Living is more than having a roof over your head. Which living concepts enable and facilitate personal contact and joint activities? And which ones also consider the individual needs of those living together? Christine Hannemann, Professor of Architectural and Housing Sociology at the Institute of Housing and Design (IWE) at the University of Stuttgart, Karin Hauser, Research Assistant at the IWE, and other researchers investigated the features of housing projects that contribute to the successful integration of immigrants. They published their findings in the book “Zusammenhalt braucht Räume - Wohnen integriert” (“Cohesion Needs Spaces - Living Integrates“) in 2020.
In addition to the scientific discourse on the topic, the authors are also interested in a public discussion. Therefore, they present their findings in the context of various events, such as an online presentation in February 2021, which was organized by the Hospitalhof Stuttgart educational center and whose subsequent discussion was followed by more than 150 participants.
Housing and urban development are an essential key to successful integration in cities and living accommodation.Prof. Christine Hannemann, Head of Architectural and Housing Sociology at the IWE
“Surprisingly, the topic of housing is missing from the descriptions of the concept of integration,” Prof. Christine Hannemann notes. According to her, it’s usually language, (vocational) training and education, the labor market, and political participation that are cited as important aspects of the social integration of immigrants. “But housing must be included here, because it’s a base of life!” From the book, Hannemann quotes her key hypothesis: “Integration and cohesion need living space. In an immigrant society, housing is of primary importance. Because housing and urban development are an essential key to successful integration in cities and living accommodation.”
With this approach, the sociologist and her team, in cooperation with the German Institute of Urban Affairs (Difu), successfully applied to the Federal Ministry of Education and Research for funding for a project in 2016. “The significance of cohesion and social problems such as loneliness and isolation concerns not only new immigrants, but also many other groups, for example, younger people,” explains Prof. Christine Hannemann. This is particularly obvious right now at the time of the pandemic, says Hannemann.
Analysis of six case studies
The research team compiled a list of already existing integrated housing projects in Germany. Integrated housing is an intercultural, guided, and voluntary way of living together that involves different social groups and persons of various geographical backgrounds. Research for this project focused on cases where new immigrants and local people are living together. The team led by Prof. Hannemann investigated 36 housing projects and, in close cooperation with the academic advisory board of the research project, selected six case studies. Study selection was done according to six social and architectural criteria: Social composition / social background of the residents, relation between the living accommodation and the neighborhood, civic engagement, architectural appearance, structural-spatial typology, and urban context.
The housing projects in the six case studies have different sponsors. For example, they are funded by the church or the city / municipality. The selected housing projects include both new and old buildings, as well as large buildings for many residents and small ones. For example, one project is a former rectory for ten residents (two Jesuit priests and eight men of different ages, origin, and religion). The Hoffnungshaus (“House of Hope”) in Leonberg, for example, has three buildings, in which about 40 persons are living together - among them families, single persons, new immigrants, and locals, including the house manager and their family. The house has common rooms, a garden, and function rooms, which are also open to neighbors. The housing projects have been established since 2015.
Nine success factors
“We talked with residents and key persons and saw where residents go inside and outside the buildings, and where people meet each other spontaneously. We witnessed the atmosphere on site,” Karin Hauser tells us. “Despite the very different case studies, we were able to find commonalities,” Christine Hannemann explains. As a result, Hannemann and Hauser identified nine factors in the success of integrated housing projects.
2 Integration into the urban fabric
Integration into the urban fabric will only work if the residential area is integrated into the urban infrastructure. This means that shops, educational institutions, medical care, kindergartens, and recreational facilities are available within walking distance and that the residential area is well connected to public transportation.
3 Structural-spatial interconnectedness
Public, private, and community spaces are available. Spontaneous personal contact in everyday life is easy.
6 Secure prospect of housing
Indefinite rental agreement with statutory period of notice. A stable community can be created; people can come to rest and feel comfortable.
7 Social administration
It is important to manage and to guide the house community. This task can be undertaken, for example, by a social worker who also lives in the building.
8 Systematic self-empowerment
The creation of formats for taking part in decision-making and getting involved, such as house meetings.
9 Planned bridges between the living accommodation and its environment
Living accommodation that is connected with its environment in a functioning neighborhood: Residents are members of local associations, and people who live in the neighborhood come to the house for various events.
A lot of positive feedback
In the subsequent discussion session, listeners also asked about housing costs. Since housing is mainly subsidized, the rent is lower than on the open housing market. Another topic discussed was the selection of the residents, which is usually done via an application interview. In this interview, it is indicated that a special commitment is expected (such as attending house meetings, assistance in running the café, or generally getting involved in the community).
Christine Hannemann and Karin Hauser are very satisfied with the positive feedback about the events held so far and about their book publication: “Our wish is that the results find the widest possible application.”
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