City strategies also need to be adapted to specific demands of asylum seekers and people under international protection who face particular challenges and risks of housing exclusion as identified above. Further, the FEANTSA-Fondation Abbé Pierre 5th Overview points out the currently inadequate reception and accommodation conditions, which are most under pressure in receiving countries in southern Europe. As an example, in Spain, asylum applications multiplied by 45 times over six years. Standards and practices vary among EU Member States but common features are:
- outdated and unsuitable emergency accommodation system,
- access to dignified housing conditions hindered by the abuses of the Dublin Regulation and a tightening up of national legislation,
- inadequate or ad hoc measures for people in vulnerable situations (minor, people victim of violence, mental and health issues etc.)
- and the absence of accommodation options for migrants in transit.
©Patricia Vanderbauwhede - City of Ghent Project Leader URBACT APN ROOF
Thomas Lacroix from CNRS France explained that the role of cities in providing better inclusion policies – with housing a fundamental area - has seen a tremendous shift in the world. According to his analysis, the growing reliance of national governments on cities to deliver inclusion policies has led to a growing protagonism of cities, which have sought to present themselves – often in contradiction to national policy directions – as Welcoming-, Arrival-, Sanctuary-, or Solidarity- cities, changing their local policies from long-term integration to short-term reception and inclusion.
The city of Athens is exemplary in this sense: in the aftermath of 2015 when the reception crisis of refugees was last its peak, the city was joining networks and partnerships among European cities Eurocities campaign on solidarity cities and later the EU urban agenda partnership inclusion of Migrants and refugees. At that particular time, Athens also launched the UIA Curing the Limbo project for the inclusion of refugees. The innovative project focuses on housing as part of a holistic approach of inclusion of newcomers in the labour market and in the active socio-cultural life at neighbourhood level. A Housing Facilitation Unit manages the provision of housing and acts as a hub for the provision of several services such as conditional cash subsidies, household finance planning and legal support linking renters and owners.
Antigone Kotanidis, UIA project manager, Athens. The goal is to create a dynamic and holistic solution for people that have been in limbo. We really want to help them transit from a humanitarian aid approach to a life that they get to choose in the city. We created a housing facilitation unit [that is] a mediator who helps people to transit from a housing emergency system to independence.
When growing numbers of asylum seekers needed adequate housing in their urban area - due also to neglected social housing policies at national level - the city of Thessaloniki pushed towards the creation of a local city-managed rental agency. The effort was supported by the creation of a multi-stakeholder consortium, whose establishment was helped with the Arrival Cities URBACT network.
Taking a different approach, the city of Antwerp implemented the UIA CURANT project in which co-housing was created in order to link 81 young unaccompanied refugees with 77 local inhabitants called ‘buddies’ who acted as facilitators in the inclusion process in the neighbourhood for three years. The housing provided by the municipality included 37 rental units from private landlords, 4 renovated units, 1 students’ housing unit and 16 modular units, these latter in one location. This project required mutual learning, behavioural adjustments and obviously some frustrations attached to the difficulties of transmitting the concept of co-housing, which was not familiar to the inhabitants. While the project has eventually turned into success, with outreach and continued support of social services, the current challenge is now to sustain and scale up this model.
©UIA CURRANT project