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Strategies and instruments for integrating particularly disadvantaged population groups into the housing market as part of a sustainable transformation process of urban neighbourhoods - BMBF research project StraInWo


Latest news:

Book publication “Housing after displacement”
The publication of the anthology on the interdisciplinary BMBF research project "StraInWo" entitled "Housing after displacement? - Integration of Refugees and Roma in Urban Housing Markets and Neighborhoods" edited by Ingrid Breckner and Heidi Sinning (2021) presents the results of the research project and places them in the context of current discourse. In addition, other authors from the academic field and practitioners highlight forms and patterns of discrimination against immigrants in society and integration policy and work in various cities. Based on the results, opportunities for stabilization and the transfer of research results are shown from different perspectives and central recommendations for action are indicated.

Results of the symposium “Housing after displacement”
The symposium “Housing after displacement” was held on March 28, 2019. The symposium presented research results from two innovative fields of action, "Probewohnen" (trial housing) in Lübeck and the project "Bunte 111" in Berlin. Further information and results can be found here.

Information on the research project

Displacement, immigration and migration are part of the current transformation of urban neighborhoods. Especially in large cities, EU immigrants, e.g. Roma, and refugees often compete with other socio-economically weaker population groups for affordable housing on the already very scarce housing market. In the period from 2016 to 2019, over 1.3 million people applied for asylum in Germany (see Statista 2020). The social integration of these groups is considered to be the key factor for a sustainable and stable transformation of neighborhoods, as the only way to avoid the emergence of urban poverty islands with consequences for their urban environment in the long term.
Numerous municipalities and housing companies still face the challenge of integrating particularly disadvantaged population groups (including Roma and refugees) into the housing market and neighborhoods. Precarious income conditions, lack of German language skills or stigmatization make it particularly difficult for EU immigrants and refugees to access the housing market. In the StraInWo research project, various strategies and instruments for integration were developed and tested in cooperation with different actors. In addition to welfare organizations, associations and civic groups, there was particular focus on housing companies as partners of the municipalities.  Due to their allocation policy, investments in the quality and quantity of housing supply as well as the residential environment, they have a decisive influence on the integration potential of a neighborhood. Enabling participation and guaranteeing it in the long term is a key component of this.

Research questions and project procedure
The research project focused on the evaluation, (further) development and testing of strategies and instruments of a sustainable transformation management for the permanent integration of disadvantaged immigrants (especially Roma and refugees) on the housing market. Concepts were developed that consider the requirements of different groups of residents for co-living in the neighborhood. Therefore, recommended courses of action for a culturally and refugee-sensitive design of sustainable urban (sub)development processes were developed, primarily addressing municipalities and (municipal) housing companies, but also federal and state governments. The focus was primarily on the following questions:


  • What indicators are suitable for evaluating integration in the neighborhood?
  • Who are the potential inhibitors and drivers of the necessary transformation?
  • What inhibiting factors prevent successful integration and how can their impact be reduced in the long term?
  • How can housing companies, municipalities and welfare agencies contribute to enable a sustainable residential use and quality of life for refugees, Roma and other population groups in the neighborhood?
  • How can the success of sustainable transformation be sustained and transferred to other project initiatives?

The research project focused on the empirical investigations of case studies in Lübeck ("Probewohnen" = trial housing, as a measure of housing supply for refugees) and Berlin-Reinickendorf (housing project "Bunte 111" for Roma) in particular and, based on this, the further development and testing of strategies and instruments to support socio-spatial and social participation.

Case studies

Bunte 111
"Bunte 111" is an integrative housing project located in the Scharnweberstraße/Auguste-Viktoria-Allee neighborhood in Berlin-Reinickendorf. In 2013, the building was acquired by the state-owned housing company Gewobag. Beside its poor condition and need for renovation, the building also had issues with overcrowding and unresolved tenancy. Apartments and individual sleeping spaces were rented to Roma families at high prices, and coexistence with the neighborhood was strained. After Gewobag purchased the building, a project group was set up with the key players - integration officers of the Council of the Berlin Borough of Reinickendorf, Gewobag MB Mieterberatungsgesellschaft mbH, Phinove e.V., Senate Administration for Integration, Labor and Social Affairs of Berlin - and the goal was to implement a participatory process in order to integrate five Roma families into the housing market in the long term. The case study pursued different goals addressing housing, tenancy, and the neighborhood. It was monitored and evaluated as part of the research project.

Bunte 111

“Probewohnen” in Lübeck
The "Probewohnen" project was launched in Lübeck back in 2012 at a time of rising immigration and a simultaneous lack of housing supply. The project for housing integration of disadvantaged groups, especially refugees, is carried out in cooperation with the housing company Trave mbH, the city of Lübeck, the welfare organizations Gemeindediakonie Lübeck, and other civic actors. The aim of the project is to secure affordable housing for refugees in the long term. During a one-year test phase, apartments could be rented to care partners of the Hanseatic City of Lübeck; which in return grants use of the apartment to previously selected refugees and refugee families. The families are accompanied and supported by social agencies as required. After the successful implementation of the one-year test period, participants get their own regular tenancy contract. Thus, in the period between 2013 and 2018, 328 housing probation contracts were concluded  with the private and municipal housing industry. The analysis of the case study provided information on how to identify strategies and instruments to better integrate particularly disadvantaged population groups into housing markets and neighborhoods.

The consolidation and transfer project

"Housing and Living in Märkisches Viertel"
The project "Housing and Living in Märkisches Viertel" focuses on the large housing estate ‘Märkisches Viertel’ in the district Reinickendorf of Berlin. The insights gained in the research project on the housing market integration of disadvantaged population groups have been successfully tested and applied since 2015 as part of the project "Housing and Living in Märkisches Viertel" funded by the Senate Administration for Urban Development and Housing. Within this project and in close cooperation with the state-owned housing company Gesobau AG, the social institution Aufwind e.V. and numerous local actors, ten previously homeless Romaa families were given access to housing between 2015 and 2018. It was shown that the implementation of the strategies developed in the research project had a positive effect on the participation opportunities of immigrants and the resolution of neighborhood conflicts. The following supportive conditions were identified to improve housing situation and quality of life disadvantaged groups:

  • involvement of social institutions and the housing industry,
  • commitment through contractual arrangements between involved stakeholders,
  • promotion of independent living, e.g. through the acquisition of language and labor market skills,
  • participation in the immediate living environment to strengthen their sense of responsibility and meet the neighborhood,
  • building intercultural competencies and reducing prejudices among all residents (e.g. through opportunities for interaction).

However, the research also showed that not only is integration into the housing market is  insufficient, but that specific support for integration into neighborhoods is also required. The issue of integration into neighborhoods and anti-discrimination strategies is being explored in the ongoing research project StraInQ.


Märkisches Viertel, Apartment Block at Senftenbergerring

Key results of the research project
The research project followed a living lab approach and all methods applied were structured accordingly. As a result, six strategies for promoting integration were identified. These strategies are underpinned by supportive regulatory, communicative or planning framework conditions and barriers as well as the applied mix of instruments.

Tools for the integration of disadvantaged groups (Source: ISP, HCU 2019)

Examples of supporting and inhibiting factors
Closing regular housing rental contracts as well as assistance in finding employment are both examples of supporting factors that ensure affordable housing in the long term. In contrast, non-transparent waiting periods for official decisions and the lack of recognition of qualifications have an inhibiting effect.

To enable disadvantaged population groups to access housing, it is necessary to provide affordable and appropriate (transitional) housing and to integrate family support in everyday life. Racism, xenophobia and antiziganism as well as a lack of language skills among landlords and counselors could be identified as examples of inhibiting factors. Active occupancy and neighborhood management can promote social cohesion in the neighborhood while a lack of common areas for residence and occupancy can counteract this. The same applies to prejudices towards foreign neighbors.

To develop and implement anti-discrimination strategies, it is beneficial to provide employees with intercultural training and conduct anti-discrimination training in the neighborhood and district. On the other hand, a lack of civil courage to criticize prejudice and resentment as well as overt and covert discrimination can have an inhibiting effect.

In order to encourage the target group to live independently and to participate in German society, it is advisable to provide information about options for action and to support local volunteers or institutions with language acquisition. However, lack of WiFi access hinders self-integration and contact with friends and relatives at home and abroad. Furthermore, a lack of information about political and administrative processes can weaken self-reliance.

Reliable network and project structures can be built up and consolidated through close, continuous and interdepartmental cooperation between all the players involved. In addition, it is beneficial to define clear responsibilities ("a matter for the boss"). Insufficient evaluation of the measures implemented and financial funding that is not in line with needs of the target group can counteract this.

Tools for the integration of disadvantaged groups
During the StraInWo research project, an analytical framework was developed for transformation processes of urban neighborhoods in the course of the immigration of particularly disadvantaged population groups. The following tools were identified during the research and are applicable by different actors to promote integration processes:

  • Urban development and housing policy tools: Integration policy challenges are incorporated into (overall) urban development through urban development and housing policy instruments (e.g., also through informal planning instruments). This contributes to the promotion of housing by the state (e.g., municipal integration and migration concepts, housing structure analysis, housing cadastre).
  • Legal (planning) tools: Legal (planning) tools include laws and regulations of the federal government, the states or the municipalities (e.g. urban land use planning, heritable building rights, concept allocation, urban development contracts).
  • Housing industry tools: Actors on the housing market use housing management tools. They serve to provide housing and support tenants (e.g. legally valid rental agreements, provision of adequate housing).
  • Social policy tools: Social policy tools are used to help people cope with short and long-term problems in various life situations. In addition, they aim to promote social coexistence (e.g., accommodation concepts for special needs groups, integration, and diversity monitoring).
  • Cooperative and communicative tools: Stakeholders and actors are involved in problem identification and resolution through cooperative and communicative tools, so that communication channels can be established. In addition, these instruments offer opportunities for exchange and networking and/or facilitate coordination and control as well as knowledge transfer (e.g. participation processes with citizens and representatives from civil society, the establishment of migration or integration advisory councils).

These tools offer actors from politics, administration, business, civil society, and intermediary actors different scopes of action and must be considered accordingly in each specific context and in relation to the group of actors.


Third-party funding: Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF)
Project sponsor: DLR Projektträger (Deutsches Zentrum für Luft- und Raumfahrt e.V.)
Duration: 07.2016 – 06.2020

Project processing and network coordination

ISP - Institute for Urban Research, Planning and Communication of the Erfurt University of Applied Sciences:

Prof. Dr.-Ing. Heidi Sinning, Project Management
Jenny Kunhardt, M.Sc., Research Collaboration

Tel.: 0361 6700-3401
Fax: 0361 6700-373

Postal adress:
Postfach 45 01 55
99051 Erfurt

Visitor Adress:
Altonaer Straße 25
99085 Erfurt
Building 12, Room 12.1.12


Department of Urban and Regional Sociology  HCU Hamburg:

Prof. Dr. Ingrid Breckner, Project Management

Dipl.-Geogr. Constanze Engelbrecht, Research Collaboration

Contact info:
Überseeallee 16
20457 Hamburg
Tel. 040 42827-4582

Network and project partners

Department of Urban and Regional Sociology of HCU Hamburg
Prof. Dr. Ingrid Breckner (Project Management),
Dipl. Geogr. Constanze Engelberecht (Scientific Collaboration)

District Office Reinickendorf Berlin
Julia Stadtfeld (Coordinator for Refugee Affairs),
Oliver Rabitsch (Integration Officer)

Gewobag Wohnungsbau-Aktiengesellschaft Berlin
Kerstin Kirsch (Managing Director Gewobag MB mbH),
Renate Nowak-Janshen (Neighborhood Coordinator Reinickendorf)

Helene Böhm (Project Management Social Neighborhood Development)

Grundstücks- Gesellschaft TRAVE GmbH, Lübeck
Dr. Matthias Rasch (Managing Director)

Hanseatic City Lübeck
Claudia Schwartz (Division Management Social Security)


Project brochure


Kunhardt, Jenny; Sinning, Heidi 2018: Ankommen und Wohnen von EU-Zuwanderern im Quartier. Strategien und Erfolgsfaktoren zur Integration in Wohnungsmarkt und Nachbarschaft am Beispiel Bunte 111, in: RaumPlanung, H. 195, S. 46-52.

Breckner, Ingrid; Sinning, Heidi (Hg.) 2021: Wohnen nach der Flucht - Integration von Geflüchteten und Roma in städtische Wohnungsmärkte und Quartiere. VS Verlag für Sozialwissenschaften, Wiesbaden.

Riechel, Robert; Berndt, Matthias; Pilz, Madlen; Keskinkilic, Leoni; Wiegand, Anna; Rößler, Stefanie; Friedrich, Katja; Milstrey, Ulrike; Sinning, Heidi; Hanhörster, Heike; Hans, Nils, Schmiz, Antonie 2021: Migration und Teilhabe in städtischen Wohnquartieren. Ergebnisse aus dem Fokusthema „Sozialer Zusammenhalt und Migration" der BMBF-Zukunftsstadtforschung. Thesen für die Praxis. Synthese Paper Zukunftsstadt und urbane Transformation, Nr. 2, hg. von SynVer*Z - Synthese- und Vernetzungsprojekt Zukunftsstadt, Berlin. continue reading

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