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Rotterdam closes its social housing to poor immigrant families [EN] (4/2/06)

"There is something rotten in this city"

The Rotterdam College of Burgomaster and Aldermen announced yesterday, that it has asked the Dutch Government, to agree to a new ruling that bars families who have an income under 120% of the minimum wage, or who did not live since 6 years in the country, from renting habitations that have been contructed under social housing laws. The ruling should apply to four areas in the Southern part of the city, and to a number of streets elsewhere.  As it concerns neighbourhoods where this kind of flats number more than 90% of all living space, it boils down to an interdiction to newcomers (mostly Moroccan, Turkish and Antillean families) to rent housing in those areas.

That is exactly the intention of the new policy. For years, the city has been trying to find a handle for keeping immigrants away from parts of the city, but constitution-based national laws against racial, religious and ethnic discrimination stood in the way. These new measures are based upon a special law, passed by Parliament, called: the Rotterdam Law.


An official map of the areas and streets, where the new rules would have to be applied. 20.000 units of social housing are concerned, out of the 150.000 that exist within the Rotterdam city limits. New applicants for rented social housing will have to prove an income of 120% above the social minimum and must have been a legal Dutch inhabitant for 6 years or more... 

Nobody will deny the many difficulties that arise in communities, where a poor indigenous population is confronted with a massive influx of newcomers. It is also true, that the traditional habitants (or, the poor, old and often handicapped remnants of them) are the class of society that is most to this kind of developments. Nonetheless, in many cases, all over the world, a social and cultural policy, as well urban renovation, have overcome these difficulties and delivered new and strong, sustainable communities in the city.

This is not what the city of Rotterdam has chosen to do. It has finally found a way of applying a hypocritical kind of "apartheid", that will solve nothing and will spread over the country, as the other cities and the other Rotterdam neighbourhoods, who will have to welcome the people that have been barred from Rotterdam housing, will follow suit.

I hope, that we will find a way to submit this legislation to European and international judgment. Please note, that we are not dealing here with illegal immigrants, but with people, who may have legally lived and worked since five years in the country, accepted low-paid and dirty work, and who paid their taxes and social contributions. Taxes that also provide for rental subsidies that enable poor people to pay rents for social housing. It is questionable, if they legally may be kept from enjoying those. And I presume, that there are a number of other anomalies that might convince a court that this legislation is contrary to Human Rights legislation.

To me, as a Dutch expat in Brussels, it is a nauseating experience, to see Prime Minister Jan Peter Balkenende hold sermons in Salzburg about the upholding of  "Values and Standards", while he and his Government are breaking down existing civilized European standards at home. Something is rotten here...

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