development scope. My argument is that cultural practices such as housing maintenance contain information concerning cultural processes in a wider social context. If research inspired by the theory of communication has a practical and empirical value for the topic of housing maintenance then it may also be useful in other areas in which system and life-world interact. The proposed conceptual framework for housing maintenance at the end of this thesis is an attempt to provide a theoretical and practical contribution to the on-going debate about housing maintenance. It tries to do justice to the position (uneven balance of power), possibilities (uneven distribution of money) and norms and values of the actors concerned.

    Original languageDutch
    QualificationDoctor of Philosophy
    Awarding Institution
    • van Leeuwen, H., Promotor, External person
    • Pennartz, P.J.J., Promotor, External person
    Award date3 Dec 1993
    Place of PublicationS.l.
    Print ISBNs9789054852056
    Publication statusPublished - 1993


    • housing
    • improvement
    • living conditions
    • dwellings
    • tenancy
    • tenants
    • protection
    • rent
    • management
    • quality
    • netherlands
    • housing cooperatives
    • desires

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