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The Challenges of a Dutch Inclusive Neighborhood

The Netherlands has one of the most unique affordable housing programs in Europe. Affordable housing, which roughly translates to social housing (Sociale Huurwoningen) represents nearly 80% of the Dutch rental housing units. This portion accounts for about 33% of the current total housing stock.

Affordable housing in The Netherlands is considered a right rather than a privilege. Heavy regulations and subsidies have therefore made it virtually open to all Dutch citizens without income-based segregation, as per the 1901 Dutch housing act (Woningwet). This situation has, however, changed recently. In 2010, a European Commission decision redefined social housing in The Netherlands by restricting its target group to lower income, disabled and disadvantaged groups.

On the ground, different urban planning policies are implemented to provide affordable housing and distribute it evenly throughout Dutch cities and regions. IJburg, Amsterdam's newest neighborhood is an example of Dutch urban efforts to create inclusive communities.

Park in IJburg, Netherlands

As part of the VINEX program (Vierde Nota Ruitelijke Ordening Extra), IJburg was set to provide 18,000 housing units expected to host 45,000 people. To date, only 9,000 units have been completed. VINEX aimed to resolve the housing shortage and increase the Dutch housing stock by almost 8%. This goal was to be achieved through high quality and high density neighborhoods, including a share of at least 30% of affordable housing.

Following these guidelines, the housing units planned in IJburg are divided into three categories: 30% of affordable rental units, 30% of private properties, and 40% of market-rate rental units. Each block in IJburg includes these three categories, mixing homeowners, social, and market-rate renters. Residents share playgrounds and common spaces.

Townhouses and apartments, IJburg, Netherlands

Designed to foster interaction between the different categories of residents, mixed-income blocks experience tensions between homeowners and social renters. However, mutual efforts to bridge the gap often lead to a better understanding of existing issues. A group of tenants on Steiger Island organized a block party where residents of different incomes and cultural backgrounds could meet and overcome their differences.

Community garden, IJburg, Netherlands

Community life in IJburg extends further. A group of residents have founded an association, IJburgDroomt – IJburgDoet (IJburg dreams – IJburg does) to participate actively in the development vision of IJburg. An online platform, Hallo IJburg, gathers residents who organize regularly events and activities targeting both adults and children. However, higher income residents are more likely to participate actively in these initiatives, as pointed out by Michel Volger, from Hallo IJburg. But the presence of a large population of children in the neighborhood contributes to bringing adults together. FlexBieb, a local library initiated and run by volunteer residents is frequented by children of different backgrounds as is the local childrens soccer team.

FlexBieb, IJburg, Netherlands

Creating an inclusive neighborhood is a challenging enterprise in which both careful planning and community involvement play an important role. What are some of the successful inclusive communities around you? On the other hand, what are some of the notorious examples of planned inclusive neighborhoods that were not supported by residents' participation?

Credits: Images by Sarah Essbai. Data linked to sources.