Germany: the crisis to find housing worries refugees! (2/3)

Germany has a severe shortage of affordable apartments and houses for rent, and refugees are one of the groups that find it most difficult to easily find private housing. People who have applied for or received asylum have a monthly income of 43% less than the average German salary.

➡️ This article is the second part of a series of reports on the topic “The difficulty of refugees finding accommodation in Germany”. Click here to read Part One and Part Three.

“Mission Impossible”!

“We are a husband and wife looking for an apartment in the south of Cologne of at least 70 square meters, consisting of three bedrooms, with a fixed income.” It is an advertising text on a lamppost in a district in the south of Cologne, and includes a contact phone number.

This type of advertisement is everywhere on the city streets in West Germany. Often resorting to these ads is a step taken by refugee families after dozens of failed attempts to find housing. Along with Berlin, Hamburg and Munich, Cologne is one of the German cities experiencing a housing crisis and a shortage of affordable rental homes.

These ads are spread all over Cologne | Photo: Marco Volter

According to a 2019 study by Hans Böckler Stiftung, an organization affiliated with the German General Confederation of Trade Unions, North Rhine-Westphalia in the west of the country, as well as Bavaria and Baden-Württemberg, are among the regions with the greatest shortage. of mid-priced apartments.

At the same time, these three regions are responsible for receiving approximately half of the number of new asylum seekers, according to the quota system, a system adopted in the early 1990s to distribute new asylum seekers in an “appropriate and fair” manner throughout Germany.

“We turned the living room into a bedroom”

According to Hans Böckler, there is a shortage of 2 million low-rent housing units in Germany’s big cities. These statistics date back to before the war in Ukraine, which has led to the arrival of nearly 967,000 people to Germany since the war began, according to government figures.

Maria*, a 42-year-old Ukrainian woman, has been living in Cologne for 17 years. After the war, she housed her 80-year-old mother, who had fled Chernovtsy in western Ukraine near the Romanian border since last March. “My mother will never leave again, she will live with us,” she says. “Our house is 70 square meters. We have four rooms, for me and my three children.

The living room became my mother’s property, we installed a bed for her in it, and since it has a balcony, she can enjoy the fresh air whenever she wants.”

Maria, who works as a home health assistant, pays the rent for the house 750 euros. “This amount represents about 60 percent of my monthly income. I cannot rent another apartment for an extra room.”

Experts say that the burden of rent in the family budget should not exceed 30 percent |  Photo: Marco Volter
Experts say that the burden of rent in the family budget should not exceed 30 percent | Photo: Marco Volter

Rent burdens families’ budgets!

In Germany, one in two families pay more than 30 percent of their income on house rent. “Sociologists and real estate experts consider a rent burden of more than 30 percent of a family’s net income problematic because deducting this amount leaves the family with little money to cover its other needs, especially for lower-income families.

Many owners also see 30 percent as the limit, because they fear that low-income tenants will be able to rent out their homes sustainably,” says the Hans Böckler study.

The study believes that the people most affected by the lack of affordable housing in Germany are low-income singles, as well as families of five or more.

The DGB notes that refugees make up a large part of the low-income population. People who have applied for or received asylum earn on average 43 percent less than the average German salary. And two out of three refugees earn less than what would be considered a minimum wage in Germany, making it difficult for them to find housing.

According to an estimate by the aid organization BAGW, of the 417,000 people without private housing in Germany in 2020, the number of refugees was 161,000, or more than 38 percent.

Cologne is one of the German cities with a major shortage of affordable homes |  Photo: Marco Volter
Cologne is one of the German cities with a major shortage of affordable homes | Photo: Marco Volter

Psychological weight!

For Maria, it is inevitable for her to accept this new reality. “Even if my mother received social assistance, she would not be able to live on her own,” she says. “I won’t be able to get a bigger apartment, and I can’t see her living in a nursing home, especially since she doesn’t speak German.”

This coexistence is psychologically exhausting, according to Maria, as she tells her mother that “she was alone for years, and now we are strangers to each other, but we have to live together.”

She continues, talking about her mother, saying: “Before, I could go out for ice cream with my kids, but now we find it selfish to go out without her. When I come home at night, sometimes I don’t have the ability . to have a conversation. But my mother is alone all day waiting for me to come back.” Come home to have fun and chat a little.”

Three out of four refugees find housing.

The German Office for Migration (BAMF) conducted a 2016 study of asylum seekers who arrived between 2013 and 2016. The study found that 74 percent of them live in family homes in cities.

This study continued to track the refugees in question, concluding in 2019 that only three out of four people were able to find private housing. About 25 percent of asylum seekers who arrived between 2013 and 2016 lived in collective shelters, some of them for six years. Young people and people without children suffer the most during their search for housing.

Marco Volter/MB

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