On 14 December 2022 the SPRING project, with the support of ICMPD and SOLIDAR, held a webinar on housing solutions for people who fled following the Russian invasion of Ukraine, causing the arrival of 4.7 million people claiming temporary protection in the EU at the time of the webinar. This rapid influx has been faced with a range of housing complications, with affordable housing already in crisis, host countries have needed to work creatively to scale up their capacity to accommodate new arrivals in a variety of ways, including enlarging reception centres, repurposing existing buildings, and encouraging private households to host newcomers. Although such diverse short-term initiatives have mushroomed, several problems have emerged, such as matching and vetting hosts, ensuring adequate accommodation standards, minimising the risk of exploitation, and finally ensuring the transition to long-term housing solutions.
The webinar looked at specific challenges faced by this group and what is needed to address vulnerabilities. The speakers discussed the potential, as well as the limitations, of different housing efforts and looked at how initiatives catering to the immediate housing needs of new arrivals can be embedded in a long-term integration strategy.
Main takeaways from the discussion were:
Access to safe, secure, habitable and affordable housing is a fundamental right and a precondition for the integration of refugees into society, including education and labour market integration.
The shortage and limited quality of affordable housing stock is a longstanding problem in Europe, which does not only affect new arrivals, but also vulnerable groups of the host community, such as young people or single mothers. This year the energy crisis is creating additional pressure.
Making changes to national housing programmes and building new housing stock is complicated, takes time and requires investments. Housing practices are highly contextual, hindering the transfer of knowledge and best practices from one country to another.
More information and awareness regarding tenants’ rights is needed: this is key both in private hosting initiatives and on the rental market.
Social housing is not an option for new arrivals in most countries, as they are often subject to long waiting lists and complex eligibility criteria. Social rental agencies, community land trust and co-housing solutions could fill this gap, however there is a lack of investment and initiative.
Focusing on Poland, the Member State holding the largest number of Ukrainian refugees, the private rental market is limited and overstretched. The strict eviction policies in place lead to a reluctance of landlords to rent to single mothers. Private hosts help to fill the gaps, but this cannot be a long-term solution.
Public-private partnerships to create creative and courageous housing solutions are needed, such as the renovation and repurposing of empty buildings, in addition to encouraging new arrivals to move to smaller and more rural cities with more available housing stock.
For more information please see the video of the webinar available on YouTube.
The SPRING Project Sustainable Practices of Integration) has received funding from the European Union’s Horizon 2020 research and innovation program under the grant agreement 101004635