Housing Deprivation Unravelled: Application of the Capability Approach

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The capability approach as a normative approach to wellbeing focuses on the real freedoms of people to choose the life they want to live (Sen, 1999). This approach is regarded as an alternative to the needs-based approach of paternalistic welfare states in Europe and seems to match well with the ambitions of the European Commission ‘to show a more social face’ and the Dutch government to make the participation society work.

The RE-InVEST project 1 aimed to both advance theoretical thinking as well as empirical testing of the capability approach. The RE-InVEST philosopher team developed an application of three anthropological roles that a human being can adopt: the doer, the receiver and the judge (Bonvin and Laruffa, 2017a; Bonvin and Laruffa 2017b). We explored this approach among Rotterdam citizens who had difficulties making ends meet. These vulnerable participants were able to indicate in which roles they had become more vulnerable in recent years and in which roles they identified opportunities of reducing their situation of housing deprivation. The capability approach as elaborated in the three roles allows for housing policies to start from the definition of wellbeing of the individual instead of from ‘paternalistic’ policy aims, which are mostly based on countering monetary deprivation.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)13-28
Number of pages16
JournalEuropean Journal of Homelessness
Issue number1
Publication statusPublished - 2019


  • Anthropological roles
  • capabilities
  • doer
  • housing
  • judge
  • receiver
  • The Netherlands
  • vulnerability


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