Vogelaar Districts Not Successful

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Five years ago Balkenende IV announced with great fanfare the special approach of the forty worst neighborhoods in the Netherlands, the 'Vogelaarwijken' or 'Vogelaar districts'. This approach delivered no measurable results. That is the conclusion of the Social and Cultural Planning Office (SCP) in their report ‘Werk aan de Wijk’ that appears today.

In 2007 former Minister Ella Vogelaar (PvdA) launched the plan to improve the forty worst neighborhoods in ten years time. With additional investments, improvements on the areas of essentially live, work, education, integration and safety were foreseen. The forty problem districts with relatively many immigrant residents and an average low income, dangled down the lists of unemployment rate, high crime rate and number of social housing.

In four years time 1 billion euro was invested in the problem areas, mainly by housing associations. The broad-based SCP study shows now that the expectations which were announced in 2008, are not fulfilled.

The many projects in the forty districts have not improved the quality of life and and the safety. Nor is it true that more residents of these neighborhoods have worked themselves out of poverty.

The SCP researchers followed the forty districts from 2006 to 2012. They compared the statistics with those of residential neighborhoods in which no extra money was invested and that just fell outside the special approach. These districts were found to develop in exactly the same way.

Neighborhood Participation

In Vogelaarwijken postwar flats were demolished, houses and apartments were built. The municipalities, corporations and local organizations organized help for problems 'behind closed doors', as well as a large number of social projects in which the residents themselves had to play an active role.

Remarkable is that the neighborhood participation in the Vogelaarwijken has decreased, particularly in the four major cities. The SCP suspects that the label 'slum' has worked demotivating and gave the residents the feeling that the problems in their neighborhood were bigger than in real.

The only instrument, according to the SCP, which has a demonstrable positive effect on the quality of life and safety, is the large-scale demolition of mostly postwar flats and the building of new houses. This makes the neighborhood looks better and attracts more people with a medium income.

Crisis

Since 2012 is less invested in the forty districts. The housing crisis makes it even more difficult to sell houses to promising public.

Possibly the ambitions at the start were too high and too broad and therefore the approach became too fragmented and inefficient, the SCP researchers suggest.

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