Flats over Shelters: Asylum Seekers Embrace Alternative Housing

Published on Spiegel Online International, by Maximilian Popp and Sven Röbel, August 30, 2013 (Photo Gallery – Translated from the German by Christopher Sultan – Welcome to our new blog: politics for the 99%).

New shelters for asylum seekers in Germany often face protests from local residents or from right-wing groups. But an alternative housing model that gives families their own flats has proven effective in Leverkusen.    

The Asif family lives in a 60-square-meter (645-square-foot), three-room “palace” with a fitted kitchen and laminate flooring. It’s more or less empty, because the Asifs are asylum seekers from Pakistan and haven’t bought much furniture yet. Nevertheless, they say, their home is currently the “nicest place on earth” … //

… Problematic Policy: … //

… Feeling Welcome:

Leverkusen has been trying out the model of decentralized housing for 11 years. When the program began, the existing shelters were dilapidated, and plans for a new shelter had to be shelved, partly because of local protests. This led the city to decide to place at least individual families in private apartments. Today, 200 refugees live in apartments in Leverkusen. The city pays the rents, which cannot exceed €256 per person, not including expenses. The Catholic charity association Caritas and the refugee council help them find apartments.

According to calculations by Frank Stein, the head of the city’s social services department who spearheaded the project, the model is also easier on the city budget. Over the years, says Stein, Leverkusen has saved more than €1 million, because it no longer has to pay the costs of personnel and renovating the shelters.

Berlin too has shown a recent interest in housing more refugees in apartments instead of shelter. Franz Allert, head of the Berlin city-state authority responsible for asylum seekers, says that increasing the share of refugees housed in flats is “a stated goal” of his organization. Some 800 asylum seekers are currently housed in apartments in Berlin.

Most refugees in Leverkusen feel positive about the project, although some initially find it difficult to cope with suddenly having to fend for themselves. In addition, says Stein, it is difficult to find low-rent apartments in cities with housing shortages. Nevertheless, not a single refugee has returned to a shelter in the last 11 years.

Nadeem Asif doesn’t waste much thought on the issue, as he proudly shows off his apartment. His sons, six and nine years old, are playing in the hallway. Since they moved out of the shelter, they have been able to interact with the neighbors’ children — and their German has improved considerably.

A neighbor recently invited the family over for dinner. Asif says that he now feels welcome in Germany.

(full text including hyper-links).


True Humanism? Civilizationism, Securitocracy and Racial Resignation, a pdf-text on JWTC, by Paul Gilroy, London School of Economics, UK, The Salon, Vol 1, pages 14-22, 2009;
also named on zotero.org,

Website: Johannesburg Workshop in Theory and Criticism JWTC; (including the Workshop; the journal The Salon, actually Vol 5, 2012; the Network; The Blog);

The War Train to Syria, on ZSpace, by Paul Street, August 29, 2013;

On Intervening in Syria, on London Review of Books LRB blog, by Tariq Ali, August 28, 2013 (also on ZNet).

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