Rapid population increase and urban housing systems : legitimization of centralized emergency accommodations for displaced persons

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Faure, Julie Charlotte

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Sudden population influxes in cities place unexpected demands on the urban housing system. During these influxes, decisions made to accommodate displaced persons are often controversial, potentially hindering the ability of organizations involved to respond. Understanding how individuals within those organizations legitimize (i.e. perceive as desirable, proper, or appropriate) and delegitimize (i.e. perceive as undesirable or inappropriate) actions taken to accommodate internationally displaced persons is thus crucial to make decisions that will lead to efficient institutional responses. Existing research relating to the adaptation of urban housing systems for international population influxes in developed countries primarily focus on the long-term response rather than on the short-term response. This study seeks to address this research gap by providing an overview of the perspectives of stakeholders involved in the provision of centralized accommodations for displaced persons during the refugee crisis in 2015 in Germany. A qualitative analysis of interview data was performed to obtain a holistic understanding of the studied institutional response. Twenty-five interviews with employees involved in different steps of the process for providing centralized accommodations for displaced persons were conducted in 2016. Interview content was analyzed to capture the way involved individuals legitimized (1) the overall provision of centralized accommodations for displaced persons, and (2) the choice for specific types of accommodations commonly used. Results show that interviewed individuals mainly legitimized the process for providing centralized accommodations to displaced persons based on their individual convictions and by using procedural, consequential, influence and exchange legitimacy. They mainly delegitimized this process based on self-interested calculations and by using exchange and influence legitimacy. Finally, results indicate that short-term accommodations, such as sport halls, were the least preferred option due to the poor perceived livability, while solutions such as modular housing and the renovation of unused buildings were the most preferred options due to perceived benefits for displaced persons, informants, and the hosting German cities.


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