This article analyses political rationalities positioning residents in decision-making in the context of #housing2030 project in Warsaw, Poland. The paper applies a governmental approach, a policy analysis tool reconstructed (on the ground of existing studies) by
- citizen involvement
- post-Foucauldian governmentality
- housing policy
In the public policy literature, ‘public participation is often mentioned among the procedural instruments policymakers can use when shaping policies’ (Bobbio, 2019, p. 41). Within the context of Central and Eastern European countries, the analyses done to date have explored the issue of motivations and attitudes for public participation (Alibegović and Slijepčević, 2015). Researchers have studied the models of public participation (Beilmann et al., 2018). They have also sought to evaluate public participation in policymaking (Sarvašová et al., 2014; Vári, 2009). The subject of public participation is examined in relation to urban development (Strussová and Petríková, 2009). In this context, one can observe growing interest in research on citizen involvement in housing and community development (Zubrzycka-Czarnecka, 2019).
The goal of the article is to describe and analyse the political rationalities that construct social reality regarding the issue of public participation (as exemplified by the #housing2030 project). Moreover, the paper provides a few reflections on the ‘lived effects’ of the identified discursive constructions.
My research adds to the existing literature in multiple ways. First, it contributes to the research on public participation in housing. In part, this topic has emerged in the wake of works on the crisis of new public management (NPM) as a method of governance in housing (Manzi, 2015; Lévy-Vroelant, 2014; Flint, 2004; Jacobs and Manzi, 2000). Moreover, researchers have studied public participation in the context of good governance and local governance in housing (also in various contexts of urban governance or metropolitan governance) (e.g. the involvement of NGOs in the housing policymaking, Svidroňová et al., 2017). The interest in public participation in housing decision-making is also reflected in scholarship examining the consequences of neoliberal housing policy (an extreme example of which is the tragedy of Grenfell Tower in 2017) (Preece, 2019). It is thought that including citizens in housing policymaking helps to better address housing issues (Shupulis, 2002). However, only a few studies, including this article, have looked at public participation in housing policy from the point of view of governmentality (McKee, 2011; Atkinson, 1999).
Second, the present examination of the political rationalities related to public participation in housing policymaking (analysed on the example of the #housing2030 project) complements the Discursive Approaches to Public Policy (Durnová et al., 2016, p. 47) by proving a methodological innovation. The paper uses a governmental approach (promoted by Greg Marston and Catherine McDonald, 2006) to study public participation in the creation of housing policy. Such an approach is developed within the framework of Foucauldian Discourse Analysis in housing and urban studies (McKee, 2009; Dodson, 2007; Atkinson, 1999). With regard to public policy theory, a governmental approach enables answers to be found to ‘representation questions’ (formulated in studies that adopt an interpretive orientation to public policy) (Browne et al., 2019). In these studies, meanings are treated as the analytical focus. A governmental approach complements ‘traditional’ approaches to public policy and shares some of the theoretical assumptions with the Social Construction of Target Populations approach developed by Anne Schneider and Helen Ingram (Sabatier and Weible, 2014). A governmental approach contributes to the theory on the impact of political rationalities on the position of social actors (e.g. residents) in the public policy process. It is effective in illustrating the construction and development of political rationalities and technologies used in governing. It is also well-suited to grasp the social practices related to political rationalities.
The paper begins by outlining the framework guiding the analysis (a governmental approach) and then examines the research strategy and the findings of an original empirical study. Conclusions from the research follow.
The theoretical background of the article is based on governmental approach, a perspective reconstructed (on the basis of existing studies) by Greg Marston and Catherine McDonald (2006). It involves research centred on the analytical approach of governmentality (Walters, 2012, p. 45). This notion was introduced by Michael Foucault in his lectures of 1978 and 1979 at the Collège de France (Dean, 1999).
Marston and McDonald stress that ‘policy research and government studies are not mutually exclusive lines of enquiry’ (Marston and McDonald, 2006, p. 2). They assume that public policy can be seen as ‘“social artefacts” with a specific historical trajectory’ (McKee, 2009, p. 468). A governmental approach enables one to observe ‘the relationship linking state and non-state forms of governance’ related to particular public policies (Marston and McDonald, 2006, p. 1). The approach is useful for understanding the ‘extended conception of power and authority’ (Marston and McDonald, 2006, p. 3). It ‘includes a focus on the multitude of micro-spaces and places’ where social actors are the object of the exercise of power and authority (Marston and McDonald, 2006, p. 3). A governmental approach helps to identify ‘the technologies of citizenship formation as a strategy of government’ (Marston and McDonald, 2006, p. 3).
The governmental approach draws upon a generic understanding (see Walters, 2012) of Michel Foucault's concept of governmentality formulated to problematise the issue of political power (Rose et al., 2009, p. 1). This notion encompasses ‘the semantic linking of governing (
The term ‘government’ is defined as ‘an assemblage of diverse elements, practices, and ways of thinking coming together to both frame and resolve problems’ (Huff, 2020). Individuals are understood as a population, ‘as existing within a dense field of relations between people and people, people and things, people and events. Government had to act upon these relations that were subject to natural processes and external pressures, and these had to be understood and administered using a whole range of strategies and tactics to secure the well-being of each and of all’ (Rose et al., 2009, p. 7). The first part of the concept is concerned with governmental conduct or activity ‘meant to shape, guide, or affect the conduct of people’ (Huff, 2020).
Within a governmental approach, it is assumed that there are many forms of governing, including both by the state and non-state actors. Defined as self-governance or ‘governing at a distance’ (Rose et al., 2009, p. 9), individuals can participate in their own governance (conducting their own conduct). Government is about power relations going beyond sovereign power or disciplinary power. It ‘is conceived as a form of power concerned with the capacities and relations between people as resources to be fostered and optimized’ (Huff, 2020). For that reason, ‘governing is an art involving the imaginative application of intuition, knowledge and skills to administration and management’ (Huff, 2020). However, this does not necessarily mean that social actors – particularly those who are not politicians or creators of governance practices – are deprived of agency. A governmental approach recognises that individual groups of social actors have the capacity to apply micro-practices of resistance to the procedures of governance (Marston and McDonald, 2006, p. 4). It is assumed that there is ‘potential disjuncture between political rationales and their effects in reality’ (McKee, 2009, p. 477).
The second aspect of the term ‘governmentality’ concerning rationality (‘mentalities of rule’; Marston and McDonald, 2006, p. 6) relates to ‘systems for defining populations, which make them known and visible’ (Huff 2020). To be able to influence the conduct of the citizens, it is necessary for the government to identify, classify, order and control them.
The governmental approach has been developed to help answer these questions: (1) How are public policy subjects constituted in public policy programmes? (2) How do policy actors govern others and how do they govern themselves? (3) What processes, procedures and practices are employed to facilitate the conducting of conduct? and (4) What forms of resistance and refusal are constituted in policy practices? (Marston and McDonald, 2006, p. 4).
Language is one factor that makes reality governable, and it is widely researched. As Rose et al. wrote, ‘language should be analysed as a key element in the process of forming networks through persuasion, rhetoric, and intrigue’ (Rose et al., 2009, p. 9). Within a governmental approach, it is recommended that the research strategy be complemented with a second object of research, one constituting social practices related to political rationalities expressed in language (discourse).
A governmental approach is useful for ‘an analysis (…) that seeks to identify these different styles of thought, their conditions of formation, the principles and knowledges that they borrow from and generate, the practices that they consist of, how they are carried out, their contestations and alliances with other arts of governing’ (Rose et al., 2009, p. 4). Such an approach provides ‘an empirical mapping of governmental rationalities and techniques’ (Rose et al., 2009, p. 24). In a governmental approach, the research procedure is often based on discourse analysis, case studies and in-depth interviews.
However, as a perspective founded on the concept of governmentality, the governmental approach has some limitations. One is that it seems to provide ‘rigid models of government that are so systematically integrated that change must be accounted for from elsewhere’ (critics of homeostasis, Rose et al., 2009, p. 21). For example, Rose writes that this argument is not true if we see government as based on the rationalities that ‘are constantly undergoing modification in the face of some newly identified problem or solution’ (Rose et al., 2009, p. 22). At the same time, it has been observed that a governmental approach has often been used by researchers who ‘focus only upon the mind of the programmer and ignore the messy world of realpolitik, of implementation and non-implementation’ (Rose et al., 2009, p. 23). One can respond to such a critique that ‘human powers of creativity are centered rather than marginalized, even though such creation takes place within certain styles of thought and must perforce make use of available resources, techniques, and so on’ (Rose et al., 2009, p. 24). In the scope of the governmental approach, it is strongly recommended that the analysis embodies the social practices performed by citizens (governed subjects) in reaction to political rationalities.
Referring to typical research questions used in the scope of governmental approach, I formulated my research question as follows: what are the political rationalities associated with public participation constituted in the documents related to #housing2030 project?
The term ‘political rationalities’ is defined based on Gordon (1991, p. 2) as: ‘ways of thinking about the nature and practice of government (who can govern; what is governing; what and who is governed) capable of making some form of that activity thinkable and practicable to both its practitioners and those upon whom it is practiced’. Political rationalities are discursive constructions which serve to determine how inclusion of citizens in housing policymaking can be thought about and how it can be done (Harris, 2001, p. 6). One can see political rationalities as the ‘rationality of government designed to overcome the problems facing liberal government’ (Marston and McDonald, 2006, p. 5).
Gene Rowe and Lynn J. Frewer emphasise that ‘public participation is a complex concept, the scope and definition of which is open to debate’ (Rowe and Frewer, 2004, p. 514). Public participation is often associated with participatory democracy or deliberative democracy (Zubrzycka-Czarnecka, 2019). In my research, public participation is defined as ‘the practice of consulting and involving members of the public in the agenda-setting, decision-making, and policy-forming activities of organisations or institutions responsible for policy development’ (Rowe and Frewer, 2004, p. 512). I argue that, as an instrument enabling the exercise of political rights, public participation is an important part of citizenship. Furthermore, shaping the meaning and norms linked to public participation promotes ‘citizenship formation’. As Marston and McDonald highlight, citizenship formation means ‘the ways in which the “powerless”, “groups at risk” and the “passive welfare-dependent” are either gently encouraged or not so gently coerced to take up certain ethical dispositions associated with self-reliance and responsibility’ (Marston and McDonald, 2006, p. 4). Citizenship is not unconditional, as it depends upon the self-regulation of individuals (especially based on norms and values characteristic of some ideology) (Flint, 2004).
The #housing2030 project consists of measures proposed by Warsaw City Hall in 2016–2018. This project sought to create a new housing programme for Warsaw, carried out as a part of the Warsaw Development Strategy for 2018–2030 (#Warszawa2030). It was highly participatory and deliberative, and included debates among and workshops for residents. I argue that the #housing2030 project can be seen as a set of ‘moral codes in operation’ (Marston and McDonald, 2006, p. 4).
Following Marston and McDonald, my method was informed by discourse analysis (in this case, Foucauldian-inspired discourse analysis), a common research method applied in policy analysis research (Browne et al., 2018) and the one which has also been employed in housing and urban policy research (Jacobs, 2006, p. 41). Four analytical strategies are distinguished as part of this discourse analysis: (1) archaeological discourse analysis (‘the emergence of different paradigms or truth regimes’), (2) genealogy (‘how different disciplinary discourses are superseded at certain historical junctures’), (3) self-technology (‘the ways in which new discursive practices are ordered’) and (4) dispositive analysis (which ‘seeks to reveal the logic of different practices, institutions, and new technologies, and how these combine’) (Jacobs, 2019, pp. 357–360).
The examination was done in two stages. In the first stage, I applied archaeological discourse analysis to the political rationalities related to #housing2030 project. My task was to identify and describe the statements used regularly to construct social reality regarding the issue of public participation in the context of #housing2030 project (Andersen, 2003, p. 9). It is assumed that every statement contains: an object, subject, conceptual network and strategy (Andersen, 2003, p. 11). I focused on the conceptual network. In the second stage, I examined the opinions of selected social actors (representatives of tenants organisations and the City Office) on the ‘lived effects’ of the identified political rationalities.
The first task in the research procedure was to select documents for the analysis. I chose two policy documents (The Housing Policy – Housing2030, pp. 1–49 and Housing2030 Programme, pp. 1–113). These were the most important documents guiding the #housing2030 project. The Housing Policy – Housing2030 is a long-term development perspective for the years 2018–2030. It was adopted by resolution No. LIX / 1534/2017 of the Warsaw City Council of 14 December 2017. The directions of housing policy development set out in this document were specified in the Housing2030 Programme, an operational programme for the Warsaw Development Strategy through 2030 (#Warszawa2030) adopted by the Warsaw City Council in 2018. I also referred to two other documents developed by the city (Warsaw my way of 2018 and Strengthening Local Communities Programme 2015–2020 of 2015). I argue that housing policy is a historically shaped ‘social artefact’ (Marston and McDonald, 2006, p. 8). When examining selected aspects of this policy, it is necessary to place them in a broader context.
To supplement the data collected and to outline their context, in May 2019, I interviewed an individual responsible for carrying out the project for the City Office. Due to difficulties in conducting interviews with participants of the debates (the study was carried out after the project was completed), I did a search of ‘Gazeta Wyborcza’ (‘Election Newspaper’) databases using the key words ‘citizens’, ‘participation’, ‘housing2030’ and ‘Warsaw’. Gazeta Wyborcza is a daily newspaper that has been published in Poland since 1989. It covers political, international and general news from a left-wing perspective. In selecting data for analysis, I strove to avoid partiality or bias. Gazeta Wyborcza does not confine itself to presenting the liberal discourse on housing. In fact, it is the most reliable newspaper in Poland for reporting on housing, and has a local section devoted exclusively to covering Warsaw. Moreover, its archives provide access to articles dating back many years. Finally, I selected one press article presenting the point of view of citizens for in-depth analysis.
The data collected were classified into two categories: (1) the texts (documents) on the basis of which I conducted a discourse analysis in search of political rationalities and (2) the interview transcript (Interview 1/2019) and the newspaper article (Karpieszuk, 2017) enabling observation of social practices in response to the political rationalities identified. I would highlight that the analysis of the interview and press article helped only to outline and not to examine ‘the lived experience of subjection’ (McKee, 2009, p. 474).
The research findings are organised into four sections. Each focuses on a particular dimension of political rationalities that I identified in the housing policy documents in Warsaw (in the context of #housing2030 project).
Two complex and contradictory political rationalities (defined as in Marston and McDonald, 2006; Harris, 2001; Gordon, 1991) were identified in the documents. The object (Andersen, 2003, p. 11) of the first rationality is public participation associated with ‘the involvement of residents in the creation of strong, supportive communities’ (The Housing Policy – Housing2030, 2017, p. 23). In the second rationality, public participation is narrowed down to the residents’ behaviour (‘everyday user behaviour’) linked to the optimisation of housing stock management and the success of sustainable housing (The Housing Policy – Housing2030, 2017, p. 23). Both rationalities fit in with the governmentality perspective. However, the first is characterised by greater ‘subjecting’ (Andersen, 2003, p. VIII) of Warsaw's residents. A more detailed analysis of the objects of the rationalities can be found in the section on the conceptual network of the rationalities.
The first political rationality refers to the general public (as a subject), while the second political rationality (or sometimes the alternation of two rationalities) has been applied to social tenants (The Housing Policy – Housing2030, 2017, p. 24). In the first case, the subjectivity of residents is emphasised to a much greater extent (in the Introduction to the Housing Policy – Housing2030 strategy of 2017, p. 4, they are defined as ‘Varsovians’) than in the second (where they are defined as ‘users of council housing's apartments’; Housing2030 Programme, 2018, p. 104). This is evident in the part of the Housing Policy – Housing2030 strategy devoted to the issue of ‘improving the quality of urban housing and good governance’. There is a postulate to support both ‘increasing the involvement of residents in local activities’ and ‘communication between tenants and the administration’ (The Housing Policy – Housing2030, 2017, p. 24). Where the two rationalities are combined, positioning residents in housing policy, there is a ‘mixing up’ of the conceptual networks (which are at least partially contradictory) associated with each of them. In terms of ‘citizenship formation’ (Marston and McDonald, 2006; Flint, 2004), citizens can be divided into social tenants and others (e.g. the owners of single-family houses, owners of flats in homeowners’ associations or residents of flats in housing cooperative buildings), as in the doctrine of less eligibility of 1834 (the New Poor Law), which was originally used in the United Kingdom for people receiving social assistance (Rein, 2009). This approach is reflected in the definition of social tenants as ‘users’. In another city document (Warsaw my way, 2018, p. 8), this term defines the residents of Warsaw with the smallest scope of rights (residents who pay taxes in Warsaw and those permanently or temporarily registered in Warsaw are in a better position; Warsaw my way, 2018, p. 8). The issue of involving social tenants in the decision-making processes is included only in the Annex to the Housing2030 Programme of the Warsaw Housing Standard. The rights related to public participation are not attributed to social tenants either in the Housing Policy – Housing2030 strategy or in the main text of the Housing2030 Programme.
The conceptual network (Andersen, 2003, p. 11) related to the first political rationality covers issues such as local communities and neighbourhoods.
When it comes to defining the term ‘local communities’ in the field of Warsaw housing policy, the Housing Policy – Housing2030 strategy affirms that supporting local communities is the first priority of activities resulting from the housing policy (2017, p. 35). This statement reflects the thinking about local communities one finds in City of Warsaw policy documents (and allows the aspect of housing policy to be placed in a broader context; Marston and McDonald, 2006, p. 8). City officials refer to the Ferdinand Tönnies’ concept of
In the scope of local community, the fact of inhabiting a given territory is the most important consideration (even this theoretical perspective of public participation is somewhat related to governmentality; it reflects the argument that the individuals are seen as comprising a population and managing them is done by affecting the relationships between elements of the population; Rose et al., 2009, p. 7). That is why, the situations and actions in which the internal sense of community is stronger than the sense of belonging to other groups are key to strengthening local communities (Strengthening Local Communities Programme 2015–2020, 2015, p. 6). According to the Strengthening Local Communities Programme, ‘A community can exist in one yard or housing estate, and at other times at the district level. In some cases, one can also talk about the residents of the community of Warsaw’ (2015, p. 7). However, ‘the local community is shaped primarily at the territorial and neighbourhood level’ (Strengthening Local Communities Programme 2015–2020, 2015, p. 7).
In connection with these statements, the Warsaw Housing Standard clarifies that the ‘community of residents’ is ‘a community of people living together in a building (or group of buildings). In this case, community does not mean a housing community of apartment owners (…)’ (Warsaw Housing Standard, 2018, p. 44). Within this definition, social tenants also belong to the ‘community of residents’. The Strengthening Local Communities Programme 2015–2020 also points out that the concept of the local community is related to that of social capital: the higher the social capital (‘the potential of a given community that results from trust, common standards, the ability to mobilise and combine resources’; Strengthening Local Communities Programme 2015–2020, 2015, p. 7), the more the local community develops.
With regards to translating the adopted definitions into the practice of housing policy in terms of public participation, one can observe that The Housing Policy – Housing2030 strategy emphasises that the flow of knowledge ‘between residents of the city and the authorities in charge of the housing stock’ (The Housing Policy – Housing2030, 2017, p. 49) is a condition for cooperation of housing policy entities and the successful implementation of that policy. The documents introduce an innovative solution known as the Warsaw Housing Standard, which supports local communities by encompassing participation and deliberation (The Housing Policy – Housing2030, 2017, p. 40). However, many researchers note that standards are typical instruments of self-governance (Rose et al., 2009; Jacobs and Manzi, 2000). I suggest that, in the examined documents, standards are a tool used to define the population and make it easier to manage (Huff, 2020). In this context, references to social capital also appear very instrumental.
In the scope of the first political rationality, the concept of neighbourhood is the second conceptual background for involving residents in the decision-making process. When it comes to defining the term ‘neighbourhood’ in the field of Warsaw housing policy, the need to strengthen neighbourly ties is emphasised in the materials that were examined for this paper, even if City of Warsaw's policy documents lack a definition of the term ‘neighbourhood’. According to Swisher (2016), a neighbourhood is the ‘immediate geographical area surrounding a family's place of residence, bounded by physical features such as streets, rivers, and train tracks, as well as political divisions. Neighbourhoods also typically involve a strong social component, characterized by social interaction between neighbours, a sense of shared identity, and similar demographic characteristics such as life stage and socioeconomic status’. The term ‘residential neighbourhood’ is conceptualised in Polish social sciences as a space with all its elements that surrounds a specific place of residence. This multidimensional concept includes physical objects and living beings (people and animals) (Polko, 2005, p. 42). The Housing Policy – Housing2030 strategy partially reflects this way of thinking about a neighbourhood. However, involving citizens in shaping the housing policy (co-management/co-governance) refers only to homeowner associations, housing cooperatives and private investors (The Housing Policy – Housing2030, 2017, pp. 36–37).
In the Housing Policy – Housing2030 strategy, it is recognised that ‘to involve residents in activities aimed at improving the quality of life, the following solutions are suggested: allocating funds to initiatives building the local community and improving the quality of living in all districts of Warsaw; a support scheme for local partnerships involving, among other things, the inclusion of property managers in a network of local partnerships; involving local leaders in the decision-making process connected with a given neighbourhood, managing the stock of city-owned commercial premises and planning innovative residential projects’ (The Housing Policy – Housing2030, 2017, p. 35). These measures are aimed at the implementation of top–down designed activities with specific goals by residents. This has a lot to do with ‘governing at a distance’ (Rose et al., 2009, p. 9).
A similar area of citizen activation consists in strengthening neighbourhood relations through (1) ‘increasing the number of Local Action Hubs’, (2) ‘combining residential and utilitarian uses, in particular, creating “active ground floors”’, (3) ‘supporting social economy entities’ and (4) ‘including various forms of service exchanges, time banks and other solutions encouraging contacts between neighbours in the building/housing estate management system’ (The Housing Policy – Housing2030, 2017, p. 36). The city is obliged to consult residents of buildings of homeowner associations on the renovation of municipal courtyards constituting public spaces (Housing2030 Programme, 2018, p. 88). Publicly accessible areas belonging to housing cooperatives are covered by investments planned within the participatory budget (Housing2030 Programme, 2018, p. 89). As part of these measures, the community of residents of communal flats (social tenants) is not included.
With reference to the foregoing analysis, one can state that the strategy promoted in the first statement is more about ‘subjecting’ than ‘subjectivation’ (Andersen, 2003, p. VIII). This strategy is based on guiding citizens’ activities to a specific area (local communities and neighbourhoods) and in a particular direction (involvement in the implementation of sustainable housing).
The second of the political rationalities positioning residents in the housing policy applies primarily to social tenants. The conceptual network (Andersen, 2003, p. 11) related to this rationality is founded on the concept of neoliberal governance in housing.
The documents (especially the Housing Policy – Housing2030 strategy and Housing2030 Programme) contain many elements of neoliberal governance (e.g. treating social tenants as clients or users, striving to optimise and standardise the management of social housing, governance by regulations – e.g. house regulations governing the behaviour of social tenants living in the apartments of council housing). These elements share many of the characteristics of the ‘technologies of citizenship formation’ (Marston and McDonald, 2006, p. 3). However, Warsaw City's policy documents lack a definition of ‘governance’. The term was popularised by political scientists, economists and international financial institutions (e.g. the World Bank, the International Monetary Fund) in the 1990s. It may be defined as a transition from hierarchical, centralised management (a government) to multi-level, network management (governance) (Theiss, 2009, pp. 310–313). Governance may be perceived as a ‘postpolitical’ search for effective regulation and accountability (Hirst, 2000, p. 13). According to Habermas, it is not so much a management practice, but more akin to ‘unmasked’ government (‘the phenomenon of management with politics’; Perlikowski, 2016, p. 48).
In the documents I examined, a great deal of space is devoted to improving the communication of municipal officials with social tenants. They propose the following: (1) to introduce a ‘guidebook regarding the requirements that must be met to live in an apartment of social housing stock’, (2) to prepare ‘templates of correspondence addressed to tenants that would be clear, transparent and written in understandable language’, (3) ‘to create a customer service system (□) and tenant service point’ and (4) to introduce an electronic service for tenants, via a mobile phone application (Housing2030 Programme, 2018, p. 104). It is noted in the documents that ‘the relations between the administration and a large part of residents are very formal, which is not conducive to an atmosphere of mutual understanding and trust’ (Housing2030 Programme, 2018, p. 68).
Creating the new role of apartment manager (in the context of social and housing multi-service) in council housing would help address that issue (The Housing Policy – Housing2030, 2017, pp. 43–44). The goal of this innovative solution is to make the city and managers more open to the needs of residents. I believe this solution makes tenants more manageable, more ‘rational’ and more predictable. But these tenants’ characteristics make them more susceptible to control their behaviour (Huff, 2020).
The issue of improving the quality of social housing stock management was also raised. Steps planned towards that end have included: ‘optimising the activities of the responsible units; adapting to current and future technological and social challenges (including eliminating barriers to access for people with disabilities and senior citizens); introducing quality management and task standardisation systems; reducing and rationalising the costs of housing stock management’ (The Housing Policy – Housing2030, 2017, p. 43). However, they have not involved the residents of council housing in decision-making processes (tenant participation; Preece, 2019).
These tools have many features of technologies of governmentality (Huff, 2020). Such standards have often been used within the radical and negative (in the place of ‘bureaucratised’ public institutions) inclusion of network governance – and especially neighbourhood governance – in housing policy (Jacobs and Manzi, 2000). But, as Tony Manzi (2015) argues, it does not contribute to solving social problems connected with housing, such as housing districts threatened with ghettoisation. It does, however, lead to greater stigmatisation of social housing and its residents. The documents recognise that a city representative in homeowners associations (in which the city owns only a part of the premises) should be ‘an intermediary between users of municipal premises and the boards or managers of buildings of homeowners associations’ (Housing2030 Programme, 2018, p. 86). The documents propose that social tenants have access to information on the selection and renovation of their council housing apartment and could express their opinion in the renovation process (‘the opportunity to consult and co-create their future residence’) (Housing2030 Programme, 2018, p. 80). The manager's duty is to appoint a person who will be responsible for contacting the social tenant regarding the renovation of the apartment assigned to him/her (Housing2030 Programme, 2018, p. 80). According to the Housing2030 Programme, ‘the manager should not only ensure the residential real estate is kept in good condition, but also help residents access appropriate urban programmes and NGOs, and to support local neighbourhood communities’ (Housing2030 Programme, 2018, p. 104). I would emphasise that this proposal affirms that the bottom-up tenant initiatives should be supported by the manager (with informational and organisational assistance). But even in this case, the manager is asked to ‘animate’ tenant involvement in socially desirable activities (‘neighbourhood assistance, integration meetings and local charity actions’; Housing2030 Programme, 2018, p. 105). In a sense, the manager ‘manages’ the ‘population’ of tenants (Rose et al., 2009, p. 7).
One section (‘Property management’) of the Annex to the Housing2030 Programme concerning Warsaw Housing Standard addresses tenant participation, which is regulated by the manager. Issues such as tenant participation in decision-making processes, consultations and opinions are described in the section entitled ‘The manager's role in the resident community’. The manager's duty is to build competence and knowledge, and gain information needed to manage social housing stock by surveying the opinions of residents. This is done by examining their needs and satisfaction. At the same time, the document limits tenant participation to consultations, which are defined as: ‘the way of obtaining opinions, positions, suggestions, etc. from the institutions and persons to whom the administration would relate’ (Warsaw Housing Standard, 2018, p. 47). The rules of consultation are as follows: the manager begins consultations and proposes the order and method by which residents’ demands are to be implemented. The consultation should consist of two stages: (1) ‘collecting data from satisfaction and needs surveys’ and (2) ‘organising an open meeting, where research results are presented and discussions are held with managers and experts (if necessary) on the development and challenges facing the community of residents’ (Warsaw Housing Standard, 2018, p. 47). However, the impact of consultation on the decision-making process is not clarified (e.g. when the manager must hear tenants is not stipulated). This allows the manager to keep control over the tenants (Huff, 2020).
Another dimension of tenant participation in policymaking is found in local partnerships. The document states that ‘the community and/or manager participate in local partnerships and/or cooperation networks working for the estate. They cooperate with local government bodies, institutions and organisations to meet needs, solve problems and conflicts, and implement projects serving the local community. House regulations should include a stipulation on participation in a partnership. If there is no partnership in the area, they can be established’ (Warsaw Housing Standard, 2018, p. 48). Here, I would highlight that numerous researchers have shown that the rhetoric revolving around the apparent increase in social tenants’ impact on social housing stock management (through partnerships and consultations) in practice induces public authorities to neglect the housing of low-income people. Lévy-Vroelant (2014) stresses that in France, neoliberal governance as a technique of housing management leads to two problems: first, individualisation of the risk associated with a failure to satisfy people's housing needs and second, to partial commercialisation (including the market methods of management, concluding public–private partnerships with developers, diversifying products, etc.) of the sector of social low-rent housing (habitation à loyer modéré - HLM). Such governance omits, at the level of political discourse, values such as social agency, solidarity and redistribution. Rose argues that Foucault used the term ‘political rationality’ to conceptualise liberalism. It was ‘a way of doing things that was oriented to specific objectives and that reflected on itself in characteristic ways’ (Rose et al., 2009, p. 2). The impact of liberalism on our understanding of ‘state’ and ‘society’ (as distinctive phenomena) contributed to a more critical perception of the term ‘government’. Liberalism was seen as the ‘art of governing that arises as a critique of excessive government – a search for a technology of government that can address the recurrent complaint that authorities are governing too much’ (Rose et al., 2009, p. 3).
The Warsaw Housing Standard stipulates that the house regulations (forms regulating the behaviour of social tenants living in the buildings of council housing) will contain provisions specifying ‘the rules of participation in decisions made relevant to the life of the community’ (2018, p. 45). However, this is a very general declaration and does not specify the rights of tenants or the scope of matters in which they could co-decide. The rest of the document suggests that involving tenants in co-decision-making will lead to initiatives that are more social (e.g. neighbourhood self-help) than political. Yet, there is no place carved out here for sharing power or strengthening tenants’ agency in deciding neighbourhood or housing policy. Regarding the concept of ‘citizenship formation’ (Marston and McDonald, 2006; Flint, 2004), one could suggest that such regulations are intended primarily to teach social tenants responsibility for using the common good (a dwelling and its surroundings). Social tenants are not treated as autonomous and self-regulating social actors. There is no balance in terms of the division of power between the participants of the process of governance in the social housing stock. There is a division into those who manage and those who ‘are managed’.
The above analysis suggests that the strategy promoted in this rationality (positioning residents in housing policy) is more about ‘subjectivation’ than ‘subjecting’ (Andersen, 2003, p. VIII). It consists in guiding citizens’ activities to a specific area (neoliberal governance in housing) and direction (including residents through the top-down promotion of self-regulating conduct, perceived as desirable and correct; McKee, 2011) to improve the quality of management of social housing stock.
Having analysed the social practices formulated in response to the political rationalities discussed above, I would emphasise that tenant organisations are aware of the problem of inconsistencies and the insufficiently empowering approach of city authorities to social tenants in housing policymaking. One tenant organisation representative stated thus: ‘Lower-level officials still think that it's about management, debt collection, and not about people. This has been happening for years. It's not likely to change overnight’ (Karpieszuk, 2017). Tenants appreciate the new tools introduced by the documents developed under the #housing2030 project. They see them as a ‘paradigm shift’ in local housing policy in Warsaw (Karpieszuk, 2017). At the same time, they also notice the discrepancy between the discourse and the actual state of housing policy (‘this is not visible at the bottom’; Karpieszuk, 2017). From the social tenants’ point of view, there are scepticism and distrust of political rationalities related to public participation, especially referring to the concept of neoliberal governance in housing. This confirms a governmental approach's claim that the micro-practices of resistance to the procedures of governance are possible (Marston and McDonald, 2006, p. 4).
Tenant organisations and urban movement organisations have already tried to renegotiate a stronger position for themselves in housing policymaking within the scope of working on the documents examined. Representatives of tenant movements sometimes disrupted the course of meetings. As noted in the interview, ‘their goal was not to solve the problem, but to build their identity through protest’ (Interview 1/2019). This group of participants ‘did not want to work at all; instead of giving relevant comments, they formulated political positions’ (Interview 1/2019). Data collected during the interview indicated that the topic of participation was a major challenge in the work on the housing project in Warsaw. This was attributable, on the one hand, to reluctance on the part of many social actors (e.g. officials, councillors, tenant organisations and city movements) to cooperate in a difficult and innovative project. At the same time, however, none of the social actors was prepared to engage in deep reflection or to accept far-reaching changes in designing frames of public participation in housing policy.
This paper provides empirical evidence on the political rationalities related to the issue of public participation in housing policymaking in Warsaw as exemplified by the project #housing2030.
The analysis of policy documents (The Housing Policy – Housing2030 strategy, Housing2030 Programme and Annex to Housing2030 Programme concerning Warsaw Housing Standard) enabled the identification of two political rationalities that position residents in the housing policy: (1) public participation designed in the context of local communities and neighbourhoods and (2) public (tenant) participation designed in the context of neoliberal governance in housing.
The first political rationality has the features of ‘empowerment strategy with some aspect of governmentality’. It seeks to support residents of specific locations connected by a neighbourly bond. Within this strategy, residents may be perceived as a population, a recourse governed with instruments similar to ‘governmentality technologies’. The strategy primarily addresses residents living in homeowner association-governed buildings, residents of housing cooperatives and private investors. The regulations proposed in the Warsaw Housing Standard apply to social tenants in this group (including those living in apartment buildings with homeowner associations or which are managed by housing cooperatives). Their involvement in creating and implementing housing policy will improve the quality of life and sustainable development of the city. In this approach, residents are treated as a subject of public policy. Participatory and deliberative tools are targeted at them (participation in local partnerships, the city's obligation to consult them on the activities undertaken by the city with residents, including some projects in the participatory budget).
The second political rationality has the features of ‘management strategy with many aspects of governmentality’. It addresses the residents of social housing stock. Social tenants are treated as an object of public policy. The proposed tools (e.g. the templates of correspondence addressed to tenants; a customer service system or the social and housing multi-service) improve social tenants’ quality of life, but generally do not increase their impact on housing policymaking. The Warsaw Housing Standard proposes consultations with tenants and their participation in local partnerships. But many aspects of the application of these tools were not specified. These solutions, to a small extent, include the participation of social tenants in creating housing policy, assigning this prerogative primarily to the manager.
Examining the social practices formulated in response to the political rationalities identified enabled me to determine that tenant organisations and organisations belonging to urban movements were sceptical and distrustful of political rationalities reflected in the documents proposed by the city. Micro-forms of resistance were particularly aroused by a second political rationality combining public (primarily social tenants) participation with the concept of neoliberal governance in housing.