International
Federation for
Housing and
Planning

Housing refugees and everyone else: ‘Despite’

Findings after the second national meeting taking place in Denmark within the IFHP programme Housing of Refugees and Migrants. The keyword? 'Despite'!
It is striking! On a daily basis, cities deal with issues related to the housing of refugees. While doing so one of the main notions is: ‘Despite’. Despite legislation and regulations and with great creativity, public servants, inhabitants and other stakeholders try to accommodate refugees – something that has become very complicated due to a fundamental lack of a just and fair housing policy development throughout the past years. Together with the Danish Town Planning Institute, IFHP conducted the second network meeting, gathering people from local and national government, the private and social housing sector on April 18th 2016 to discuss and share the challenges and success of how to accommodate refugees whom are granted asylum with appropriate housing. 
 
The city of Vejle, a municipality with 109.000 inhabitants, hosted the meeting and presented their strategy for housing of refugees. It is based on a fundamental belief in an intense ‘introduction programme to the labour market’ and strong integration effort combined with housing. Vejle believes the effort generates return of investment for both the new citizen and for the hosting community. They succeed above average in Denmark and one of their main learnings is, that there is a pressing need for a change in approach and mentality among all actors to succeed with this ambition. These actors include the private sector and corporations, the public system, Danish citizens and NGOs that are interacting with the new comers every day. 
 
According to the participants, who throughout the day shared solutions and discussed shared challenges related to the more specific issues of housing of refugees, there is an urgent need for updated legislation. Today the public servants in Denmark spend an overwhelming amount of time on figuring out how to work around the rules to accomplish a decent result. They fix it, because they are driven by a strong will to obtain decent results, taking the hosting community and the new comers seriously. Although they obviously don’t break the rules, they are met by challenges on a day-to-day basis. These challenges originate in a part of the legislation aimed at fixing a specific problem targeted at a specific group of vulnerable citizens caused by different political hot issues at different times.  
 
Facilitating the day IFHP is left with the impression that public servants are concerned and try hard to solve the housing and integration issues related to vulnerable citizens with an impressive level of decency. To do so it takes an equal amount of creativity to accomplish their goals. 
 
And it makes us wonder: With respect for the original intent of the laws and legislations we are surrounded by, how can we simplify these processes to spend our time on what really matters so that we can accommodate the need for housing and integration of our citizens to the benefit of all? How can we promote a fair and just housing policy to the benefit of all? 
 
 
This blogpost was written by Christina Krog, Senior Project Manager at IFHP.
If you would like to learn more about the IFHP Housing of Vulnerable Groups program, or if you wish to be signed up for the mailinglist of the Housing Academy, please send an email to c.krog@ifhp.org or call Mrs. Krog at +45 2290 9105.