5 Creative Housing Ideas for Refugees

refugee

Whether they are coming from terrible political situations, war or even fleeing climate change, the number of refugees needing shelter should be expected to go up in the future.  Sometimes we think of refugees by the political moment we are living in so the situation in Syria might come to mind.  However; you only need to look as far as Houston, Texas to see that refugees can have a broad meaning.

The Need to Step Up:

Countries, international bodies and cities will need to become quicker, smarter and more creative in the future if they hope to keep up with these world issues.  Below are 5 amazing examples of different companies, governments and other entities thinking outside of the box.

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Refugees Arrive in Europe Everyday
  1.  Converted Jail Cells-Netherlands:-In the Netherlands there is an interesting problem compared to many other countries.  There are not enough inmates to fill their prisons.   Many prisons have been retrofitted to house refugees.  The barbed wire and prison bar removed and doors changed so people count enter and leave from both sides of the converted rooms.  While it might not be the best solution, we have to be willing to use existing space as needed.
  2. IKEA: The Better Shelter:  Chances are if you live in most parts of the western world you have screwed together a bed, table or shelf from IKEA.  The company took their simple designs and applied it to housing.  In 2013, the Swedish company rolled out a simple shelter design to quickly help house refugees around Ethiopia and Syria.  They can be built within 4 hours and need no tools.   You can find out more about this innovative form of housing by visiting this site. 
  3. Fast Pre-Fab Housing: Germany: The Gerstberger architecture firm put up very quick prefabricated housing within 5 months.  Several housing projects have gone up throughout Germany including one that has 150 units for unaccompanied youth.  Some of these projects have been completed in less than 6 months while providing hundreds of units of housing.  You can find out more about some of these projects by visiting this website. 
  4. Bottled Sand Housing: Algeria: A young refugee with a Masters Degree in Energy Efficiency came up with the idea of building housing from discarded water bottles filled with sand.  In reality, this base works well in desert climate situations where large rainstorms wash through and often destroy a lot of housing.  This mode of building has opened up the possibility of future developments using this methodology.  Sahrawi refugee Tateh Lehbib Breica who is the creator of this method will be looking for opportunities to expand this housing type.
  5. Abandoned Factory: Greece:  In Greece the refugee crisis reached sad and epidemic proportions.  An old factory was turned into a refugee housing project in Thessaloniki, Greece.  Amed Khan a private investor partnered with the Radcliffe Foundation head, Frank Giustra, to make this change.  You must remember how hot a summer in Greece can be.  The factory provided some comfort to at least get out of the sun.   Families have their own spaces and co-manage public spaces with the volunteers working there.  You can find more here. 

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    Refugee Housing

Conclusion:

Sometimes spaces that are used for refugees may not be beautiful or perfect living conditions.  However; when the world changes in a drop of a hat it is important to be able to respond and ensure people have at a minimum a safe, decent and sanitary place to live.  The examples in this article show how thinking outside of the box can help ensure that these basic conditions are met.

Author: jcrites

Josh Crites is an American social housing professional with both practical and research experience. He has worked at 3 social housing companies in the USA in roles ranging from policy and operations to process improvement and strategy. Josh is a former Alexander von Humboldt German Chancellor Fellow. During that fellowship, Josh researched and worked with social housing companies in Germany, The Netherlands, Portugal, Scotland, England, Estonia and Spain. He is an avid writer and advocate for the provision of social housing around the world.

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