Position and future of the system of housing associations

Expected spring 2022
Housing associations provide relatively cheap homes for rent to several million households. To what social challenges can and should housing associations contribute efficiently and effectively, in the decades to come? What basic conditions are necessary to achieve this?

Background and request for advice

The Council for the Environment and Infrastructure observes that housing associations are regularly in the public and political spotlight. They are seen as a vehicle for achieving various policy objectives. This is the case, for example, when it comes to dealing with the continuously worsening housing shortage, limiting rising housing costs, and improving the sustainability of the housing stock in order to reach climate goals. But housing associations are also seen as a solution to the problem of housing vulnerable people who need care and housing the homeless, and as a way of creating stable living environments where people can offer one another help. And while all these social wishes are being expressed, housing associations are regarded as suspicious, because there have been excesses in the past involving very risky and sometimes unlawful behaviour by associations, because their real estate is extremely valuable and because there is a great deal of autonomy in making investment and other decisions.

The Council notes that the size and social significance of housing associations are considerable, but that it is unclear what wishes and expectations they need to meet over the coming decades, and what basic conditions are necessary to achieve this.

A great deal has changed in the organisation of housing associations, policy and the social challenges in the area of housing over the past decades. The policy-defined target groups, the financial frameworks within which the housing associations operate, the legal frameworks and supervision – all these matters have changed repeatedly and fundamentally. This has happened in a context in which social needs are changing. There are developments related to the aging population, care, the demand for housing and the affordability of homes, the necessity of making houses more sustainable, and the need for flexible housing. The current organisational form, legislation and financial rules have been shaped to a great extent by the privatisation of the housing associations in 1995 and the Dutch Housing Act of 2015. The foregoing has led us to the following main questions:

What role can and should housing associations play in meeting social needs in a changing housing market? What organisational form, legislation and financial and other rules are appropriate?


The advisory report is scheduled to be issued in the spring of 2022.

Council committee

Niels Koeman, Council member and committee chairperson
Jantine Kriens, Council member
Ludo Groen, junior Council member

External committee members

Chris Schaapman
Jan van der Schaar

Information or response: 

For more information about the advisory report, please contact project leader Douwe Wielenga at douwe.wielenga@rli.nl or +31 (0)6-21240809.