BLOG: How IFHP is tackling the housing refugee crisis

In the wake of recent events, with Europe accepting the largest numbers of refugees ever and a common shortage of housing across the main European cities, the International Federation of Housing and Planning wishes to create a space that is open to debate, to raise awareness, and to promote participation amongst our society.  It is necessary to provide housing and support services to receive, accommodate and integrate refugees. There are currently 60 million refugees and internally displaced people across the globe who are fleeing violence, persecution, and terrorism who seek better conditions for living a decent life. The international community is committed to protect and host those who flee persecution and conflict.

It is our obligation and dedication to fight for increased assistance to all refugees who are in need of housing. Turning our backs to refugees and their needs is to close ones eyes to the development of future generations of Europeans citizens. We hope that you will join us as we work to promote the need for better housing and integration solutions for all.

These past months were the first of, what we hope to be a participatory and society-engaged process, as we want to strengthen the network of experts and people interested in this area. Both in our everyday lives and/or professions, we are all aware of this dramatic situation and it is our responsibility to act on it.

This blog is for all. Finding the next steps and actions is something we want to discuss and find out through your ideas.

What do you think we should do next?

Do you have an idea you want us to work on? Or help you with?

Our blog is a platform to share, discuss and listen. We realise we need to talk and work togehter on this matter.

The first step towards integration is housing! Has Europe been able to provide suitable housing for refugees? For the past 3 months, the IFHP has been working on this topic through debates, presentations and workshops to understand the current state of affairs and create the base for future developments.

So what have we been doing?
We have published two reports, conducted a workshop and participated in a congress and summit event.

How are we doing it?
Report 1. The IFHP Housing Refugees Report 1 assessed the status quo of housing refugee policy and provision across various EU member states. The findings were collated through a literature review and a questionnaire sent to housing experts and IFHP correspondents across EU countries. Participating countries were Austria, Czech Republic, Denmark, France, Germany, Netherlands, Poland, Portugal, Spain and Sweden.

– Absence of a holistic European housing policy and differing national and regional policy and resources.
EU faces a housing shortage, particularly within the social and affordable housing sectors.

– Refugees face multiple obstacles in gaining access to adequate housing. Reasons for this include lower housing and social support subsidies as well as complex and differential housing allocation processes.

– Many EU States experience a lack of social considerations when approaching the housing of refugees. Including poor coordination of housing and integration factors such as employment, education and training, health and social services.

Workshop + Report 2. The IFHP Refugees Report 2 is a collection of the discussion and conclusions gathered during the 2-day workshop in the Netherlands based on the findings from
the Report 1. Three topics were the base for the workshop discussion:
Housing & Integration, Housing Policy & Affordable Housing Allocation, and Zoning & Planning Regulation.

The workshop led to a series of considerations, under the three above-mentioned themes, that the group present considered the most imperative.


Housing and Integration
– Housing Pathways. It should be considered that housing and integration services are combined in a ‘pathway’ approach
– Matchmaking. It should be considered that matchmaking solutions could better respond to both refugees and municipalities’ needs

Housing Policy & Affordable Housing Allocation
– Housing Policy. It should be considered that a multi-agent approach is adopted to honour diversity in policy-making
– Affordable Housing. When providing permanent accommodation the demographic of the existing population should be taken into account.

Planning & Associated Regulation
– Planning regulation. It should be considered that planning regulations allow for a certain degree of plasticity and flexibility within both spatial planning and housing regulation
– Reallocation of zoning. It should be considered that planning zones are reallocated to enable the increased provision of affordable housing
– Associated building regulations. It should be considered that associated building regulations could be met under a phased programme.

Participation on the 51st ISOCARP Congress. At the 51st ISOCARP Congress, the considerations from the workshop were presented. The attendants at the congress showed their engagement and will to participate in further discussions and workshops promoted by the IFHP.

summit1st IFHP Summit. The morning of the IFHP Summit 2015 was dedicate to the theme of Housing Refugees and Migrants, with a specific focus on the Federal State of Berlin, where the Summit was hosted. The presentations emphasized the growing pressure on the housing market in Berlin, especially on the affordable and social sectors, as the city has been seeing a growth of population and a deficit in housing provision. It was pointed that there is a need to create space for housing (in the existing stock) through refurbishment and renovation of the existing housing units and other spaces. It was possible to establish several parallels between the challenges faced in Berlin and the findings from the IFHP programme, which leads us to conclude that housing provision to refugees across the different European countries and cities, face comparable challenges.

Next steps?

We will use this BLOG as a platform to share information, knowledge, events, and generate ideas on this matter. Please stay posted on our latest developments on IFHP website and here.

Any information you would like to share with us is most welcome. Help us to keep the conversation going!!

andreia fidalgo

Andreia Fidalgo
Member of the IFHP office in Copenhagen
Project Assistant of the Housing Refugees Project


Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are those of the authors of the blogposts and do not reflect those of the International Federation of Housing and Planning.

BLOG: Welcome world!

I realize I’m very lucky. Just because my father chose a Dutch nationality, instead of an Indonesian one. My Indonesian grandfather came to the Netherlands to study and met my Dutch grandmother here. Now I am entitled to a Dutch passport. With that little booklet I’ve been able to get an easy visa upon arrival in 24 countries in 5 different continents. But that is just a fraction of the 171 countries that open the doors to Dutch citizens. Even with just my backpack budget I was warmly welcomed everywhere.


Just not here

How different it was when my cousin wanted to come to the Netherlands on short notice! He was born and raised in Indonesia, with an Indonesian nationality and passport. Ten years ago my Dutch grandmother passed away here in the Netherlands. My cousin wanted to attend the funeral, as the oldest son of her oldest son. In Indonesia that means something. Not to the Dutch embassy. He could get the visa after waiting 5 to 8 working days. Too late for the funeral.

Just to set things straight. My cousin is the son of a big business tycoon (my uncle) in Indonesia, who chose an Indonesian nationality. My cousin has more college credentials and money than I will ever get. Still his passport will only grant him access to 14 (!) countries, of which none in North America or Europe. Even in matters of life and death, he is met with distrust, lack of interest and a lot of red tape. Luckily it was not his own life on the line.

Other way around

Irony has it that it was my Indonesian grandfather, who had to smuggle German citizens out of Germany. Through the Netherlands, to the Belgian border, together with fellow Indonesian students. They were the ideal smugglers, because they had dark hair. It was the beginning of the forties, the German citizens were dark-haired Jewish children. My grandfather always took my uncle along, then a young boy. With a bit of flair and make-believe, they passed every checkpoint. The children were ‘his’ children when asked.

The fellowship of Indonesian students went back to Indonesia, with wives and children. And after a turbulent beginning, they experienced a relatively peaceful period. But that was shaken up violently with the coup d’etat of 1965. My father’s family had to flee and was shattered, spread over 4 different countries for the following 7 years. Communication was difficult, so they were mostly unaware of each others whereabouts. Eventually my father was forced to come back to the Netherlands and was re-naturalized as a Dutch citizen.

Building a beneficial future

Today I watch the news and it irritates me. Somehow the allergy to inequality was passed down to me. I’m working with my office Studio ROSA to develop existing slums in Latin America, Africa and Asia. We believe we should do this with respect to all stakeholders: inhabitants, land owners and governments. That is why we are developing tools for participation in urban planning in informal settlements. Basically we start with getting everybody to understand one another.

Working both inside and outside of ‘Fortress Europe’ has certainly broadened my perspective. I can still relate to the concerns of my Dutch neighbors about their jobs, housing shortage and fear of all the incoming strangers. I can also relate to the fear the newcomers must have experienced to leave their familiar life behind. I also believe that the first fearful encounters are just a phase, but a very unpleasant one. Once we get to know eachother we wil be fine.


This is where we can help as planners and designers. How can we make the encounter phase pleasant? How can we make hosts and guests understand eachother? And shape a life together, that is beneficial to both?


Kria Djoyoadhiningrat
Kria Djoyoadhiningrat
Architect and partner at Studio Rosa
Main editor of IFHP’s Housing Refugees Blog


Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are those of the authors of the blogposts and do not reflect those of the International Federation of Housing and Planning.  

BLOG: Responding to refugee poverty: lessons from local and international research

Europe is now facing a scale of migration that many view as unprecedented. While it is difficult to estimate the exact numbers of people who are migrating to Europe, it is clear that there is an urgent  need to consider responses to refugees, many of whom would have lost their homes, loved ones and possessions. This presents a challenge to individual member states of the European Union, many of which, including the UK, are already facing a severe housing shortage. Yet, even while governments engage in extensive negotiations over the numbers of people to accept, there is evidence of a willingness from some governments and many community organisations to welcome refugees and to consider how they can be assisted in building new lives.

by Dr. Gina Netto


Among the most urgent considerations is the housing of refugees. Here, extensive research informs us that housing needs to be considered along with access to other key services including education, services which promote employability, health and social care services. These are needed in order to assist refugees in not only finding routes out of poverty but to thrive. Housing allocation policies need to be sensitive to the demographics of existing communities. Areas with high levels of poverty, deprivation and unemployment – where the arrival of refugees might be viewed as presenting additional competition for available resources – should be avoided, if at all possible.

But alongside this, if it is difficult to find available housing in other areas, then extensive work needs to be undertaken with existing communities, including investing in new accommodation for the local population and with community development in order to avoid racial hostility and tension. Local communities should be prepared for the arrival of refugees. Awareness of the reasons for forced migration should be raised. Local residents should also be assured that they would not be disadvantaged through increased pressure on services. The allocation of housing to refugees in these areas should be gradual, allowing existing residents to become accustomed to new arrivals over time.

It is also time to consider what can be learnt from diverse social, political and economic contexts in terms of tackling extreme housing exclusion. A forthcoming report involving case studies in eleven countries that will be published by the Joseph Rowntree Foundation will highlight several international lessons (Netto et al, forthcoming). Many of these solutions challenge widely-held conceptions of what constitutes a ‘home’ and the processes of ‘home-making.’

Some of these solutions have been made possible by advancements in technology and design. They present alternatives to not dealing with the economic dimensions of housing exclusion, but also in addressing its social aspects. Perhaps one of the most significant lessons to emerge from this study is the potential for mobilising change and changing the discourse around housing exclusion. In the light of the refugee crisis, this requires viewing the large scale displacement of individuals who are displaced by war and political conflict not as a burden which must be spread, but as an opportunity to consider how we can provide more affordable housing for all.

This week I was invited to a two day workshop on Housing refugees organised by the International Federation of Housing and Planning in Deventer, The Netherlands. Here, academics and practitioners engaged in lively, intense and open debates over what could be done to respond to the needs of refugees. While the housing shortage in many member states of the EU was readily acknowledged as a serious challenge, it was not seen as a barrier. Rather, the current situation was seen as an opportunity for stimulating discussion on the widening of housing options beyond what is conventionally practised in member states, without compromising acceptable standards of accommodation or environmental goals.  Encouragingly, a sense of common purpose united individuals from different political persuasions, cultures and professional orientations and refugees were viewed as part of the solution.

This brought home to me that in considering how we respond to the arrival of refugees, we must not only ensure that the mistakes of the past are not repeated and consider what can be learnt from other contexts. We need to reflect on whom we consider to be inside or outside our ‘imagined community,’ what kind of community we wish to be and the lengths that we are willing to go to achieve this.


Netto, G, Fitzpatrick, S, Sosenko, F and Smith, H (forthcoming) International lessons on tackling extreme housing exclusion. Joseph Rowntree Foundation: York

Link to IFHP workshop:

Dr. Gina Netto

Associate Professor/Reader
Institute of Social Policy, Housing, Environment and Real Estate (I-SPHERE)
Heriot Watt University

Disclaimer: The views expressed on this site are those of the authors of the blogposts and do not reflect those of the International Federation of Housing and Planning.