A unique and innovative co-housing project

The City of Antwerp is starting a unique and innovative co-housing project which involves young, officially recognised refugees and Flemish adolescents living together for at least 1 year. By living with a peer and with the aid of extensive support, the aim is to promote the integration of young refugees into society.

The Urban Innovative Actions fund of the European Commission selected the OCMW Antwerp project (along with some other projects) from a pool of submissions from 378 European cities.

Co-housing promotes integration

The City of Antwerp hopes that the project will improve the integration of officially recognised refugees. The vulnerable refugees are often unaccompanied minors who arrive in Belgium without their parents. Part of the support they are entitled to (a guardian, welcome classes for foreign newcomers (OKAN)) no longer applies once they reach adulthood. As a result, it is more likely that they will leave school without any qualifications and rely on social welfare benefits in the long-term. A study conducted by the European Integration Fund in 2014 highlights a number of crucial points along the educational and training trajectory for newcomers aged between 16 and 18.

The City of Antwerp aims to offset this trend by offering an intensive guidance process which sees young refugees (between 17 and 22) living with young Antwerp residents (buddies) for at least 1 year. ‘Co-housing’ with a peer is an informal way to encourage the improvement of the refugee’s integration into society and their level of Dutch. For instance, if he or she has any administration-related questions, they can turn to their housemate; he or she can speak Dutch every day, learn how to separate waste properly, how to quickly build up a social network…

Co-housing has advantages for both groups, as both young refugees and young Antwerpers are in need of affordable housing.

The City of Antwerp will support a total of 135 young refugees over a period of three years. For such an intensive process, the City of Antwerp is collaborating with a range of partners:

Vormingplus will search for and screen volunteers.

  • Atlas shall take care of integration and Dutch courses.
  • VDAB will provide the young refugees with an appropriate follow-up plan for post-secondary education (continued education, workplace-based learning…).
  • JES vzw shall accompany the young refugees along their course of education or work.
  • Solentra will provide psychological support to the refugees and their buddies.
  • The Centre for Migration and Intercultural Studies of the University of Antwerp (Cemis) will measure the impact of the co-housing and the follow-up trajectories in relation to integration.

First residents in 2017

The City of Antwerp itself will provide apartments for the project. The first apartments were ready to go at the beginning of 2017. There are currently 40 pairs of housemates living together as part of the CURANT project.

The unaccompanied adolescent refugees come from the Antwerp reception centres, OKAN classes or via Atlas. With regards to their housemates, the city is looking for enthusiastic, engaged young Antwerpers. They have to be self-reliant, speak sufficient Dutch and be aged between 20 and 30.

The project costs 6,117,879 euros, 20% of which is covered by the OCMW. The City of Antwerp shall receive a subsidy of 5 million euros from the European Commission Urban Innovative Actions Initiative.

More information is available here

“This project is co-financed by the European Regional and Development Fund through the Urban Innovative Actions Initiative”.

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