Gerard van Bortel
doctoral thesis 2016
Housing associations have an important role to play in supporting vulnerable neighbourhoods. This is one of the findings from Gerard van Bortel’s research entitled Networks and Fault Lines, which examines the role of housing associations in the decision-making processes of neighbourhood strategy. Van Bortel studied decision-making processes and policy networks in the neighbourhood strategy for almost 10 years, analysing developments in two vulnerable neighbourhoods: Lozells in Birmingham and De Hoogte in Groningen. His research shows that housing associations can play a stabilising, connecting role in the neighbourhood regeneration in times of crisis and government cutbacks. Improving a deprived neighbourhood needs a long-term approach. Their property ownership in the neighbourhoods gives housing associations a lasting commitment to these areas. Their position as third sector organisations—between market, state and community—allows them to continue focusing on the neighbourhoods, even when politicians and media stop paying attention and the market parties see no point in investments. The importance of strong networks in neighbourhoods is becoming increasingly important. The thesis makes recommendations about how housing associations can support vulnerable neighbourhoods: not as the dominant party that will ‘sort things out’, but as a party that shows patience and perseverance by helping to forge strong ties between residents, local organisations, housing associations, municipal authorities and other relevant parties.