New EMN Inform: Access to autonomous housing in the context of international protection

26 Feb 2024


Access to autonomous housing plays an important role in the integration process for international protection applicants and beneficiaries of international protection. The European Commission Action Plan on Integration and Inclusion 2021-2027 highlights the importance of promoting autonomous housing models for international protection applicants. It also underscores the value of disseminating and scaling up successful models of inclusive and affordable housing for beneficiaries of international protection. Nonetheless, many beneficiaries of international protection experience significant challenges trying to move into autonomous housing, a problem identified in a 2023 EMN Inform as a challenge for reception systems. In 2022, 733 beneficiaries of international protection in Ireland accessed autonomous housing, while over 5,000 people with status remained in IPAS accommodation as of January 2023.

This EMN Inform maps the challenges faced by applicants and beneficiaries of international protection in accessing autonomous housing, providing a comprehensive overview of how EMN Member and Observer Countries organise support for accessing autonomous housing for these two groups. It includes an overview of national and regional/local policies and measures supporting the transition and access to autonomous housing, as well as some examples of EU-funded initiatives and national good practices.

One of the challenges identified was the general shortfall in housing availability and insufficient supply of affordable housing. Consequent increases in housing prices, long waiting lists within the social housing sector and discrimination in the private housing market were also reported. Language barriers and administrative hurdles further compound these challenges, making the transition to autonomous housing a complex process.

The Inform also highlights measures implemented by EMN Member Countries and Serbia to assist the transition from reception accommodation to autonomous housing for beneficiaries of international protection. This includes the provision of information, counselling and mentorship and allowing for the possibility of extending the period for which beneficiaries of international protection can remain in the reception system. Several EMN Member Countries, such as Belgium, offer access to transitional housing until a more permanent housing solution is found.

While most EMN Member Countries have a multi actor structure to support beneficiaries of international protection in accessing autonomous housing, applicants for international protection who wish to access autonomous housing outside of the reception system rarely receive such support. Most EMN Member Countries and Serbia have also implemented targeted policies and measures at central, regional and/or local level to help beneficiaries of international protection to counter some of the specific barriers they face in accessing autonomous housing. These include, for example, direct allocation of housing, provision of financial assistance, counselling and support in finding housing and mediation services.

The Inform highlights good practices in supporting access to autonomous housing which have been evaluated at Member State level as part of their existing policies and measures. The good practices identified include the provision of financial support for initial costs associated with signing a lease, the early provision of information on access to autonomous housing, enhanced coordination in the provision of support, fostering general integration, and ensuring flexibility for individuals to move out of reception centres. In Ireland, the repurposing and reestablishment of community response forums initially developed for responding to the Covid-19 pandemic were reported as a good practice. These forums enabled a coordinated civil society and local governance response to challenges arising initially from COVID-19 but have recently been adapted to support Ukrainian beneficiaries of temporary protection and the integration of international protection applicants.

The Inform compliments previous EMN Informs on organising flexible housing in the context of international protection and arranging housing for beneficiaries of temporary protection.  EMN Ireland will publish a national report on autonomous housing later this year.

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