Migrant workers are increasingly indispensable “hands” in our society. The majority of them work and live in the Netherlands for short periods of time. Some settle permanently. People who work here (temporarily) also need a place to live. This requires strategic choices from housing corporations.
A consideration for housing corporations
Migrant workers are an important part of the Dutch economy; about 700,000 according to the most recent figures. See also an earlier article about this. They harvest vegetables, supply supermarkets and work in construction, engineering or care. Because they usually have a relatively low income, they fall into the target group for housing corporations.
More than ‘regular’ housing
What is the role for housing corporations in the housing of migrant workers? Is that only in the case of permanent settlement? Or also in housing for a shorter period in the Netherlands (the short- and midstay)? Only establishing that labour migrants who stay permanently are fully equal to ‘regular’ house seekers is insufficient. In order to make a good start, it is important to pay specific attention to the position of labour migrants.
Extra effort for permanent residents
If labour migrants settle permanently in the Netherlands, they may be eligible for social housing. The problem is that we have made our housing distribution so dependent on ‘registration systems’ that if labour migrants do not register in time, they will not be able to settle in the Netherlands. In addition, employment migrants may decide to stay permanently in the Netherlands only during their stay. They often register too late. This requires active provision of information to labour migrants about the applicable systems. And also intensive contact between employers and housing corporations.
Housing for short stays?
Employers often arrange housing for people who work in the Netherlands for a short period of time. The ‘Aanjaagteam bescherming arbeidsmigranten’ led by Emiel Roemer, however, states that this situation is undesirable. The dual role of employer and housing provider creates a dependent position for labour migrants, with the risk of abuse. It is therefore desirable to have third parties take on the temporary housing of labour migrants. Various housing providers have come forward for this purpose. There may also be a role for housing corporations. Most housing corporations are (still) reluctant to do so. Strictly speaking, they are ‘the target group’. There are therefore already a number of examples where housing corporations have realised temporary accommodation for labour migrants. For instance, in vacant real estate, but also in mixed housing concepts with other target groups aimed at flexi-living (the so-called magic mix).
The major social task of realizing good housing for immigrant workers requires strategic choices from housing corporations. Who are you there for as a housing corporation? And what does this mean for your role in migrant worker housing? These considerations start with a good picture of the situation of migrant workers in the working area of a housing corporation. Subsequently, this requires a strategic orientation that goes beyond merely the real estate task. It is about balancing your (financial) resources between regular house hunters, flex groups and migrant workers. Who do you want to be there for? We recently supported a number of housing corporations with these choices. Companen can help in focusing this picture and making choices.
Contact Koen Klouwen.
Image: a complex in Dordrecht rented by Homeflex from a corporation.