Application of T. Lowi's Typology of Public Policy to the Analysis of Construction Policy: Moscow Renovation Housing Programme Case

Julia Punina, Artyom Potapkin
School of Governance and Politics, MGIMO University

Abstract: The article sheds light on the political process during the adoption and the implementation of the Moscow Housing Renovation Programme. The authors use Lowi’s typology of public policy to analyse the actions of stakeholders involved in the housing renewal process in Moscow. As a result, stakeholders took actions within the regulatory policy framework dominated at the stage of agenda setting and policy adoption, while at the implementation phase they were involved in distributive interactions. In conclusion, the Moscow Housing Renovation Programme is a complex policy programme combining various types of public policy developed by Ted Lowi.

Keywords: public policy, Renovation Housing Programme, regulatory policy, distributive policy, procurement, construction, Lowi's typology

Ted Lowi’s matrix is one of the attempts in political science to systematise and predict the policies adopted and implemented by the state. The main idea is that political relations are determined by the type of policy in question, thus each policy is likely to have a specific type of political relation. Thus, once one defines the type of policy it is possible to predict politics as the possible activity and behaviour of actors.

The typology is based on a particular type of coercion, which differs in terms of a target (individual actor or the stakeholder environment as a whole), and the likelihood of coercion  (direct and indirect). The model proposed by Lowi was designed to predict the possible behaviour and mobilisation characteristics of political actors when shaping and carrying out a particular type of public policy. Lowi singled out four types of policies:

1) Distributive policy distributes benefits and costs at the individual level, with beneficiaries and losers actors not directly in conflict. Therefore, consensus is achieved relatively easily due to indirect influence from the state. Because the costs of such policies are evenly distributed, it is easier for political actors to come to an agreement, the main form of interaction is logrolling.

2) Regulatory policy implies direct influence on the behaviour of a certain individual or group of individuals (e.g. a sector of the economy) through a system of sanctions and incentives. Regulatory policy is designed to increase the opportunity cost of violating the law. Because of the direct impact of the state on an individual or group of individuals, there is a high degree of conflict; political bargaining is the main form of interaction between actors, so the final solution may be altered significantly by a large number of amendments.

3) Redistributive policies target several groups and redistribute benefits and costs between them. Conflict is increased due to the redistribution of resources of one group in favour of another, the main form of interaction between actors is political bargaining.

4) Constitutional policy is aimed at shaping the structure of governance, norms regulating the activity of public authorities and division of powers between them. As coercion is indirect consensus and stability prevails in politics, logrolling is widespread as a form of interaction between actors.

That said, Lowi’s typology has a number of significant flaws. Although there is a clear division of policy outcomes in the typology, most public decisions cannot be framed within a single type. If actors do not have a unified vision of possible policy outcomes, their performance and behaviour in the political arena may be unpredictable.

Subsequently, there have been attempts to adjust Lowi's typology, as most public decisions cannot be fit into a single type, and different actors interpret the nature of a particular public decision in their own way. For example, Spitzer did not change the number of initial types, supplementing the matrix with 'mixed types' of policies. Kellow replaced the criteria of probability and applicability of impact with the distribution of costs and benefits. Regulatory policy was divided into regulatory public policy and regulatory policy affecting private interests.

For instance, the Moscow Housing Renovation Programme has a redistributive nature because a large number of stakeholders are involved (about 1 million Muscovites, big construction companies, regional and federal government authorities), between which conflicts arise (lawsuits, protests, attempts to block and change the programme provisions by government authorities and decision-makers). This programme is one of the most ambitious redevelopment projects between 2017 and 2032 which includes the resettlement of around 350,000 flats and the demolition of over 5,000 houses. The controversial provisions of this programme caused a wide public outcry, with over 30,000 people estimated to have protested in 2017.

However, the analysis of the decision-making cycle shows that this case is complex, as the Programme contains constitutional, distributive and regulatory components.

During agenda setting and policy formulation stakeholders tended to bargain over the final parameters and liabilities set in regional and federal laws. Companies, regional authorities and citizens lobbied their interests in the executive and legislative bodies at the federal level. The adoption of the programme required changes in the regulatory environment at both the federal level (primarily the Federal Law "On the Status of the Capital" and the Urban Development Code) and at the regional level.

To implement the programme, Moscow’s government established Residential Development Renovation Fund, which in fact became the operator of the programme, assisting with demolition, preparation of project documentation, construction, securing the housing rights of owners, etc.

The implementation of the programme involves procurement which is one of the most widespread tools of the distributive policy. Developers compete for contracts so as to gain profit from design, demolition and construction. What is more, companies involved in the renovation projects develop already existing districts with developed social infrastructure and transport communications which increase the price of new houses and thus benefits for business.

In conclusion, Lowi's typology has descriptive potential, but it is difficult to predict possible scenarios of interaction between political actors due to the complexity of modern redevelopment programmes and differentiation of perception and reaction of this or that policy by different actors. As for the Renovation Housing Programme in Moscow, stakeholders had to eliminate regulatory bottlenecks to distribute public resources from the regional budget.


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