Housing solutions for migrants 



Energy poverty


The war in Europe has amplified the housing crisis and shed light on the situation many face in the search for a decent home. Marginalised groups, such as refugees, are especially vulnerable as they come to seek refuge and are faced with the existing problem of housing insecurity.  

How can we integrate refugees into society and, at the same time, solve the housing crisis? 
At the Europe Housing Forum 2024 “Decent and Affordable Housing Without Borders, organised by Habitat for Humanity Poland, attendees came together to discuss what Poland has learned from welcoming refugees and migrants in the session “Housing solutions for migrants”.  

Poland, a country whose proximity to the Ukrainian conflict means that it was one of the first places people seeking refuge fled to, has first-hand experience of hosting refugees and the benefits they can bring to wider society. When the Ukrainian conflict erupted, already existing legislation, the Temporary Protective Directive, was activated by the European Council to deal with the rapid movement of people. This gave those seeking asylum the right to access services and employment. It is within this context that Member States were faced with welcoming a large number of people within their borders.  

Learning from the Polish Response 

A step that Poland took was identifying the proportion of empty housing stock (11% of the total housing stock) and converting them into places of temporary residence.  

Local organisations were key, providing guidance and support, and helping refugees find accommodation, employment, and schools. With housing just one aspect of integration, the Polish strategy recognised that other needs – healthcare, language lessons, jobs and schools – needed to be provided for. Also critical for social integration, were the host communities and households of Polish citizens that provided an entry point for Ukrainian people into society.  

Poland is already seeing the benefits, according to a recent study, Ukrainian refugees added between 1-1.5%  to the economy.  

While Poland shows what can be done with the right strategy in place, as the conflict continues, we need to go beyond short-term measures and think long-term. Integration is the keyword when developing national strategies targeting refugees. An important question raised by one attendee was, how can we make integration concrete, not abstract? 

Lessons learned from Poland: 

  • Illustrate to people that when you accept refugees you are bringing benefits to society and the economy. In the words of one participant, the global diaspora has created human greatness, we need to promote this. 
  • Bring the local community on board.   
  • Change the narrative, from what is being taken away to what is being given and share good stories. 
  • Social inclusion requires effort, social mixing initiatives, and connecting refugees with host communities with local culture at the community level (picnics, etc.) are key to avoiding segregation.  
  • Include all vulnerable groups in society, not just refugees, in targeted policy interventions to diminish feelings of resentment and hostility. 
  • Offer financial schemes for the most vulnerable groups. 

During the session, it was made clear that housing, while a key pillar of integration, is not the only element needed to integrate refugees into society. Integrating migrants and refugees is a way for countries to build human capital, but this needs to be done with effective and targeted strategies. During the discussion, the concept of partnerships was brought up several times. We need partnerships between various stakeholders, particularly public-private partnerships if we want to develop holistic solutions to address the housing crisis. 

The call for strong partnerships was also a key insight from a session held later in the day, “Housing-led approaches for vulnerable groups”. This discussion focused on the Roma community, a group with approximately 10-12 million members within Europe. The Roma are a marginalised group that often live in informal settlements, 52% are faced with housing deprivation (FRA, 2021 Report).  

How can we develop inclusive policies for marginalised groups living on the fringes of society

The session highlighted that a lot needs to be accomplished to lay the foundations for a successful housing policy. One of the biggest challenges facing the Roma is prejudice and discrimination.  

Key building blocks 

The holistic approach: involve the community itself in the planning stage – it is essential to actively engage with the Roma community. How can we put power in the hands of the Roma people?  

Attendees noted the challenges of accessing vulnerable groups, trust-building measures such as hiring intercultural mediators, as well as employing representatives of vulnerable groups are good starting points for engagement. IEECP will soon release an article and a graphic gathering insights on how to engage marginalised groups

Understand the local context – the situation can vary significantly not just between countries but also among villages. Training the local neighbourhood and community to accept the inclusion of the Roma is another key starting point. 

For sustainable change at scale, we need: 

  • Inclusive institutions and inclusive employment. 
  • Desegregation housing models and policies. 
  • Partnerships between stakeholders- NGOs, local government, and community members. 
  • Strong public investment in housing – policies, reforms and a package of measures to address housing shortages for all groups. 
  • Housing policies targeted at vulnerable groups. 
  • The political will to achieve these goals. 
  • To remember that everyone can be an advocate for integration! 

As an advocate for integration, the HouseInc project aims to relieve the burden of housing inequality for marginalised communities (including Ukrainian refugees and Roma communities). By taking a holistic approach, HouseInc will investigate the various dimensions of housing inequality such as mobility, health, and energy poverty and devise a set of high-quality policy recommendations to foster more inclusive societies.

As a follow-up to this article, IEECP will prepare a graphic with engagement tips for marginalised communities.

Stay tuned by following the project on LinkedIn and subscribing to IEECP’s newsletter. 


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