Shaping Strict Migrant Policies through Housing Strategies in Denmark

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In Denmark, approximately one million people reside in public housing. This sector encompasses over half of all “immigrants and their descendants from non-Western countries “. Educational attainment and employment rates among public housing residents are notably lower than the na-tional average, and a significant proportion rely on transfer income (Landsbyggefonden, 2022). In 2020, the Housing and Planning Authority designated 25 public housing areas as 'disadvantaged residential areas.' According to the Ministry of Housing, these areas are beset by several chal-lenges, including higher unemployment rates, lower educational levels, increased criminal activity, a predominance of residents with only basic education, and substantially lower incomes compared to the broader population (Bolig- og Planstyrelsen, 2020).

The political strategy for addressing these disadvantaged areas has significantly changed in recent years. Since 2018, the Danish parliament, supported by a broad majority, has implemented the Parallel Society Agreement (PSA). Key elements of the PSA include mandatory childcare from age one for children in these areas, a prohibition on individuals receiving transfer incomes from relocating to the most severely affected 'ghetto areas,' language assessments for children beginning in kindergarten, and a cap of no more than 40% public housing in these areas. This is to be achieved by demolishing existing public housing and developing new private properties (PSA, 2018).

These regulations, unique to areas predominantly inhabited by ethnic minorities, prompt questions about whether this represents a singular approach to housing policy or a continuation of practices that have been evolving since the 1980s with the increase in labor and refugee migration.

This article will demonstrate, through policy document analysis and three case studies in Denmark, how politicians and the media construct a narrative that ethnic minorities in disadvantaged housing areas, often labeled as ghetto areas, lack the desire for cultural interaction and integration with the wider Danish society. This perception paves the way for legal and administrative practices that systematically discriminate against ethnic minorities, illustrating how housing policy is intricately connected to migration policy in Denmark.
Original languageEnglish
JournalMigration & Diversity
Issue number2
Pages (from-to)151-163
Publication statusPublished - May 2024

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