Government proposes changes to controversial ghetto list

Two new categories added and one downplayed in annual compilation of troubled housing areas

May 13th, 2013 4:10 pm| by admin

The government is out with its latest proposal on how to define what constitutes the nation's problem neighbourhoods, or ghettos, such as Vollsmose, Gellerup or Mjølnerparken.

The income and educational background of the residents have been added to the previous benchmarks of unemployment, crime and the number of residents from different ethnic backgrounds in a neighbourhood to define a ghetto. The government intends to focus on the first three criteria, while the language defining the last two was softened to say ‘low security and integration’.

The urban and housing minister, Carsten Hansen (Socialdemokraterne), outlined the changes in a proposal called ‘Poor housing – the next steps’.

Last year’s list of 33 ghettos would be cut to 29 under the new criteria, but Hansen denied that the government was playing with numbers to reach its aim of reducing the number of areas designated as ghettos by 25 percent by 2016 and 50 percent by 2020.

“It is an attempt to be realistic and nuanced; we are not performing any sleight of hand,” Hansen told Berlingske newspaper.

The ghetto list was first introduced under the former Venstre-led government with support from Dansk Folkeparti and Radikale.

Enhedslisten opposed the ghetto list and remains against the idea despite the changes.

“It stigmatises residents and discourages ordinary families from moving into a neighbourhood,” Enhedslisten's housing spokesman, Lars Dohn, told Berlingske.

Some expressed concern that the new criteria will cause problems for the elderly and young people.

“In order to avoid getting on the ghetto list, some mayors may try to prevent college students and retirees – who often have lower incomes than those in the labour market – from moving into an area,”  Benedikte Kiær (Konservative) told Berlingske.

Kiær said she would address the issue when the proposal comes up for negotiations.

Hansen said in his proposal that it is important to remember that life in the great majority of the country's at-risk neighbourhoods is exactly the same as it is in the rest of Denmark and that only a “handful” of those areas are characterised by the unrest, insecurity, social problems, vandalism, harassment and violence that is reported in the media.

Another of Hansen’s proposed changes would allow police to disclose information to housing organisations in cases where a resident has been convicted of an offence that was committed in the neighbourhood. It would also allow housing authorities to exchange information to prevent someone who had been evicted from one property to simply pack up and move to another housing authority in the same area.

Hansen said that negotiations on his proposals would begin “as soon as possible.”

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