No matter how many new homes are added, the quality of housing in any community is determined, above all, by the existing housing stock. In Zaanstad, the situation leaves much to be desired. Around 3,000 private residences need their foundations to be repaired within ten years, and homes score badly on the energy front. Nationally, Zaanstad rates poorly in the area of housing quality. The local authority therefore wanted to lead a drive to improve the quality of housing.
As a result, the local authorities sought a planner to work with them on developing the organisation and strategy and then fleshing it out. This was a challenge, because most of the investment funds came not from the authority’s budget, but had to be found by the owners. Improving housing is therefore all about the ‘art of persuasion’.
An experienced planner
Zaanstad approached several parties seeking a candidate for the role of planner. They were also asked to set out a detailed vision of the subject. Given that we at AT Osborne had already written a paper in collaboration with Platform 31 on upgrading private housing, we were familiar with the topic. And when talking about improving sustainability, we have had experience of this in a whole host of municipalities, having been involved in setting up neighbourhood energy companies. Finally, we know the municipality of Zaanstad well, because in the past we were involved in major long-term projects such as Inverdan and Saendelft. Given this combination of knowledge and experience, AT Osborne was selected for the planning role.
From target to strategy
We started on the task with exploratory discussions both internally and externally to gain a clear overview of the task and of the parties involved. We then had a number of meetings to turn the targets into a strategy and developed this into an approach that set out the targets, strategy, organisation and necessary financial resources. This plan is the basis for taking local political decisions, expected towards the end of 2016.
From discussions, it rapidly became clear to us that Zaanstad is already a long way down this road. They have created a strong lobby in The Hague to draw attention to the need to repair the foundations of buildings, and are organising collective purchasing schemes for solar panels and the metering network to get to grips with funding issues. Zaanstad is now seen as an example worth following by many municipalities. While developing the strategy, it became clear to us that there were other opportunities to help residents to self-manage and involve market partners and businesses.
The trick was to maintain all the positive steps made and to find out where Zaanstad could make further gains. We jointly formulated some realistic targets and arrived at the opinion that sustainability and renovation foundations could learn from and assist each other. By coming up with an explicit, overarching strategy, we created a solid foundation and gained some welcome momentum.