The figures for 2014 show that the Netherlands had to provide housing to almost 14.000 refugees . They were almost all housed by social housing landlords. What is the role of the "Home Again" platform?
The platform "Home Again" is aimed to accelerate the housing of refugees. The national federation of social housing association, Aedes, is also involved with the new platform. In the Netherlands, the municipalities receive a task from the central government to provide housing to legalized refugees. Each one has a minimum housing quota. For example Amsterdam had to find housing for 740 refugees, but could only provide it for 400 of them in 2014. Even if social housing providers prioritize this urgent target group, 13% of the allocated quota was not reached in 2014.
The new digital map allows to see the housing progress in the different municipalities. "The urgency is great," says Harry Bosch, Director of Housing Waterway, participating in the Platform Home Again on behalf of Aedes. "Because of all the conflicts in the world this year there is an enormous task lying on our shoulders. The primary responsibility for the housing of refugees lies formally with the municipalities, but they can only achieve this in close cooperation with us, social housing providers."
Besides refugees social housing providers have other urgency targets. They make local arrangements about this with municipalities. In 2013 one out of three social housing allocations was based on urgency in Amsterdam (5% of all social housing allocations).
"The sharp increase in housing demand for refugees demands extra efforts of all parties," says Bosch. "The Home Again platform provides support to identify administrative or practical obstacles and resolve." Streamlining the registration process of refugees in the municipal administration database, for example.Read More
The Platform Home Again is also a source of information. For instance, the digital map gives a picture of the country (see illustration) with the monthly progress of the housing quota, by municipality or by province. Furthermore, a monthly newsletter is distributed and there is an online forum so members can communicate with each other.
The European Commisison recently called for a refugee quotas for EU countries and more legal migration. The housing issue is already becoming a bottleneck in some countries. As this example shows social housing providers, regions and municipalities can provide solutions in the short and long term by working with public authorities and other social actors to help with the housing and integration of refugees.
For this the EU needs to recognize the multi-level challenges posed by refugees, EU labour migrants and other urgent groups of vulnerable people. For example, the Commission and Member States involved in the EU Urban Agenda should prioritize this issue. Only when all these levels coordinate their effort will Europe be able to respond to this challenge.