During this interview, Audrey Linkenheld as Director of partnerships and innovation, and Eric Danesse as responsible for innovation through design and international relationships, will give an insight in how Vilogia uses alliances and mergers in their operations. The interview covers the topics of special collaborations and alliances for economic benefits, development and attracting new staff.
Vilogia is a French housing association with a private nature. They have around 75.000 housing units in France – mainly in the metropole areas and in the north of France. Right now, they are looking at expanding the portfolio they currently have. The company consists of 1000 employees, spread out over different areas of the country.
The private nature of the company means that shareholders do not have dividends, this is regulated as voluntary shareholding. The main shareholder of Vilogia is a private company. Together, all shareholders represent the biggest companies and entrepreneurs in the built environment, making them an important and essential asset for Vilogia. The structure of the governance is set out of both an advisory board and a director board. Both boards are governed by their own directors – one advisory director and one executive director. The director of the advisory board is specially elected; the director of the executive board is nominated by the advisory board. Tenants are represented within the advisory board by representatives from different tenant associations. French law makes it mandatory for all French social housing companies to have tenants on the board.
It is important to note that in France, social housing companies can either be private, public or private-public. As Vilogia is a private company, it is easier to make alliances with private companies.
Collaborations of Vilogia
Collaborations of Vilogia with other social housing companies are possible through developing projects together, economic interest groups (multiple), and direct collaboration (e.g. capitalist). Out of direct collaborations, new shareholders can be appointed, and even new companies can be founded.
This newly founded company out of collaboration was the result of new French law. This law determined that social housing companies with a portfolio smaller than 12000 dwellings needed to merge or collaborate. This created opportunities for both the smaller housing company and Vilogia. As of right now, most collaborations and mergers have already taken place and have been stabilized. However, Vilogia is open to collaboration with companies that still need such an alliance. It is important to note that the most attractive collaborations are those where companies overlap in territory.
Particular examples of alliances
One is still going on, and is a win-win collaboration. It is with a big public social housing company, Partinon. Vilogia and their collaborative partner are both public companies, meaning they have no obligation from the law. They are collaborating on the levels of management services, eg. tenant management and property management. As they are a geographically close partner, this will create an economy of scale. This will decrease costs for materials and services.
There is special focus on social housing for very vulnerable groups (great social difficulties). With their collaborative partner, Vilogia tries to come up with innovative solutions for this social housing problem. Solutions could be fitting services close to tenants and renovating the houses.
Because of the economic model it is not easy to tackle both the social problems and problems with dwellings at the same time. This is because there is a lack of public funding and income. The rents for these vulnerable people are very low, as they otherwise cannot afford housing. Adding to this, the funding for solving social problems can only be used for two years, after this period the social housing company has to pay for it themselves.
The counteract of the clustering of this social group is also something that needs to be done, and mix this group with other incomes. This is sometimes difficult as the housing needs of the different groups sometimes do not align. A shared location with another company can help with this. These restraints on providing services and up to date housing make a collaboration with another big private party very attractive.
Collaboration on attracting new staff
Vilogia has a good reputation and is well known about innovation and developments – they are a front runner in the sector. This is known within the market and naturally attracts staff.
There is an economic interest group with other companies, to attract more people to the company. This aligns with one of the earlier mentioned alliance models. This collaboration is an apprentice centre which offers special courses for the trainees. There are collaborations with different schools and universities for this. After the training, the trainees are offered a job with one of the involved companies in the program.
For one company, such a centre is not an option – however a collaboration is the way that everyone benefits.
Collaborations on delivering new dwellings
Around 1500 new dwellings are delivered each year by Vilogia. This amount can be this high as a lot of the dwellings are realised by developers and later bought by Vilogia. The developers are obliged by law to realise a certain amount of social housing and continue to sell these for a good price to a social housing company.
Besides this, there is also project development from Vilogia itself. For developments like this, there is another collaboration in the way of an economic interest group. There are three more partners with Vilogia in this group, however, expansion is possible.
Lastly, Vilogia is looking for solutions to speed up the construction process. In France, construction is not very structured or efficient. As a result, Vilogia is still looking for better partners to facilitate this. Vilogia itself is very active in promoting industrialised housing in Europe. However, being situated in France, there is a big restriction that you are not allowed to construct your own dwellings as a social housing company.