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Marko Horvat


Marko Horvat is the ESR6 position doctoral candidate and he holds a bachelor's in economics from Bocconi University in Milan, Italy and a master's in environmental science from Linköping University, Sweden. Prior to joining Re-Dwell, Marko worked in ICLEI European Secretariat in Freiburg, Germany, as a sustainable mobility expert. Marko managed European projects on urban governance, planning and mobility topics and he worked closely with many European and worldwide city representatives on planning for liveable cities by implementing, replicating and scaling-up measures. Before ICLEI, Marko has worked in Join Research Centre, Ispra, Italy in the sustainable mobility unit (C.4) and WSP Consulting in Stockholm, Sweden.

Marko is an expert in governance and social innovation and a sustainable travel enthusiast. He has experience in research, publication drafting, policy document writing and has great moderation and facilitation skills. Marko is keen on learning how measurements of the social and environmental impact of social housing can contribute to achieving more liveable and inclusive cities through policy, law, planning and technology.

Research topic

Updated sumaries

September, 11, 2023

May, 09, 2022

September, 16, 2021

New global trends are shaping the European housing market. Population is rapidly concentrating in larger urban areas, leading to higher housing demand. In the absence of housing policies and regulations, housing markets are becoming speculative and unstable, affecting vulnerable groups in particular. While developed European countries have adopted policies, some post-socialist countries are struggling to establish a policy framework that ensures affordable and sustainable housing for rent and ownership. Slovenia, Croatia and Slovakia have undergone economic, social and political transformation with the fall of socialism. With the transition to a market economy, the housing market was liberalised. Extensive privatisation created a society of homeowners, making social and public rental housing residual tenures in circumstances of familism, and intergenerational solidarity with recent financialization of housing market.

Since the “modernisation” in the early 1990s, selected countries have shaped their institutions differently according to current needs and priorities, and have taken different approaches to institutionalising and shaping social housing policies.

This research aims to compare the development and response process in Slovenia, Croatia and Slovakia in relation to housing policy development since the fall of communism. The comparison includes the national and capital city level, analysing affordability and sustainability for the general population and for vulnerable groups, especially the homeless. The theoretical approach applied to understand the different processes in each country is the historical-institutionalist approach (path dependency). The methodology guiding this research is social constructivism. The method of comparison is guided by a qualitative design of the most similar systems in combination with comparative process tracing, while the data collection methods are literature review and policy analysis, database analysis and semi-structured interviews with identified relevant experts and stakeholders at national and local levels.

Comparative analysis of social housing policies’  modernization impacts in selected post-socialist countries

New global trends are shaping the European housing market. Population in the cities is in increase, leading to higher housing demand. With a lack of housing policies and regulations, housing markets become speculative and unstable. This situation hits vulnerable groups and groups that are at risk of vulnerability harder than the rest, and they are the focus of this research when discussing housing needs. Examples of such social groups are the young generation entering the labour market, facing precarious work conditions or migrating for education, single and low-income families that do not have the means to become homeowners and face a free-rental market that is often unregulated, the homeless that are unable to re-integrate to the society, the elderly population that is increasing in number and requires special services, etc. Addressing their housing needs calls for a coherent and future-proof social policy in many areas of the welfare state.


Many eastern European countries went through a transition from socialism to a market economy in the early 1990s. For most of them, a “give-away” privatisation of public housing stock took place by a mass sell-off of public housing stock to sitting tenants. That led to unequal wealth distribution at the beginning of the capitalist market system and erased the social housing systems from the political map. It reduced the role of the government in the housing market and significantly reduced social and public rental housing stock.


This research will compare the development of Slovenian, Croatian and Slovakian housing policy development since its modernisation, focusing on the sustainability of social housing provisions and their contribution to affordability for vulnerable social groups. Firstly, the theoretical framework on social housing as a part of the welfare system will be analysed on a general level and separately for all three countries. This part of the research will seek synergies with the work of fellow ESRs and exchange knowledge on housing theory. Secondly, a mix of qualitative and quantitative methods will be developed to conduct empirical research including relevant stakeholders providing housing and related services on national and local levels, while understanding the main indicators that would be the best fit for the analysis of the social housing programme performances.

Reference documents

Icon document

Abstract diagram Marko Horvat


 ESR6: “Comparative analysis of social housing policies’  modernization impacts in selected post-socialist countries”

With more than 60% of the population residing in cities, the world is dealing with  unprecedented pressure on resources and infrastructure. Housing markets are unstable, supply chains fragile, and the trend of increasing wage gap presents an urgent need for coherent and future-proof social policy in many areas of the welfare state.

In Europe, many eastern countries went through transition from socialism to capitalism in the early 1990s. For most of them, a “give-away” privatisation of public housing stock took place, practicing a mass sell-off of public housing stock to sitting tenants. That led to unequal wealth distribution at the beginning of the capitalist market system and erased the social housing systems from the political map.

Over the course of three years, this research will look into Slovenian, Croatian and Slovakian social housing policy development since the transition period and the path-dependency that originated in the old regime. Evidence will be gathered to produce solid policy recommendations based on local knowledge and context, collaborating with a cross-European community of experts and academics.

A literature review will be conducted to produce a deep understanding of social housing theory and the role of the government in the current housing system and the ability of this system to provide affordable and sustainable housing. This will provide fundamental knowledge for a comparative analysis of how changes in social housing policies affected the social housing regime in Slovenia, Croatia and Slovakia. Moreover, good practice examples of housing provisions for vulnerable groups across Europe will be identified, having in focus the potential for transferability and scalability of solutions in selected countries.

Transdisciplinarity of the research will consider other ESRs’ work and will work together with academic and non-academic stakeholders to understand the most important issues in developing and implementing social housing policies in these countries, focusing on the ability of different housing regimes to deliver affordable homes for vulnerable groups.


Recent activity

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Affordable housing experience from the Netherlands

Posted on 05-06-2024

The two-month secondment to the Technische Universiteit in Delft (TU Delft) was an important step in my doctoral journey as I had a chance to interview leading professors and national experts in the field of affordable housing governance. Compared to my research findings on housing affordability in post-socialist countries struggling with the specific challenges of path dependency from the socialist period, the Netherlands is considered a good example of a rich tradition and a good practise example when it comes to organising affordable housing governance.   Historically, housing associations in the Netherlands originated in the 1850s as a response to the housing crisis of the time. They were originally founded as a philanthropic endeavour by wealthy citizens to provide affordable housing for their workers and prevent the diseases that were spreading at the time. Today, housing associations are private and not-for-profit real-estate companies that operate as third sector organisations and pursue a social agenda by providing affordable housing to those in need.   This long history and knowledge of organising affordable housing through housing associations has made the Netherlands a leading country in Europe when it comes to the proportion of affordable rental housing. What I have learnt is that this model cannot be “copied” to other countries, especially not to post-socialist countries where other solutions need to be sought.   I was impressed by the long tradition of the role of housing associations in the Dutch welfare system, but also by the intensity with which they campaign and fight for affordable housing. During my work at TU Delft, a demonstration against high housing prices took place in The Hague, with hundreds of people standing up and demanding more affordable housing. Although housing prices in Croatia are quite high, both for renting and buying, there have not yet been any protests and demands from citizens against the high prices.   The valuable experience and knowledge gained during the secondment will now be translated into a research paper. Together with prof. Haffner and p.rof van Bortel, we want to understand the position of Dutch housing associations in the new economic and regulatory environment, i.e. the abolition of the Landlord Levy, and find out how important they are for achieving the national goals of building and maintaining the social rental housing sector by 2030.  


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Improving housing affordability through taxes

Posted on 21-12-2023

Housing affordability has proven to be an increasingly detrimental problem for large sections of the European population. It increasingly affects not only low-income households, but also middle-income groups. In Western European countries, it has become an issue that is used to win elections and steer economic development. Housing is not a direct responsibility of the EU. Even though the housing market does not fall under the direct competence of the EU, it influences the supply of housing in the Member States indirectly through legal frameworks such as state aid, tax law and competition law. It is clear that the provision of housing should not be left entirely to the market, as the market creates an uneven distribution, and that some of the provision of housing should be better controlled, especially in the affordable housing segment. Rising house prices are mainly due to low interest rates and low housing supply compared to market demand. The Covid pandemic played a role in shifting housing preferences and also contributed to higher housing prices (Frayne et al., 2023). The most important efforts to cool rising house prices are policy measures that target the supply or demand side of the housing market. For example, taxes can be used to influence both sides of the housing market. An article by the World Economic Forum (2022) explains that land value tax, could help to reduce property prices as it could represent an equitable distribution of wealth within the community. In this case, the land tax would incentivise the development of the land, as the land is taxed anyway. If the owner develops the land, he receives a return. This in turn would increase the supply of housing and lower property prices. Land tax is aimed at the capital gains of owners and could also serve to dampen prices. Transaction taxes could also be applied to reduce speculative investment in the housing market, which would reduce the volatility of house prices. Taxes on building materials could be reduced to incentivise the construction of social housing or public rental housing. In countries with extremely high levels of home ownership, land and property are generally not taxed. Croatia, for example, promotes affordable home ownership largely through public support in the form of subsidised loans. However, there is a newly established housing allowance programme available for around 40 Croatian local authorities in 2023 (Central Office for Demography and Youth, 2023). The impact of this programme has yet to be assessed. In terms of taxation, there is no property or land tax in Croatia (Crowe, 2023). Taxation of holiday homes and income from renting for tourism purposes is very low and close to symbolic prices, considering that assets are grossed up. A holiday home, for example, is taxed at between €0.66 and € 1.99 per square metre. The transfer of real estate for private individuals is set at 3 per cent of the market value, with some exceptions that can be applied. If taxation such as the land value tax is introduced, it must be phased in gradually and take into account mortgaged households. The introduction of property taxation in Croatia could open up a new perspective and enable investment in securing affordable housing, especially in the social and public rental segment in large cities, where the housing price crisis is at its worst. However, the introduction of such tax in a country with super home- ownership is politically unpopular and it is unlikely to be introduced at a level where it could significantly influence rising prices.   Literature Central Office for Demography and Young. (2023). Pilot project public call- local self-government units for financial support aimed at co-financing costs housing for young families and young people in 2023 address:, accessed on 12.10.2023. Crowe. (2023). Wealth Management, Basics of property taxation in Croatia. Address: accessed on 20.12.2012 Frayne, C., Martins, V., Szczypińska, A. & Vašíček, B. (2023) Housing Market Developments. Thematic Note to Support In-Depth Reviews.  Institutional paper 197, European economy World Economic Forum (2022). What is land value tax and could it fix the housing crisis?


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Housing in 21st century - Croatian National Housing Strategy 2030

Posted on 30-06-2023

Zagreb just hosted a two-day conference titled "Housing in the 21st Century," organized by the Ministry of Physical Planning, Construction, and State Assets. The primary objective of this conference was to address pressing issues in Croatia's housing market, explore global trends, and propose policy measures to achieve more affordable housing. These discussions were intended to inform the forthcoming national housing strategy for 2030. Prominent architects and policymakers from the field shared their insights during the event, with some presentations proving highly valuable while others lacked relevance in terms of decreasing housing affordability. Although the architects' perspective dominated the conference, it is crucial to recognize the significance of social scientists in understanding the role of housing within our welfare and society. Here are the key takeaways from the conference: Croatia requires a comprehensive national housing strategy that considers local housing strategies. This approach would enable the country to seek foreign funding and delegate responsibilities to suitable entities, such as housing funds or organizations, similar to Slovenia's model. In doing so, it is essential to ensure that land ownership, construction, and maintenance are overseen by the local (or national) government, rather than driven solely by profit motives.   Utilizing existing space and minimizing material consumption should be prioritized. Local authorities own numerous vacant housing units that are not utilized for public or social rental purposes. Relying solely on new land development as a solution is inefficient in various ways. Sustainability does not always align with affordability. For instance, constructing buildings with timber may offer environmental benefits and create a more liveable environment. However, this approach typically increases project costs by approximately 15%. Careful consideration is necessary when implementing sustainable practices to balance cost-effectiveness. Local residents face competition from foreign capital, raising concerns about protecting "Croatian land" from foreign investment funds. Domestic buyers often struggle to compete with foreign entities, as there are no legal barriers for foreigners to acquire construction or agricultural land in Croatia due to EU membership status. Therefore, implementing measures to tax housing units based on their intended use (residential or business) could help address this issue. However, policymakers must be mindful of the impact on rural areas, ensuring that such policies do not exacerbate their economic challenges. The conference was timely, although some may argue it was long overdue. It is commendable that Croatia aspires to learn from countries like Austria and the Netherlands regarding affordable housing provision. However, valuable lessons should be drawn from countries such as Slovenia and Slovakia, which share similar historical and cultural backgrounds, but are much more advanced in affordable housing provision. I eagerly await the national strategy, hoping it includes a comprehensive needs assessment, an actionable plan, and measurable goals against which the success of housing policies can be evaluated.

Conferences, Reflections

Icon defining-homelessness-as-a-housing-problem

Defining homelessness as a housing problem

Posted on 28-10-2022

Homelessness is a complex social problem and an extreme form of poverty that is on the rise. It is not only income-related, but it also includes quality of life and safety.   It diminishes a person's dignity and productive potential. The most common causes of homelessness in Europe are limited access to affordable housing and a precarious labour market. As part of the RE-DWELL project, we are trying to define what affordable housing means, not only for the low- or middle-income population but also for those most in need of affordable and safe housing.    The European Typology of Homelessness and Housing Market Exclusion (ETHOS) typology is an international typology that aims to define and recognise different types of homelessness. The methodology was developed in 2005 by the European Federation of Organisations Working on Homelessness (FEANTSA) and includes four broad categories of homelessness: rooflessness, houselessness, insecure housing, and inadequate housing. These four categories are further subdivided into thirteen categories covering different housing situations that can be compared internationally and targeted by different policies.   The Croatian national definition of homelessness does not follow the ETHOS typology, but instead defines as homeless a person without a residence or means to meet housing needs who temporarily lives in a shelter or stays in public places for housing.    The immediate limitations of this definition are obvious, as the definition does not recognise any safety or quality housing standards and does not take into account people coming from different institutions (social care or prisons) who have no housing options other than emergency shelters.   In Croatia, local authorities are legally required to provide a minimum level of funding for soup kitchens and emergency shelters, but it is largely left to civil societies to apply for these funds and to provide these services to the homeless. Thus, Croatian service for homelessness is mostly “passive” and oriented towards emergency help and remedy programmes, with some additional services within shelters, but also there is an initiative towards an “active” form of service which is a Housing First pilot project in the city of Pula.    During my two-month assignment at the RE-DWELL partner organisation "CERANEO - Centre for the Development of Non-Profit Organisations" in Zagreb, Croatia, I had first-hand access to CERANEO's resources, which are the result of the organisation's fruitful cooperation with many civil society organisations. CERANEO addresses not only homelessness but also other social issues and through its work strengthens the position of other civil society organisations in Croatia through networking, cooperation and funding. The aim of the secondment was to interview providers of homelessness services and assess their financial, organisational and social sustainability in providing services. To this end, one of the key contacts was the Croatian Homeless Network (HMB), which provided helpful insights into the problems faced by service providers in Croatia    The bottom line is that civil society organisations providing services to the homeless in Croatia are the most important actors in the fight against homelessness and they need better dialogue with policy makers. They also need long-term funding for programmes that could improve services and eliminate homelessness. It is also important to properly define homelessness so that no one in need of housing is left behind.  



Case studies

Contributions to the case study library


Contributions to the vocabulary

Asset-based Welfare


Housing Allowance

Housing Governance

Path dependence

Area: Policy and financing

In Europe, increasingly longevity is driving the trend towards an ageing population . Furthermore, at a global level, average life expectancy has increased over the last fifty years from 58.6 years in 1970 to 72.7 years in 2019 (World Bank, 2021), and could reach 76,6 years by 2050 (Statista, 2021). In the literature reviewed, “older people“ are described as the population aged 65 and over (Harper et al., 2016; Johnson, 2015). A recent UK study (Harper et al., 2016) found that the average age of the UK population exceeds 40 years for the first time in history. The same study predicts the working age group of older people, which makes up the population aged 50-66, will increase from 26% in 2012 to 34% in 2050, an increase of 5.5 million people. However, longevity is not usually accompanied by an understanding of the quality of living. The increase in the elderly population is overwhelming the health care system of the modern welfare state. The elderly are becoming more dependent on health services, while the support of younger generations is decreasing due to their increased occupational mobility and different lifestyles (Bađun & Krišto, 2021). Asset-based welfare could be defined as a set of policies and measures that address and promote individual wealth accumulation over the course of our lives in order to reduce an individual's dependence on the pension system through the consumption of that asset (Lennartz & Ronald, 2016). There could be many forms of asset-based welfare, and it should be oriented toward the local context. For example, asset-based welfare is embedded in the housing market in Japan, Singapore and South Korea (Doling et al., 2013); (Oh & Yoon, 2019). Retirees in the US or the UK are more likely to finance a reverse mortgage, while retirees in post-socialist countries are more likely to enter into care exchange contracts or an intergenerational transfer. In the post-socialist countries of Eastern Europe, most pensioners are homeowners who have high assets and low monthly income (Kunovac, 2020). For pensioners who became homeowners during their working years, there are a few ways to use their homes in order to secure a higher standard of living in retirement. There are two main scenarios for using your assets to increase the standard of living: one is to move out of the current home, either by downsizing or selling it; the other does not require moving and usually involves renting part of the home or entering into a financial transaction such as a reverse mortgage or insurance contract (Bađun & Krišto, 2021). Both scenarios represent asset-based welfare, as assets (rather than income) are used to increase well-being. In the past, asset-based welfare used to be practised in traditional rural communities when elderly people without successors contracted with their neighbours to provide for them in exchange for their family assets. The European financial market for asset-based welfare is at an early stage of development and is only available to a limited extent in the UK, Spain, France and Germany (Bađun & Krišto, 2021). In other countries, there are different forms of transaction in play. For example, according to a survey carried out by the European Commission, 86% of the Croatians prefer to take care of their parents, rather than having their parents sell their property to increase their income (Bađun & Krišto, 2021).  Similar results could be found in other post-socialist countries with a high level of “familialism”, i.e., intergenerational living with strong family ties (Eggers et al., 2020; Sendi et al., 2019; Stephens et al., 2015) , and homeownership, where the idea of “consuming” the equity to pay for old-age care is unpopular. According to (Kerbler & Kolar, 2018), the Slovenian pensioner, even if starving, would rather not sell or mortgage their homes, while according to Sendi et al., (2019) pensioners in Slovenia “strongly reject all equity release products”. A potential model of asset-based welfare that could be implemented in Croatia was presented in 2015 in the policy document “Social picture of the City of Zagreb” (CERANEO, 2016). This model would represent an innovation in social welfare by creating an institutional support for a contract through which the assets would be transferred to the city after the death of the person and in return the city would provide care for the elderly. This contract would ensure adequate care for the elderly and provide the city with a housing stock for public or social rental. In addition, this type of contract would be a viable alternative to the current practise of doing business under a "lifetime support contract" or a "support contract until death". In 2021, 1,300 such contracts were concluded, but in practice this is not well regulated (Annual report of the Ombudswoman of the Republic of Croatia, 2021). There have been cases of contracts between only one individual providing services to tens of benefactors. Many of these contracts end up contested by the surviving family in court, making this type of transaction risky (CERANEO, 2016).

Created on 03-06-2022

Author: M.Horvat (ESR6)


Area: Policy and financing

Financialization, as a broad concept, denotes the growing prominence and impact of financial institutions and markets. Within the realm of housing, financialization refers to how finance plays a pivotal role in rendering housing as a highly liquid asset, thus erasing distinctions between income and wealth distribution (Aalbers, 2016; Stephens & Hick, 2022). Moreover, financialization encompasses the rising dominance of institutional investors as primary participants in the housing market, effectively elevating housing to the status of a distinct asset class. Aalbers (2016) defines financialization as “the increasing dominance of financial actors, markets, practices, measurements and narratives, at various scales, resulting in a structural transformation of economies, firms (including financial institutions), states and households” facilitated by the combination of “economic circumstances, conscious government decisions, unforeseen consequences (“negative externalities” in economist speak) of government decisions, and financial-technical possibilities” (p. 118). In the housing sector, financialization encompasses a diverse array of activities and strategies pursued by both institutional and private investors. These include practices such as debt management, securitization, and the establishment of real estate investment trusts (Holm et al. 2023). Central to this phenomenon is the treatment of housing as a commodity. Commodification, broadly defined as the process by which the economic value of a thing dominates over its other uses, means that housing's function as real estate supersedes its role as a place to live (Madden & Marcuse, 2016).                  The evolution of global investment and financial markets has led to a structural shift in housing, culminating in its commodification. As a result, housing is primarily seen as a commodity rather than as a place of residence (Farha & Porter, 2017), and it is turned into a commodity that accumulates wealth which can be bought or sold on global markets. Consequently, housing has increasingly become a means of wealth accumulation for a privileged few, exacerbating its affordability crisis for the broader population. Therefore, the financialization of housing poses a significant threat to human rights by disconnecting housing from its essential social function as a place to live. Financialization has sparked significant interest in housing studies, emerging as a novel process shaping housing institutions (Hick & Stephens, 2022). This interest surged notably in the aftermath of the global financial crisis (GFC) of 2007-08, underscoring the heightened attention paid to financialization in research circles (Holm et al., 2023). Moreover, scholars argue that the financialization of housing is not only pertinent to housing researchers but also to welfare and poverty researchers. Adopting a theoretical lens rooted in the “varieties of capitalism” approach to the welfare state, the extent of financialization within housing markets is viewed as a determinant of national growth levels and is regarded as a driver of growth (Hick & Stephens, 2022) The financialization of housing has led to significant changes in European housing systems, manifested in various effects and forms including rising house prices, declining rates of home ownership, an increase in the private rented sector, deteriorating housing markets, and decreased affordability of housing (Stephens & Hick, 2022). The trend towards financialization is changing the housing market and increasing income inequality in a society, while fuelling housing price instability by encouraging speculation (Dewilde & de Decker, 2016; Fields, 2016). Financialization is thus an obstacle to the affordability and stability of housing supply. The best example of this is the GFC, which has its origins in speculative mortgage derivatives. Stephens et al (2015) state that “the nature of tenure and its relationship with finance reflect the role of the state and the market as sources of (housing) welfare.” The responses of different governments and housing markets to the GFC varied across Europe (Whitehead, 2014). This was confirmed by Holm et al. (2023) and their comparative analysis of financialization in seven European cities, who found that each city filtered global processes differently due to “place-specific historical and socio-political arrangements” (p. 159). Financialization thus introduced a new logic of economic conditions for the provision and distribution of housing, facilitated by innovative financing practices that promoted housing as a safe, low-risk, high-return investment opportunity (Holm et al., 2023). The continued financialization of housing is anticipated to exacerbate affordability challenges for both mortgage homebuyers and renters, with renters experiencing a greater and more immediate impact (Hick & Stephens, 2022). As Aalbers (2016) asserts, if financialization is the root problem in the housing market, then de-financialization is the solution. De-commodification measures are essential, particularly for tenants and low-income families lacking secure housing. However, tackling the issue necessitates more than just examining the role of financial institutions and markets. It requires to increase the provision of social housing, reforms in housing governance, labour markets, and banking and taxation regulations, which collectively influence the nature and extent of financialization in housing.

Created on 18-03-2024

Author: M.Horvat (ESR6)


Area: Design, planning and building

Housing allowance is a financial housing policy measure, mostly aimed at making rental housing more affordable for both individuals and households (Bengtsson, 2006; Bežovan, 2010; Haffner & Boelhouwer, 2006; Ytrehus, 2015). It is often means-tested and forms part of the welfare scheme. While the primary beneficiaries are renters, there are cases where homeowners may also be eligible for housing allowances. The primary goal is to ensure that majority of the population can access housing at prices within their means (Kemp, 2000). In the realm of housing subsidies, two primary categories exist: demand-side and supply-side subsidies. Housing allowances are categorized as demand-side subsidies, which means they benefit the receivers of housing services, such as renters, who have some control over the subsidy and the right to choose their housing units (King, 2016). On the other hand, supply-side subsidies target land developers and construction companies, and recipients have no control over the subsidy. Over time, there has been a shift from supply-side to demand-side subsidies, particularly during the 1970s and 1980s, resulting in means-tested subsidies that were "person-based" rather than "object-based" (Haffner & Boelhouwer, 2006; King, 2016) These changes contributed to reducing housing prices, especially rents. However, concerns arose in the 1990s, with critics contending that means-tested subsidies introduced work disincentives (Bozio et al. 2017), discouraging people from entering the labour market and potentially leading to increased poverty. Another identified risk was the potential for housing over-consumption due to mass subsidies. Despite these criticisms, housing allowances play a crucial role in providing income support during both transitory and long-term periods of poverty. They help to mitigate risks associated with housing expenditure during income interruptions caused by factors such as unemployment or illness (Griggs & Kemp, 2012). The impact of housing allowances on households’ disposable incomes is significant and serves an important income support function. It distinguishes between ensuring the affordability of adequate accommodation and having enough budget left for non-housing expenses. The growing need for income support through housing allowances arises from emerging social risks, including factors such as lone parenthood, precarious work, long-term unemployment, mental health, and working poverty (Griggs & Kemp, 2012). The relationship between housing allowances and the impact on rising rent levels is a central debate in the literature (Eerola & Lyytikäinen, 2021; Eriksen & Ross, 2015; Hyslop & Rea, 2019; Susin, 2002). Some of these studies suggest that the introduction of housing allowances can lead to an increase in rents within the private rental market, while others do not provide conclusive results. However, the influence of housing allowances on housing prices appears to be intricate, exhibiting variations across countries and time periods, making it a complex and multi-faceted issue (Eerola & Lyytikäinen, 2021; Hyslop & Rea, 2019). Housing allowances come in various forms, including means-tested, income-related, and quota-based, with payments made directly to tenants or landlords (Hyslop & Rea, 2019). The same authors note that there was a slight increase in rents when housing allowance was introduced. However, it is not clear whether this was due to increased demand for rental housing, to which landlords responded by raising prices, or whether recipients spent more on better quality (or quantity) housing. The authors state that two-thirds of recipients benefited from higher disposable income after deducting housing costs in that study. From a theoretical standpoint, the neoclassical market model serves as a valuable framework for predicting a possible uptick in rental prices through the introduction of housing allowances. These grants make recipients less sensitive to rent increases, and if the supply is not perfectly inelastic (i.e. the quantity supplied of the good remains the same regardless of price changes), the increased demand will shift the demand curve upward (D > D0 > D1). Consequently, the new price equilibrium will rise (P* > P0 > P1), accompanied by only a small increase in the quantity of housing supplied (Q* > Q0 > Q1). This change is shown in Figure 1. According to Hyslop & Rea (2019) “a major concern with an increase in housing subsidy is that the intended welfare gains for recipients will be eroded by an increase in rents, with landlords capturing a substantial fraction of the benefits of the subsidy.” Despite this concern, the provision of housing allowances for the lowest-income households could enable them to escape from substandard housing, offering a pathway to potentially alleviate issues related to homelessness and overcrowding (Hyslop & Rea, 2019). In post-socialist countries, housing allowances gained prominence after regime changes and the transition from rent regulation regimes. However, their role was relatively minor compared to other policies, such as the right-to-buy policy (Bežovan, 2010; Hegedüs, 2013; Lux & Puzanov, 2013). The distribution of housing allowances varied significantly among these countries, with Russia and Hungary having higher percentages of households receiving allowances (Lux & Puzanov, 2013). The finances for these programmes typically come from state or municipal budgets. An issue with housing allowance programmes in these countries is that they do not consider national differences in living costs, leading to unequal assistance for households in less expensive areas compared to those in more costly regions. Another issue lies in the grey economy; renting without a contract between the landlord and the tenant prevents the application and eligibility for receiving allowances. Housing allowances play a pivotal role in both welfare and housing policy, with a dual aim of enhancing housing affordability and offering income support to individuals and households. Nonetheless, their impact on rent levels remains a subject of debate, and their effectiveness exhibits variations across different countries and contexts.

Created on 08-12-2023

Author: M.Horvat (ESR6)


Area: Policy and financing

The shift from ‘government’ to ‘governance’ has been debated since the early 1970s. Whilst state interventionism had been widely embraced within western societies during the post-war decades, governments gradually moved from exercising constitutional powers to acting as facilitators and cooperative partners (Rhodes, 1997). Over the course of a few decades, this resulted in governance as ‘interactive social-political forms of governing’ (Nag, 2018, p. 124).  Hira and Cohn (2003, p. 12), influenced by Keohane (2002), define governance as “the processes and institutions, both formal and informal, that guide and restrain the collective activities of a group”. Its decentralised and flexible nature could still include public actors but would also leave space for private and third-sector parties to provide services in hybrid and temporary institutional arrangements. To formulate one single definition of ‘housing governance’ as a particular mode of governance is however difficult due to its multilevel character. Housing could relate to either a family home, a housing association, or a complete local/national housing governance framework. On a household level, Wotschack (2005, p. 2) defines governance as managing “the daily time allocation of spouses by household rules and conflict handling strategies”. The work of Wijburg (2021) indicates that local/municipal governance entails a set of public interventions, strategies, policies and provisions used to provide local needs (e.g. housing supply). On the national level, Yan et al. (2021) define public rental housing (PRH) governance as “a structure of a wide range of government and non-governmental actors that act in all its phases of PRH provision from policy design to implementation and realisation”.[1] This specific definition on PRH combines the domestic definition of governance with Wijburg’s understanding of governance on the local level. Within the Chinese context, the national government provides policies and creates nationwide operational methods, whilst local governments implement and formulate the policies locally (Yan et al., 2021). Critics point out that a more decentralised governance structure complicates the public accountability of housing provision. Peters and Pierre (2006, p. 40) distinguish problems concerning the ‘isolation’ and ‘enforcement’ of accountability. The former refers to demarcation, as it is easier to measure the performance of a government housing agency directly responsible for new build and operations, than those from the private sector in an indirect role trying to stimulate and facilitate other actors and contracting out construction and operations (Shamsul Haque, 2000). The latter relates to the accountability deficit that arises when responsibility is transferred from democratically governed municipal agencies to actors without a representative institutional arrangement, and thus without control mechanisms for tenants or the wider population (Mullins, 2006). Throughout history, understanding of governing has evolved together with the role of government. The state plays a different role in capitalism, corporatism and socialism, which has varying effects on local and/or (inter)national levels. Whilst the above paragraphs describe housing governance within a democratic governance regime, transferring the conceptual debate to autocratic or hybrid regimes would pose difficulties. Thus, finding a unique definition of housing governance applicable in all spheres remains a challenge, and the specific context must be carefully considered. Important challenges remain, and as housing provision mechanisms evolve, further exploration of housing governance, especially on a municipal level, are likely to gain importance (Hoekstra, 2020). [1] “Housing provision is a physical process of creating and transferring a dwelling to its occupiers, its subsequent use and physical reproduction and at the same time, a social process dominated by the economic interests involved” ibid.

Created on 16-02-2022

Author: T.Croon (ESR11), M.Horvat (ESR6)


Area: Policy and financing

Path dependence (or historical institutionalist approach) refers to the idea that the outcomes of a particular situation or process depend on the historical path taken to reach that point. In other words, the current state or future developments of situations are influenced by past decisions, events, or processes, even if those may no longer be the most efficient or rational choices.  As a concept, it provides a valuable framework for analysing historical events, which is primarily concerned with elucidating responses and outcomes in the area of policy change and institutional persistence (Bengtsson & Jensen, 2020). A simplified interpretation of the concept of path dependency states that developments at a specific juncture create inertia in economic, institutional, social and technological progress. Bengtsson & Jensen (2020, p. 15) interpret this concept as the "fundamental causal mechanism in historical versions of institutional theory." In practise, this approach says that a development at a certain point in time sets a direction that either blocks alternative paths or makes them more difficult to achieve at a later point in time. The difference between path dependency analysis and mere "what if" speculation is the understanding of contextual mechanisms that govern historical development, rather than general social theories. In literature, the idea that "the past influences the future" is often only touched upon, leading to misunderstandings. Mahoney (2000) emphasises that a "proper" analysis of path dependency involves understanding change processes, tracing historical events while recognising mutual contingent relationships, and elucidating causal effects that cannot be explained by other events. Contingency refers to the inability of a theory to deterministically or probabilistically predict or explain a particular outcome (Mahoney, 2000, p. 513). In essence, a contingent event has not been predicted within a theoretical understanding of a particular process. Mahoney (2000) emphasises that path dependence should not be confused with a historical explanation that emphasises temporal causal sequences. In the application of path dependency, certain historical outcomes are traced back to relevant earlier events, which are often themselves contingent. There are three key concepts in every path dependence analysis: A single event that is not the product of social forces can significantly affect social outcomes. Contingent events may be temporally distant from the outcomes. The sequence of events is of historical importance and requires a chronological order in the analysis to trace the sequence of outcomes. When applying path dependency as an analytical tool, three core elements are considered: an event (A) that is preferred to an alternative ("critical juncture"), a subsequent decision (B) that connects to A ("focus point"), and the mechanism(s) that explain(s) the impact of A on decisions at B. To identify these mechanisms, it is usually necessary to trace events where no plausible alternatives were chosen. There are two types of path dependence: self-reinforcing sequences and reactive sequences, the latter involving events that are temporarily ordered and causally linked (Mahoney, 2000). In the case of self-reinforcing sequences, the detection of the beginning of the sequence could occur just before a critical turning point. In the phase preceding the critical turning point, different options become viable and processes that influence decisions at that juncture begin to operate. If the conditions in this phase can predict or clarify the outcome of the critical juncture's outcome, the sequence should not be considered dependent on the preceding events. In the case of reactive sequences, it is difficult to determine a point in time that corresponds to the initial conditions because the outcome under investigation may follow an extensive chain of causally related events that can be traced back in time. In other words, it may be difficult to find a starting point of the sequence, as the researcher keeps on going back in time (Mahoney, 2000). The concept of path dependence is of great importance for housing research, especially in the context of housing policy development of post-socialist countries that radically transformed the institutional framework and changed the tenure composition from dominantly public to private homeownership, affecting the future pathways of social housing policy efficiency and wealth distribution (Lux & Sunega, 2020). Despite its potential, path dependency is still underused in housing studies (Bengtsson & Ruonavaara, 2010; Malpass, 2011). It is often applied at the national level, but can also be extended to the municipal and local levels where housing policies are implemented.

Created on 31-08-2023

Author: M.Horvat (ESR6)



Horvat, M. & Bežovan, G. (2022, August-September). Analysis of sustainability of service providers for social integration of the homeless in Croatia. In European Network for Housing Research (ENHR) Conference 2022, Barcelona, Spain.

Posted on 27-05-2022



Haffner, M., Horvat, M., & van Bortel, G. (2023, June). The Comeback of the Dutch Social Landlords? History and Future Perspectives. In European Network for Housing Research (ENHR) Conference 2023, Lodz, Poland.

Posted on 18-07-2024



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