Why does a social housing provider bet on interest rate fluctuations? This article presents a case study of the financialization of both housing and the state. Social housing in the Netherlands is provided by non-profit housing associations that have since 1989 been set apart from the state. Many associations started developing housing for profit, borrowing on global capital markets or buying derivatives. Whereas other semi-public institutions moved into the world of finance due to financial constraints, housing associations did so to capitalize on the possibilities offered by their asset-rich portfolios. Vestia, the largest of them all, is an extreme––but not exceptional––case of what can happen when public goals are left to be realized by inadequately supervised and poorly managed private organizations. As a result of gambling on derivatives, Vestia had to be bailed out to the tune of over 2 billion euros. To recoup the losses, housing was sold off and rents were raised. Almost half of Dutch housing associations used derivatives, although most refrained from using them purely speculatively. The changes in the housing sector that led to its financialization cannot be separated from the wider financialization of the state.
Manuel b. Aalbers, Jannes Van Loon & Rodrigo Fernandez
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