Promote links between housing, care and pensions, but leave the initiative with society

Lots of different initiatives are emerging for funding, service delivery and organisation at the interface of housing, care and pensions in the Netherlands. The WRR describes these initiatives in its Investigation report Op maat voor later. Maatschappelijke initiatieven op de snijvlakken van wonen, zorg en pensioenen (‘Tailor-made for later. Societal initiatives at the interface of housing, care and pensions’). The margins for the flexible use of pensions are currently still narrow. Far and away the most initiatives link together the domains of housing and care. The biggest task facing the government will be to create scope for this societal initiative without seeking to take it over.

Societal initiatives

The Dutch housing, care and pension systems are in transition. Reforms have been introduced in phases in recent years, and many more changes are in the pipeline for the years ahead. Government, civil-society organisations and market operators are looking for new roles on a playing field where the demand by citizens, the supply of products and services and the policy of central government are all changing. This transitional phase offers scope for experimenting with new forms of funding, organisation and service delivery.

New initiatives

The WRR investigated which initiatives have emerged at the interface of housing, care and pensions. The Council observes that combinations in which pension funds are involved as investors in combined housing and care provision are not common. For pension funds, the small scale of the investment opportunities mean that the returns are often too limited, and the risks and political uncertainties too great. The situation is different at the interface of housing and care. A large number of initiatives have emerged here, particularly in the area of supported living, homes for life, collective private commissioning and care cooperatives. The rise of care cooperatives is particularly striking, but they are often still in a start-up phase; there are relatively few established and tried and tested initiatives.

Given their nature and size, these societal initiatives are not a replacement for the collective arrangements of the welfare state. In the best case, they involve intelligent combinations of knowledge, money and manpower in the fields of housing and care which do not require radical system or legislative changes. Nonetheless, their potential is considerable: they could form the first steps towards a broader, publicly supported and innovative range of services.

Active role for market operators and government

In order to bring this potential to fruition, market operators could take an active social role, by creating testing grounds for new products, offering administrative and legal support and information, or organising platforms where societal initiators can share experiences and explore opportunities. The government has a twofold role here: promoting without taking over, and creating clarity and safeguards. The authors of this Investigation put forward a framework to enable both the opportunities and dilemmas in relation to societal initiatives to be brought into sharper focus. This can be summarised in the form of a question: How valuable are they from the perspective of autonomy, inclusiveness, robustness and effectiveness?

This WRR Investigation is the work of Professor Cor van Montfort, Henk Griffioen, Dr. Meike Bokhorst, Dr. Wendy Asbeek Brusse and Professor Marianne de Visser. The Investigation builds on the earlier publication Wonen, zorg en pensioenen. Hervormen en verbinden (‘Housing, care and pensions. Reform and revitalisation’) (2012) which looked at the opportunities and risks of ‘decompartmentalising’ these domains.

About the WRR

The Netherlands Scientific Council for Government Policy (WRR) is an independent advisory body to the Dutch government. The task of the WRR is to advise the government on issues that are of great importance for society. The reports of the WRR are not tied to one policy sector. Rather, its reports go beyond individual sectors; they are concerned with the direction of government policy for the longer term. More information about the WRR may be found at: english.wrr.nl.