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Climate proofing social housing in the Netherlands: toward mainstreaming?

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Climate vulnerabilities of the built environment are increasingly recognised. Mainstreaming adaptation concerns in urban development and redevelopment projects is commonly propagated as an effective policy strategy. Adaptation mainstreaming research often studies public actors. This article investigates the adaptation practices by housing associations, in the institutional and discursive developments of the social housing domain in which they are embedded. The analytical concepts of mainstreaming and adaptation barriers are combined with the discursive-institutional policy arrangement approach to answer the question: what factors influence the mainstreaming of climate change adaptation measures in development and renovation projects in the social housing domain in the Netherlands? We conclude that anticipatory and deliberate adaptation action to date was very scarce and attention limited in the social housing domain. On the project implementation level, factors that hampered adaptation mainstreaming in housing development were limited awareness, low priority in relation to other issues, financial constraints, regulatory constraints, lacking cooperation, and no materialisation of adaptation concerns in procedures and performance agreements. On the level of the policy arrangement, adaptation is weakly institutionalized in the Dutch social housing domain. The institutionalisation of a competing ‘core activities’ discourse hampered the legality of climate adaptation measures and eroded financial resources, dispersing the power to mobilise them over the arrangement. Uncertainty over the meaning of the new regulations, in combination with the absence of a comprehensive regulatory framework for adaptation and the self-identified culture of risk aversion by housing associations, delimits adaptation action becoming a standard operating procedure of social housing associations.
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Keywords: Policy Arrangement Approach; barriers; built environment; climate adaptation; housing associations; mainstreaming

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: Institute for Management Research, Geography, Planning and Environment, Radboud University, Nijmegen, The Netherlands;

Publication date: July 3, 2019

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