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More refugees resettled faster

How did the municipalities do it?

Author(s): NIBR Report 2018:3

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This report was written at the request of the Norwegian State Housing Bank and Directorate for Integration and Diversity to investigate how the Norwegian municipalities managed to increase the resettlement of refugees in 2015–16. The results are based on a combination of registry data, survey data and follow-up interviews in nine municipalities.

Summary of the publication

Summary of the publication

This report was written at the request of the Norwegian State Housing Bank and Directorate for Integration and Diversity to investigate how the Norwegian municipalities managed to increase the resettlement of refugees in 2015–16. The results are based on a combination of registry data, survey data and follow-up interviews in nine municipalities.

The background to the commission is that the number of resettled refugees had grown from almost 8,000 in 2014, to just over 11,000 in 2015, and finally to just over 15,000 by 2016. The resettlement process was proceeding faster than before and the number of municipalities resettling refugees increased from 340 in 2014 to 411 in 2016. Both small and large municipalities have contributed to this trend. The resettlement of refugees in recent years can be characterized as a broad national effort.

What motivated the municipalities to resettle more refugees?

  • The municipalities have reported several different reasons for resettling refugees. Three out of four municipalities were motivated by a sense of solidarity combined with factors that might benefit the municipality in terms of, for example, boosting capacity building and efficiency in service production, together with a desire to attract new people to the municipality. The strongest motivation for the smallest municipalities was precisely this wish to increase the number of people settling in the municipalities.
  • Resettlement of refugees is voluntary for the municipalities, but operates in dialogue with the State. The State has not imposed the municipalities to resettle more refugees, but has used different kinds of means to motivate the municipalities to take the responsibility.

What actions have the municipalities taken that resulted in a two-fold increase in resettlement in the past two years, and at an even faster pace than before?

  • The municipalities have increased the use of both municipal housing and housing in the private rental market. The increase in the use of rental market in the private sector is greater than the increase in housing disposed by the municipality. In 2016, two of three refugees were housed in the private rental market. The private rental market has been used to acquire a larger number of dwellings, which the municipalities can then sublet to refugees, or property owners and refugees come to a tenancy agreement between themselves without intermediaries. Several municipalities allow or encourage agreed self-resettlements. All together, the municipalities have not used new political means to resettle refugees. However, more municipalities use more and different tools and means in their resettlement work and quite a few have introduced practices and means that are new for the specific municipality.
  • A willingness among property owners to rent accommodation to refugees, together with a good supply of housing in the private rental market contribute to explain why the municipalities managed to settle so many refugees in 2015 and 2016, without new national political means.
  • Municipalities have been more proactive in the private rental market than before. They have contacted property owners directly, cultivated relations and taken steps to reduce the property owners’ risks of renting dwellings to refugees. At the same time, the municipalities have taken steps to enable refugees to cope with Norwegian living through follow-up services. The fact that refugees learn how to live in Norwegian dwellings is of great importance for their well-being, and when it comes to negotiating the private rental market for this group.
  • The municipalities have organized the work of resettling refugees in several ways. It appears that the anchoring of policy at the senior level, and its integration of the work of the municipalities, their long-term planning, guidelines and procedures for resettling refugees are more important than where the work is organized.
  • Resettlement efforts are more firmly anchored and integrated in municipalities with long-term refugees and a certain scope to their resettlement-related activity. This is more likely to occur in large municipalities. Resettlement efforts are most at risk in small municipalities where everything often depends on one person.
  • The task of finding housing is left largely to the first-line services. Support and follow-up by political and administrative management can have an impact on motivation and are key to access resources and confirmation, or alternatively adjustment of procedures.
  • The Directorate of Integration and Diversity (IMDi) and the Norwegian State Housing Bank guide and give information about how to settle refugees and about economic means. A third of the municipalities held that co-operation with IMDi has contributed to faster resettlement, while a fourth of the municipalities held that co-operation with the Housing Bank has contributed to faster resettlement of refugees.

What has been the impact of the increase in volume and speed in refugee resettlement on the housing quality of the refugees, and on other disadvantaged people?

  • The main trend is that the higher resettlement volume has not taken place at the expense of housing standards of refugees. Overall, standards are described as satisfactory, although the largest municipalities do find it harder to acquire housing of a satisfactory standard than smaller municipalities. It is particularly difficult to find accommodation that is sufficiently spacious and affordable for large families with children.
  • Most refugees are housed in either apartments or different forms of co-housing arrangements. The latter has proved an important means of acquiring enough housing for single people. Still, several municipalities have terminated or are thinking of terminating co-housing arrangements and places in single-room facilities. Refugees themselves prefer separate homes. Bedsits and basement flats are more common in the cities and larger municipalities. Small municipalities usually provide single-family houses, townhouses / row houses or two-family or four-family houses.
  • Most municipalities have a policy of resettling refugees as centrally as possible to avoid social isolation. At the same time, they do not want too many people living in the city or village centre, and are interested in achieving the best possible distribution of refugees in ordinary neighbourhoods. The important factor in ensuring integration in the view of the municipalities is where the homes are situated, rather than the standard of the housing.
  • Nearly all municipalities make use of a mix of municipal and private rented accommodation for refugees. The municipal houses are not seen as having a better standard than the private ones.
  • Very few believe the standard of housing offered refugees is better than what is offered other disadvantaged households, or that the resettlement of refugees takes place at the expense of other disadvantaged households.

Future resettlement of refugees, barriers and drivers

  • Planning and adaptation for future resettlement efforts in the municipalities tend to be complicated, when need for such housing is unpredictable and fluctuating.
  • Some municipalities say that they have less flexibility in their relations with the Directorate for Integration and Diversity since the electronic resettlement system was put in place. Several municipalities say that the economic criteria linked to the State Housing Bank’s housing subsidy fail in some cases to identify refugees since the housing subsidy was modified. Instead, refugees now represent an outlay for the municipalities.
  • Lack of suitable housing in the local housing market, feelings of scepticism regarding refugees among property owners and higher rents for refugees than other tenants are other factors slowing the resettlement of refugees. Resettlement in municipalities with a limited job market for refugees can also complicate refugees’ integration progress and housing career.
  • The general level of employment and chances of refugees finding work can affect the interest of potential property owners in renting out. In this way, opportunities for refugees in the private rental market will increase in municipalities where they are likely to find work.
  • The extensive resettlement of refugees can be seen as a national experiment in how the private rental market can be used as an instrument in the municipalities’ social housing toolbox. The municipalities are obliged to resettle the number of refugees they have committed to accept, but they can use the private rental market.
  • The ability of municipalities to acquire housing is influenced by the local housing market and national and local housing policies. Small property owners and potential landlords have been affected by the refugee crisis and have offered housing for refugees. This means that the demand for housing and the nature of those demanding housing affect supply. This has happened in both small and large municipalities, but can be of major importance in small municipalities where the rental market is often quite small.
  • The need to resettle refugees is much less acute in 2018. Two-thirds of the municipalities say, however, that they are still capable of resettling a high number of refugees in the coming years, and many would like to see a level of continuity in settlement efforts. Since the need to resettle refugees in the future is unknown, it will be important for the state to take steps to sustain general motivation and competence in the field in the municipalities.
  • Immigration and integration policies affect each other. According to the Government’s political platform (Jeløya Platform), the Government, is considering whether to extend the agreed level of quota refugees or increase it further if the current number of arrivals continues. Increasing the number of quota refugees is commensurate with recommendations from, among others, the Norwegian Association of Local and Regional Authorities and the UN High Commissioner for Refugees. A larger proportion of quota refugees could alleviate the precarious refugee situation globally and improve predictability for the municipalities in their resettlement and integration efforts.
Close summary
Publishing year:

2018

Total pages:

146

ISBN:

978-82-8309-231-8 (Electronic edition)

ISSN:

1502-9794

Publication type:

Report

Published:

Oslo: Norwegian Institute for Urban and Regional Research, Oslo Metropolitan University

Associated project