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A case study of the Housing Fund of the Republic of Slovenia

Created on 16-05-2022 | Updated on 31-05-2022

The Republic of Slovenia proclaimed independence in 1991, constituting the obligation of the state to create conditions for proper housing for individuals. The National Housing Fund of the Republic of Slovenia was founded in October 1991 under the National Housing Act with the main role to oversee the implementation of the National Housing Programme in collaboration with other governmental bodies and agencies at national and municipal level. The National Housing Fund is now existing for over 30 years and it has sold almost 3,000 housing units at favourable prices to families struggling to find homes, and it currently manages over 3,800 public rental apartments across the country. In the current National Housing Programme, the National Housing Fund is aiming to acquire 500 public rental apartments, 150 serviced rental apartments, and 50 places in homes for seniors and acquire up to 3.280 public rental apartments for young families.

Instrument
Regulation, subsidy, incentive, policy

Issued (year)
1991

Application period (years)
1991-2025

Scope
The Republic of Slovenia

Target group
young, first time buyers, elderly, low income group, other vulnerable groups

Housing tenure
public rental housing, co-housing, ownership

Discipline
economics, public policy

Selected option
Cross-country comparative Urban Rural

Description

National Housing Fond of the Republic of Slovenia: from inception to present day


The Republic of Slovenia proclaimed independence in 1991, constituting the obligation of the state to create conditions for proper housing for individuals. The National Housing Fund of the Republic of Slovenia (the Fund) was founded in October 1991 under the National Housing Act (the Act) in order to oversee the implementation of the National Housing Programme (NHP) in collaboration with other governmental bodies and agencies at the national and municipal level (HFRS, 2021; European Commission, 2017). The NHP aimed to ensure a higher standard of living quality for vulnerable groups. According to Kerbler and Kolar (2018), the four main objectives of the NHP are: balanced offer of suitable housing, easier access to housing, quality, and functional housing, and increased housing mobility of the population. Throughout the years, the Funds' responsibilities widened from policy implementation to investment, management, and construction activities.

After Slovenia’s independence in 1991, mass privatisation of the public housing stock took place. According to the Act, the proceedings from the privatisation were to be distributed 20% to the Fund, 30% refunded to tenants who relinquished the rights to purchase dwellings and 50% to purchase new housing (Sendi, 1995). Overseeing the privatisation was one of the first tasks for the newly founded Fund, while the role of the state in the housing market was slowly diminishing. Funded from the provisions of the privatisation, over the period of 30 years of the Fund's existence, almost 3,000 housing units were sold at favourable prices (HFRS, 2021).

Originally, the Funds activities were to provide favourable loans (around 3%) mainly to non-profit housing organisations to construct more units, giving preference to young families with children, one-income families, physically handicapped, and three-generational families (Sendi, 1995).

There are two distinct periods of the NHP, between the years 2000 and 2009 and the current period of 2015 to 2025, aiming to increase the supply of dwellings and support disadvantaged and vulnerable groups. The period between 2009 and 2015 was without a strategic housing policy plan.

Currently, some of the main activities of the Fund are to promote investments in new construction to increase public rental housing stock by providing long-term loans, directly investing in projects, managing the existing housing stock and developing pilot projects (HFRS, 2021). The fund develops its own projects, as well as projects in cooperation with municipal housing funds and cooperative housing organisations. The current programme prioritises the renewal of housing stock, improving the access to housing, reforming the housing fund, and building new housing stock (BMVBS, 2009; European Commission, 2017).

The Funds’ structure

The founding body of the Fund is the Republic of Slovenia, it is led by the supervisory board which is comprised of two members of the ministry of spatial planning, and one from each ministry of finance, beneficiaries, and legal department. Next to the (national) Fund, there are 13 municipal public funds registered in Slovenia that are in charge of implementing municipal housing programmes.

Daily activities of the Fund are managed by 40 employees (31st December 2020) and the total equity of the Fund is more than € 400 million (HFRS, 2021). Main sources of funding are proceeds from the sale of housing units, state budget dotation, foreign and domestic grants, issuance of fund securities, sale of other non-business assets under the Funds management, revenues from renting of housing units and long-term loans. The Fund owns two subsidy companies, building management and a real estate consulting firm, employing around 30 and 20 people respectively. At the end of 2020, there were 3,825 public rental apartments managed by the Fund, and currently, it is modernising its platform to manage better the applications for the rental units (HFRS, 2021).

Among other goals in the 2021-2025 period, the Fund is planning to acquire up to 500 public rental apartments, 150 serviced rental apartments, and 50 places in homes for seniors and acquire up to 3.280 public rental apartments for young families.

One of the recently completed projects co-funded by the Housing Fund is the construction of dwellings for young people and the elderly in the city of Ljubljana. The Housing Fund received a € 50 million loan from the Council of Europe Development Bank (CEB) to build 500 rental units for 498 families and individuals. Completed in 2021, and according to the Housing Fund director Črtomir Remec, it is the “largest housing construction in independent Slovenia”. There are further similar projects in the development phase and are planned to start in the near future, co-financed by the CEB and the Housing Fund (CEB, 2021).

Shortcomings of the Fund’s operations

There are some critiques of the Fund's operations. For example, one was raised by the sitting Minister of Environment who also authored the National Housing Act, claiming that the 20% of the privatisation proceedings was never fully contributed to the Fund from the local authorities, hampering its development and achieving the goals back in the beginning of the programme (Sendi, 1995). Other remarks from the European Commission (EC) (2017) report that the programme is not on track due to a lack of legislation that would allow new pilots and implement innovative solutions. The report also states the underfunding of the Fund, estimating that a minimum of € 220 million is needed to meet its targets while claiming that the administration of 40 employees is understaffed to carry out all of the tasks. Since the rent amounts that the Fund is charging are below market level, it struggles to attract private companies to invest in social housing. Another critique stipulated by the EC is that definition of vulnerable groups by the Fund does not include the homeless, forced to evict, and those living in overcrowded units from the scope of the programme.

Final remarks

Compared to the neighbouring EU Member States, namely Croatia, the Fund is seen as innovative. While other countries failed to form the overarching institution that would oversee the implementation of the national housing policy, Slovenia has done so right after its independence. Since then, the Fund has become the cornerstone of any future policy developments, and with its 30 years of experience and know-how and with some completed and running demo projects, the Fund is a good practice example to countries with similar local contexts, namely post-socialist countries with a high homeownership level and non existing national housing strategy.

Alignment with project research areas

Regards to the “Design, planning and building” research area of the project, the Funds' activities are promoting the urban development by initiating the development of social and traffic infrastructure, and regeneration by investing in projects both in rural areas and urban. The Fund is also constructing housing units in both small villages and large urban conglomerations, promoting equal development of different parts of the country (BMVBS/BBSR, 2009).

Policy and Financing

The Fund is the main implementing body of the national housing policy. Through its operations, the Fund supports housing investment by using soft loans, co-financing, and allocation of equity and knowledge support (BMVBS/BBSR, 2009). The Fund can engage in public-private partnerships, but cannot engage in private investments. As stated above, the main sources of funding are proceeds from the sale of housing units, state budget dotation, foreign and domestic grants, issuance of fund securities, sale of other non-business assets under the Funds management, and revenues from renting of housing units and long-term loans.

Community participation

In order to achieve the goals and carry out the main activities, the Fund aims to get input from all relevant stakeholders and it cooperates with local communities. For example, one of the aims of the Fund is to establish a register of the public rental apartments, and in achieving this goal, the fund relies on the national government and local communities to access all the data. In many projects, the Fund and the local communicates are involved together, sharing the construction cost. In such a case, the Fund would rely on the specific knowledge of the local context regarding the needs of the community and plan the project accordingly (HFRS, 2021).

Alignment with SDGs

The Housing Fund of the Republic of Slovenia is addressing a couple of SDGs through the following targets:

SDG 1: End poverty in all its forms everywhere The Housing fund is improving the living conditions of youth and the elderly by offering affordable housing. With a rise in precarious working relations for young generations and low pensions for the elderly, the flexibility of service that the Fund is offering is addressing the work mobility through the public and social rental scheme in many large urban conglomerations. Due to a high risk of youth and elderly poverty, the Housing fund is a notable example of addressing the issue, with further efforts to be made, such as regulation and tax incentives for land transfer and intergenerational cooperation.

SDG 7: Ensure access to affordable, reliable, sustainable and modern energy for all From what is understood from the literature found on the Fund and from documents sent by the Fund directly (internal publications), the Fund is addressing this issue with modern construction materials and methods, which could lead towards reducing the energy poverty. The Fund considers the life cycle in the construction and promotes sustainable methods in the maintenance of the housing units. There could be an improved strategy showing targets to be reached by the Fund to show a higher commitment.

SDG 11: Make cities inclusive, safe, resilient and sustainable The Funds’ activities promote social mix in their operations by including social and public rental and homeownership tenure in the same area. Moreover, by investing in rural and urban regions, the Fund promotes balanced development. Due to an increase in overall housing prices in Europe, the rise in the supply of social and rental housing units by the Fund could reduce the overall housing prices, thus increasing affordability and accessibility.

References

CEB. (n.d.) (2021). Governor Wenzel opens Novo Brdo housing complex in Ljubljana together with 
Slovenia’s Environment Minister Andrej Vizjak Retrieved March 17, 2022, from 
https://coebank.org/en/news-and-publications/news/governor-wenzel-opens-novo-brdo-housingcomplex-in-ljubljana/

European Comission. (2017). European Construction Sector Observatory. European Union, June, 27. 
http://ec.europa.eu/growth/sectors/construction

Federal Ministry of Transport, Building and Urban Affairs/ Federal Institute for Research on Building, 
Urban Affairs and Spatial Development of Germany (BMVBS/BBSR) (2009). Urban Development 
Funds in Europe Ideas for implementing the JESSICA Initiative. BBSR-Online-Publikation, Nr. 
03/2009.

Housing fund of the Republic of Slovenia (HFRS). (2021). Business policy of the housing fund of the 
republic of Slovenia 2021-2025, internal publication (Issue January, 2021).

Kerbler, B., & Kolar, B. (2018). Housing for Younger and Older Populations. Housing. 
https://doi.org/10.5772/intechopen.78039

Sendi, R. (1995). Housing reform and housing conflict: the privatization and denationalization of public 
housing in the Republic of Slovenia in practice. International Journal of Urban and Regional 
Research, 19(3), 435–446. https://doi.org/10.1111/j.1468-2427.1995.tb00519.x

Related vocabulary

Housing Governance

Area: Policy and financing

The shift from ‘government’ to ‘governance’ has been debated since the early 1970s. Whilst state interventionism had been widely embraced within western societies during the post-war decades, governments gradually moved from exercising constitutional powers to acting as facilitators and cooperative partners (Rhodes, 1997). Over the course of a few decades, this resulted in governance as ‘interactive social-political forms of governing’ (Nag, 2018, p. 124).  Hira and Cohn (2003, p. 12), influenced by Keohane (2002), define governance as “the processes and institutions, both formal and informal, that guide and restrain the collective activities of a group”. Its decentralised and flexible nature could still include public actors but would also leave space for private and third-sector parties to provide services in hybrid and temporary institutional arrangements. To formulate one single definition of ‘housing governance’ as a particular mode of governance is however difficult due to its multilevel character. Housing could relate to either a family home, a housing association, or a complete local/national housing governance framework. On a household level, Wotschack (2005, p. 2) defines governance as managing “the daily time allocation of spouses by household rules and conflict handling strategies”. The work of Wijburg (2021) indicates that local/municipal governance entails a set of public interventions, strategies, policies and provisions used to provide local needs (e.g. housing supply). On the national level, Yan et al. (2021) define public rental housing (PRH) governance as “a structure of a wide range of government and non-governmental actors that act in all its phases of PRH provision from policy design to implementation and realisation”.[1] This specific definition on PRH combines the domestic definition of governance with Wijburg’s understanding of governance on the local level. Within the Chinese context, the national government provides policies and creates nationwide operational methods, whilst local governments implement and formulate the policies locally (Yan et al., 2021). Critics point out that a more decentralised governance structure complicates the public accountability of housing provision. Peters and Pierre (2006, p. 40) distinguish problems concerning the ‘isolation’ and ‘enforcement’ of accountability. The former refers to demarcation, as it is easier to measure the performance of a government housing agency directly responsible for new build and operations, than those from the private sector in an indirect role trying to stimulate and facilitate other actors and contracting out construction and operations (Shamsul Haque, 2000). The latter relates to the accountability deficit that arises when responsibility is transferred from democratically governed municipal agencies to actors without a representative institutional arrangement, and thus without control mechanisms for tenants or the wider population (Mullins, 2006). Throughout history, understanding of governing has evolved together with the role of government. The state plays a different role in capitalism, corporatism and socialism, which has varying effects on local and/or (inter)national levels. Whilst the above paragraphs describe housing governance within a democratic governance regime, transferring the conceptual debate to autocratic or hybrid regimes would pose difficulties. Thus, finding a unique definition of housing governance applicable in all spheres remains a challenge, and the specific context must be carefully considered. Important challenges remain, and as housing provision mechanisms evolve, further exploration of housing governance, especially on a municipal level, are likely to gain importance (Hoekstra, 2020). [1] “Housing provision is a physical process of creating and transferring a dwelling to its occupiers, its subsequent use and physical reproduction and at the same time, a social process dominated by the economic interests involved” ibid.

Created on 16-02-2022

Author: M.Horvat (ESR6), T.Croon (ESR11)

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