Dutch gov't failing to protect families who get evicted: Ombudsmen
The government is not doing enough to protect the rights of families evicted from their homes because of payment arrears, nuisance complaints, or crime. And that has significant consequences for the children’s well-being and development, and their parents’ dignity, National Ombudsman Reinier van Zutphen and Children’s Ombudsman Margrite Kalverboer said in a joint report. They stressed that decent housing that keeps families together is a fundamental human right, and it is the government’s duty to ensure this right for its citizens.
The Ombudsmen regularly receive complaints and reports from parents, children, and involved professionals about families being evicted from their homes. They often have to find a new home overnight, which is almost impossible with the Netherlands’ housing shortage.
“I see people at risk of becoming homeless after being evicted from their homes, and they are considered responsible for finding new housing,” said Van Zutphen. “If help does come from municipalities, families often end up in all kinds so temporary housing solutions for a long time. Their lives become survival.”
According to the National Ombudsman, that makes them practically homeless because they cannot focus on building a future while moving from temporary home to temporary home. “These people experience a lot of stress,” Van Zutphen said. “The government is insufficiently aware of this and, therefore, does not fulfill its duty of care.”
“The impact of evictions is especially enormous for children,” the Children’s Ombudsman added. “We know how important it is for children to live in a stable and safe environment. So they should be extra well protected.” Instead, children are often invisible in the eviction process.
The government is taking some steps to prevent evictions, like working on identifying payment arrears sooner. But that is not enough, according to the Ombudsmen. “Early detection helps, but it is only part of the puzzle,” Van Zutphen said.
The Ombudsmen, therefore, called on the government to take extra steps. Introduce a new eviction policy based on a human and children’s rights test and which puts social impact central. Obligate municipalities to provide decent alternative housing. And make policies for municipalities and housing associations on appropriately involving parents and children in the eviction and moving process.
Kalverboer and Van Zutphen also urged the government to gather and monitor reliable data on evictions and map out where families end up when they have to leave their homes involuntarily.