Dissertation Abstracts

Multi-owned housing governance: owner committees and strata managers

Author: Altmann, Erika
Department: School of Sociology
University: University of Tasmania, Australia
Supervisor: Dr Max Travers
Year of completion: 2014
Language of dissertation: English

Keywords: housing , multi-owned developments , Apartments , governance
Areas of Research: Housing and Built Environment , Organization , Professional Groups


Dr Altmann’s thesis of owner corporation (body corporate) considered the contractual relationships between strata managers and owner committees within strata titled housing developments.

In Australia, the strata mechanism is used with increasing frequency by developers as the primary method for division of real property assets and on-sale of individual property lots. Any land that falls within the strata scheme but outside the individually owned lots is termed the common property..

While some research has been undertaken into strata issues within the states of Queensland and New South Wales, little is known of the Victorian or Tasmanian context. Fewer studies still concentrate on the committee of management and their interaction with strata managers, even within the international sphere. The privatised governance structures within apartment and townhouse developments have evolved into complex organisations that make consequential decisions that affect property owners.

This thesis examines the growth of the strata industry and the influence that strata managers have over committees of management. Issues of trust, participation, openness and transparency in this contractual relationship are investigated. The thesis also investigates the links that strata managers have with developers and how this shapes the owner corporation.

While the growth in strata titled properties can be understood as a legal or planning issue, this thesis seeks to contribute to our understanding of how these non-profit organisations, relying on volunteer labour, are managed as part of a shareholder democracy. Within the Australian context, the owner corporation is shaped and constrained by wider society through the taxation system and wider economic context. The thesis also looks critically at the organisations’ capacity to govern by drawing on qualitative interviews with strata managers and committees of management. This approach highlights the strengths and weaknesses of externally sourced, contractual help within the strata environment.

The thesis considers the implications of this empirical, sociologically informed approach for studying strata title. Theoretical insights were gained through the application of structuration theory in order to investigate the actions taken by different stakeholders, and the reflexive monitoring that occurs within strata organisations. The power plays (and therefore conflict) identified in the interviews are then investigated further through using the concepts of coercive, mimetic and normative forms of isomorphism employed by new institutionalists. This thesis demonstrates that developers have a great deal of influence on committees of management through their role in establishing these organisations, but that managers exercise agency while working within these structures.

Policy implications include the need to address a lack of purchaser knowledge that contributes to issues of trust and conflict; industry professionalisation of strata managers; conflict between owners but also conflict between owners, the committee of management and the strata manager. It addresses issues of training for strata managers, committee members and owners.