One million refugees entered Europe in 2015. According to the statistics website macrotrends.net more than 88.000 were accepted into the Netherlands then, followed by over 100.000 in 2016. This was the year in which the city government of Amsterdam in collaboration with the social housing company DeKay founded Startblok Riekerhaven which holds the capacity to host 580 people. The idea for a living project where young refugees live together with young Dutch people grew out of necessity and held a huge learning curve for everyone involved. In this episode of INCLUSORY Arnold Hooiveld, Project Manager and Noh Berhane, Social Manager at Startblok Riekerhaven who was among the first cohort of residents who moved into the project in 2016 talk about the dreams and realities, learnings and successes of an integration living experiment on an unprecedented scale.
The Idea of Startblock
Arnold talks about how Startblok was founded not as a project for integration but rather ouf of necessity 5 years ago. (1:15:15) In response to large amount of refugees entering the Netherlands in 2015 the city government of Amsterdam and the social housing DeKay came up with the idea to provide housing for almost 600 people half refugees, half Dutch youngsters. (2:00:00)
The Logistics of the Living Project
580 people can live in Startblok, 565 are living there now (3:16:06). It was planned to have a half and half female to male ration but there are more males living there as more refugees that arrived are male (3.32.03) Arnold then talks about integration aspects that developed out of this necessitiy was to build a community of young Dutch people and young refugees have a lot in common(3.52:09). Arnold talks about the commonalities between these two groups of young people (4:15:00)
Affordability and Inclusivity
Arnold talks about the financial structure of Startblok Riekerhaven starting with the rental prices being tied to the national social housing prices (6.37.08). Arnold talks about there being no minimum income to rent from Startblok and various possibilities of housing support available from the government (7:29.07). He then goes into the topic of rental rates in the Amsterdam housing market being two or even three times as high as the one they offer at Startblok where rent is between 400-550 Euros a month for a single studio apartment (8:03:00).
The Social Aspect of the Living Project
Arnold states that the project aims much higher that just to provide affordable housing for refugees and young people – they want to build a community. (9.33.00) Arnold goes into Startblok being designed as a system of self-management which means that the wellbeing of the community is also the responsibility of the people living there (10:01.00) He goes into examples on how this works, for example that an employee in maintenance works with residents who if they work in maintenance can receive a deduction on their monthly rent in return (10:25)
Noh introduces himself and explains how he came to live in Startblok (12.22). Noh explains what he thinks the benefits of living in Starblok are which as he says he realized later on. (13.33) Noh talks about communal events/social life/events at Starblok (15.09).
Noh answers the question about how potential tensions and difficulties of living together are resolved at Startblok (17.22). He talks about how the self-management system helps alleviate tension. (17.53). Noh talks about problems with tension in the project to which Arnold adds that the amount of project is no different to other housing projects (19:00)
CONTACT Startblok Riekerhaven