Operating in the space between state, market and society, nonprofit housing associations are part of a new generation of hybrid organisations. Unlike traditional organisations delivering publicly subsidised affordable rental accommodation, governance is networked not hierarchical. The state can influence - through subsidy, regulation and direct intervention - though seldom chooses to directly control. Housing associations regularly partner with public sector agencies, private developers and other nonprofit or hybrid organisations. Networking is used to share resources, build local coalitions and increase institutional learning.
This thesis uses a cross-national case study approach to develop frameworks leading to a deeper understanding of what housing associations are becoming. The topic is addressed through the research focus on how to strengthen housing association capacity, taken to be ‘the capability of an organisation to achieve goals’. Nine associations of three organisation types, selected from the city regions of San Francisco, Melbourne and Manchester, provided rich documentary and interview information. This was supplemented by interviews with senior staff at networked organisations identified through snowballing techniques.
Organisational capacity is often seen as a set of attributes that housing associations possess, such as a mission statement and governance procedures. This has led to a narrow focus on capacity building through professionalisation, introducing management approaches from the private sector. The research findings suggest the importance of broader approaches to strengthening organisational capacity, for example though collaboration between associations by merger, group structure, or procurement partnerships. Capacity can also be built with assistance from both traditional and emerging networked support organisations. Trade and professional bodies, together with consultants, lobby organisations, researchers and community groups form part of a broader web. The success of contemporary housing associations depends not only on the skills of individuals working for the organisation, but their ability to make connections across the wider environment - organisational capacity strengthened through network power.