Fragmented governance architectures in Amsterdam

In a new publication in Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space, we (Tuna Tasan-Kok and Sara Özogul) investigate residential property production processes in Amsterdam, and provide a novel frame of analysis to understand the extent and format of institutional and organisational structures that accompany market-oriented ideological shifts and transitions in urban governance.

The academic tenor of the times is that local administrations are operating in an increasingly business-like, market-oriented manner when it comes to housing. Academics tend to discuss this approach in terms of entrepreneurial governance. Yet, until now, the existing literature lacked a frame of analysis to forensically study the underlying processes leading to entrepreneurial shifts in governance.

In a new publication, we argue that entrepreneurial shifts can be understood through fragmented governance architectures. ‘Fragmented governance architectures’ is a conceptual perspective that we borrowed from governance studies and operationalised in relation to property development. We propose an original thesis: entrepreneurial urban governance requires, and ultimately creates, fragmented governance architectures that accommodate complex institutional and organisational arrangements in market-oriented urban development.

This frame of analysis differs from existing studies on Amsterdam’s governance transformation, which tend to be limited to sectoral analyses of regulation, specific markets, or policy fields. In contrast, the novel framework is more comprehensive as it focuses on i) the way property industry activity is regulated by the public sector; ii) the way public administrative structures relate to property market activity; iii) the way policy interventions and tools are narrated in regulations affecting residential property production.

Even though entrepreneurial governance arrangements in Amsterdam are not new, our article poses that the degree of fragmentation has intensified since the 2008 financial crisis with the subsequent de-regulation, particularly at the national level, and – once the repercussions were felt in Amsterdam – with various attempts to re-regulate residential property production at the local level. The Dutch national government loosened its regulatory framework to make more room for private market activities. Meanwhile, housing shortages across the Netherlands turned residential property production into a highly politicised issue. Correspondingly, in recent years various government layers and agencies began to produce more guidelines, visions, and ambitions to push forward their own agendas based on their constituencies.

Based on rich empirical evidence, including discourse analysis, policy analysis and in-depth interviews with key policy and property industry actors operating in Amsterdam, we illuminate a complex regulatory environment expressing divergent attitudes toward property market activity, intra-organisational discrepancies within Amsterdam’s local administration up to the level of individuals engaging with property development, and the circulation of fuzzy policy narratives on property industry actors. In Amsterdam, we argue, these factors create the underlying infrastructure that allows an increasingly entrepreneurial governance system to roll out at the local level. Without strong and consistent public-sector leadership, this fragmentation is likely to increase.

Full reference:

Tasan-Kok, T. & S. Özogul (2021). Fragmented governance architectures underlying residential property production in Amsterdam. Environment and Planning A: Economy and Space.