Population: 2,4 million
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
Amsterdam is characterized by a very tight housing market. For more vulnerable young people – those with a lower socio-economic background, those without family support, migrants and refugees – it is especially challenging to find a suitable and affordable dwelling. This is due to an interplay of various factors such as soaring house prices and rents, the precarization of the labour market, the decline of the social housing sector and processes of gentrification. In this context of housing crisis for young adults, several actors in Amsterdam have shown an interest in improving housing affordability and security for this group. In this respect, the Municipality and several housing associations, including UPLIFT WP4 implementer partner DeKey, recognize the value of seeking input for the development of more effective policies from those who experience housing problems first hand. The local action plan attempts to put these ideas into practice. The main objective of the plan is to give young people (aged between 18 and 29) a real voice in local housing policy making.Through co-creation techniques, young people will be involved in the various phases of the policy-making process of the municipality of Amsterdam and housing association De Key: problem definition, policy formulation, policy implementation and policy evaluation. The idea is that this will have societal benefits for both the young people (empowerment, enhanced capabilities) and the policy-makers (more effective policies that are better tailored to the needs of the target group).
There are two main institutional partners in the co-creation process: housing association De Key and the municipality ofAmsterdam. Housing association De Key is the WP4 implementer partner for theAmsterdam site. This housing association is aiming to use the co-creation process to evaluate and improve some of the specific policy measures and tools that are currently in place, namely temporary rental contracts and mixed housing concepts. Although not being a full UPLIFT partner (they signed a letter of support for the project but they are not a consortium member), the municipality of Amsterdam has decided to join the co-creation process as well. The municipality is determined to involve young people in housing policy to a greater extent than it currently does. Indeed, the City Council has approved a resolution that requires the Municipality to promote youth participation and to organize a so-called “housing summit” in order to seek the involvement and opinion of young people with regard to housing policy.
There is a strong overlap between the objectives of the Municipality and those of UPLIFT. Hence the decision of the municipality to contribute to the project, in order to achieve synergy and efficiency benefits. The current collaboration between housing association De Key, TUDelft and the Municipality highlighted the need to identify an additional independent and knowledgeable partner that could initiate the setting up of the youth board and coordinate and facilitate the co-creation process. In order to select this partner, a tender will be organized by the Municipality, De Key and TU Delft.
The partner that will be selected will be asked to recruit the young people for the co-creation process, with the help of its own network as well as with a social media strategy. As far as the representation of young people is concerned, a difference is made between a youth board and a youth pool. The main goal of the youth board, which will consist of 6 to 8 young people between the age of 18 and 29, is to reflect on the current housing problems and to actively contribute (for a period of a year or so) to the development of policy agendas and proposals aimed at improving young people’s position on the housing market. Around the youth board is a bigger group of young people: the youth pool. The youth pool consists of young people that are interested in co-creation but that don’t want to commit themselves for a longtime.
The primary research activity in WP4 inAmsterdam involves thematic focus group discussions with around 8 participants (to be recruited from the youth board and the youth pool). In these discussion, housing problems are analysed, existing policies are evaluated and adapted, and new policies may be co-created. Although the municipality and housing association De Key already have some preliminary ideas for this, the final themes election for the co-creation process will take place in close consultation between the youth board and the institutional stakeholders. At this moment, the ambition is to discuss 3 to 4 different themes. For each theme, three co-creation focus groups will be organized:
- An inventory meeting: What is the problem? Why is it a problem? (young people only)
- A solution oriented meeting: How can the problem be solved? What are the policy alternatives? What are their pros and cons? (young people only)
- An implementation oriented session: young people present their ideas to policy-makers who reflect on the feasibility of these ideas. Subsequently, a process of negotiation and consensus-seeking starts (young people and institutional stakeholders). Ideally, this process leads to new policy proposals that are supported by all actors involved.
After the implementation oriented session, the municipality and housing association De Key will indicate how the results of the co-creation process will be taken into account, and what new policy or policy changes will be implemented. In follow-up joint sessions of the youth board, the municipality and housing association De Key, this implementation process will be monitored and evaluated.
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.