Key Facts

Population: 2,4 million
Country: Netherlands


Amsterdam is the capital of the Netherlands and its Metropolitan Area is home to 2.4 million people. With 180 nationalities, and less than 50% of inhabitants of Dutch origin, it is one of the most diverse cities in Europe. It is the financial and business capital of the Netherlands, and a thriving employment and culture hub. Tourism is a major revenue source for the municipality, but it also triggers challenges in urban living costs, especially in housing. Amsterdam combines a long tradition of social democracy and strong statehood with entrepreneurial policy trends. On the one hand, stable social democracy has resulted in comparatively low levels of segregation and social dislocation despite emerging trends in the opposite direction. On the other hand, a political praxis oriented to entrepreneurialism has often set Amsterdam at the forefront in debates on the creative city, smart city, entrepreneurial governance and large-scale urban developments.


In the last decade, Amsterdam has become more diverse than ever, both in ethnic and social terms, raising issues around the integration of immigrants and refugees. The city has a culture and tourism hub and, while tourism is a huge contributor to employment and incomes, “touristification” is steeply driving up urban living costs and creating problems for the quality of life of local residents. Moreover, the city shows a growing core–periphery divide, which underlines important socio-economic inequalities. The central quarters of Amsterdam selectively attracts affluent middle classers connected to its cognitive-cultural economy. Gentrification processes are pushing weaker households further and further away from the urban core.

The number of vulnerable people in Amsterdam has risen over the years, and increased exponentially at the height of the refugee crisis in 2015. Young people, under 28, don’t stand a chance on the housing market. Most of them are forced to live with their parents for a longer period of time, or to pay huge amounts of rent for a small space. Labour market entrants with low educational attainment struggle to secure a job; and the share of precarious employment has been rising for young workers of all skill levels. While the city is economically thriving, young people can’t establish a foothold.


The city of Amsterdam has declared the ambition to become a sustainable metropolis and acknowledges that affordable housing for all social groups, and young and vulnerable people in particular, is a key element of this. Within the city there exists a well-developed network of businesses, knowledge institutions and NGOs that work closely with the local government to alleviate these problems, often in an innovative and socially responsible way.


Startblok RiekerhavenIn 2016 the municipality of Amsterdam urged De Key to find housing for refugees who had just received their residency status in the Netherlands. We decided to build a complex in Riekerhaven: 565 units, that would house 50% refugees and 50% Dutch young people. To facilitate interaction between these two groups we introduced a community concept aimed at increasing social capital. The residents take responsibility to manage the day to day issues of the complex – it is collectively self-managed. The aim is to build an environment where residents are self-motivated to contribute to the community. Events and activities are resident-led. The diverse knowledge and skills of the residents allow individuals to gain a range of competencies and autonomy, all whilst living in a supportive environment.

In 2018 a second similar project, Startblok Elzenhagen, opened its doors in another part of Amsterdam, with plans for two additional Startblok projects to open soon. Lieven is a similar initiative that will house almost 1200 people under the age of 28. Young people, students, artists and people that live under supervision all living together to form one community in Amsterdam New-West.

  • Problem Statement and Target Group

  • Institutional context

  • Co-creation process

Official deliverables

D2.2 Urban report - Amsterdam Amsterdam case study report D4.4 Amsterdam RPA Amsterdam WP3 policy brief (english) Amsterdam WP3 policy brief (dutch)

Amsterdam Urban Story Our storymaps draw together insights on inequalities and policies affecting urban youth, across education, employment and housing, from the WP2 urban reports and data analyses.