Prefaces usually portray the PhD project as a struggle with many ups and downs. To me, this thesis seems more like the natural outcome of a gradual process, the research activities having been an integral part of my job at the OTB Research Institute for the Built Environment. There, preparing the articles comprising this thesis was only one of my activities, alongside various contract research projects, the other articles that I have written or collaborated on, and my work for the Journal of Housing and the Built Environment.
My career at OTB began in 1998 when I joined it as a contract researcher. In the first two years at the institute, I carried out several local housing market surveys. In 2000, I took my first steps in the world of fundamental research and just kept on going. Along with Henny Coolen, I wrote an article on the application of the laddering method within housing preferences research. Then, together with Agnes Reitsma, I investigated the relationship between the welfare system and the housing system in the Netherlands and Belgium. Eventually, the latter project served as the basis and inspiration for this thesis.
Professor Peter Boelhouwer, Professor Hugo Priemus, and Harry van der Heijden were the supervisors of my PhD project. Although we did not meet very often, they were there whenever I needed them. They put me on the right track when I started the project and provided useful suggestions when I wrote my introductory and concluding chapters. Above all, I want to thank them for the great confidence they have always had in me.
Furthermore, I am indebted to those with whom I co-authored some of the chapters of my thesis: Marja Elsinga (Chapter 5), Iñaki Heras Saizarbitoria and Aitziber Etxezarreta Etxarri (Chapter 6) and Cyrus Vakili-Zad (Chapter 7). Working with each of you was an inspiring experience and I sincerely hope to continue our collaboration in the future.
I also want to thank my colleagues in the OTB section ‘Housing Systems’. Due to the informal setting and the spirit of cooperation, working in this section is a great pleasure.
A few people deserve special mention. First of all, I want to thank Roland Goetgeluk, with whom I have shared an office during most of the PhD project. Roland helped me a lot with the statistical analyses, but I also have fond memories of our lengthy and sometimes surreal conversations on politics and life in general. I regularly joined Evert Meijers and Henk-Jan van Mossel for a game of tennis or squash, after which we often discussed the progress on our PhD projects (they were much faster than I was, at least in finishing up). And I am grateful to Nancy Smyth van Weesep for the language editing of Chapters 1 and 8 of this thesis.
Last but certainly not least I want to thank my family. Blanca, Maite, Koos, Anneke, Jasper, Ruby, and Job – I could count on all of you for love and support. Although my PhD thesis was not a regular topic of conversation, you sometimes prodded me on by asking when I was planning to finish the project. I am glad to say that the moment has now arrived.
Delft, August 2010