When it became clear that the Covid-19 outbreak was turning into a pandemic and that there would inevitably be considerable economic consequences for people who did not have it very broad, the housing association thought. soweto that something had to be done to alleviate the suffering of the tenants. Below is an interview with a Soweto volunteer.
“Various residents work in the sectors that are now affected, such as the catering industry and culture, usually with precarious contracts and not always with a view of the TOZO or another scheme.” The housing association considered first making an inventory of who needed what, but realized that this would probably take too much time, while they wanted to offer a signal and concrete lighting quickly. For example, they came up with an offer for a rent reduction for the months of April, May and June. “In this way we could immediately propose something and, depending on the individual reactions, offer additional customization if necessary. The 25% reduction was subsequently implemented in consultation in a number of specific cases. We checked whether there were sufficient reserves for such a gesture, and with a little hanging and strangling we can do this without having to use earmarked reservations. From a business point of view, it also makes much more sense to give a tenant a temporary reduction than to watch the tenant go bankrupt and then stop paying rent at all, right?”
How are rents normally built up at housing associations or corporations? In other words, what, if any, is the buffer that could be tapped at this point to bear the burden?
Volunteer Soweto: “I think that's a difficult question. I think the 'normal' distribution you describe is more of a rough rule of thumb that housing farmers use than a serious accounting measure. Asking the old-fashioned 'key money' may have been officially abolished in the Netherlands, but the housing market is buzzing with creative terms to disguise profit practices, and not just from commercial parties. The 'liberalization' mantra from The Hague in recent years has only exacerbated this.”
At Soweto, an economical and non-commercial administration is conducted, with a lot of room for self-motivation: initiative by and consultation with the tenants. “The rent is based on quite complicated calculations based on technical and economic assumptions. Although they are projected for a number of years ahead, with a rental structure that is not based on hot air and a little good will, we can temporarily make some adjustments in this case.”
Why should other housing associations do this?
“Of course we have no insight into the finances of large landlords and housing associations, and we also believe that it is not our role to tell others what to do. It is obvious to think that, for example, a De Key that is able to produce policy documents with the slogan 'clarity through temporality', should also be able to take rent reductions or other creative measures to spare the tenants – if they really want it.”
At Soweto they know that tenants of housing associations with an active solidarity practice have a low score of defaulters. “If landlords do not see the value of solidarity with tenants, they could also consider purely for pragmatic considerations that a well-treated tenant is economically extra reliable and therefore valuable in the long term.”
More generally, Soweto states that “if the minister, and the parties that still support this coalition, were not obsessed with economic promises of 'market growth' and other nonsense, they could see that a one-off centrally abolishing the rent increase would be an extraordinary simple and effective solidarity measure. They could therefore, for example, compensate the housing associations by lowering the landlord tax.”