How locals are helping refugees navigate Hamburg’s crowded housing market

Author: Hannah Lesch

This article is part of Changing the Narrative. Articles in this series are written by student or early career journalists who took part in The Local’s training course on solutions-focused migration reporting. Find out more about the project here.

About 50,000 refugees live in Hamburg, Germany’s second largest city. More than half of them currently stay in public housing. They are supposed to move after six months; but on average, refugees remain in these temporary solutions for more than three years.

Hamburg’s housing market makes it difficult to find affordable housing – especially for foreigners. The initiative Wohnbrücke Hamburg tries to support refugees in finding their own living space and to reduce fears and prejudices in the minds of landlords. 

The diamond-cut glass stones of the chandelier scatter the light in fragile patterns across the ceiling of the large living room. It is one of the first pieces of furniture chosen by the five-member Al Habbal family for their new apartment.

They only moved in a few weeks ago and have not yet finished furnishing all the rooms. The two daughters share a room with large windows facing the street, while the parents sleep with the youngest son in the other bedroom. The balcony which adjoins the living room is big enough for a laundry rack and the three hookahs that belong to the father of the family. From the living room window one can look out over the neighbours’ gardens, out to where a single palm tree stands on a mowed meadow.


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