The German housing market is strongly regulated including e.g. limitations of rent increases and energy-efficiency standards for new buildings. However, it is not sufficient for housing companies to comply with these formulated rules. Due to a pluralistic corporate governance system and the high social importance of housing in Germany, the management must also consider interests by their numerous stakeholders such as owners, employees, tenants, business partners, politics, authorities, and other interest groups. Some foreign investors only became aware of this required stakeholder-orientation when they were faced with negative press and protests for not fulfilling the expectations (e.g. concerning adequate maintenance levels).

In addition to providing affordable housing for a broad spectrum of households, companies are expected to fulfill further interests like for example energy-efficient buildings, adequate social management, better customer service, and increased profit generation. Strategies to balance these different and partly conflicting interests are required. Before interests can be balanced systematically, transparency on the stakeholder expectations is required. The purpose of this study is to show what kind of expectations are addressed towards housing companies, how they differ between stakeholder groups and what kind of conflicts may arise.

Expectations are analyzed exemplarily in a case study with a German municipal housing company. More than 1,400 stakeholders were invited to take part in a survey on their expectations towards the company. The survey was analyzed by qualitative, descriptive and multivariate analyses.

The results of the survey confirm the variety of interests. Expectations not only vary between stakeholder groups but are also heterogeneous within some of the typical stakeholder groups.

Managers should be aware of this heterogeneity of expectations, as they often tend to focus only on stakeholders with whom they interact regularly or who engage proactively. Even participation approaches bear the risk of participants representing only a small minority. Thus, companies should try to integrate multiple stakeholder perspectives for decision-making to fulfill the diverse needs as best as possible.