When I was a little kid, I grew up in what could’ve been a social housing estate. Well, not really – in the village where I grew up, there were some blocks of social housing spread through the village, and the first nine years of my life I lived in one of those blocks. It was not a problem at all; some of my classmates lived in blocks like that too, others did not, but we did not care. We had lovely neighbours – people warned my parents for them when we started to live there, but really, we could not have wished for better ones. When I was nine years old, my parents bought a house that was big enough for them and after a while five children to live in, in one of the more exclusive parts of the village. It was a logical step when my father started to earn more, and we needed a bigger house. They still live there, the population has changed for the better, but my mother still misses the old neighbours sometimes. After 15 years I saw one of them again, and even while I changed quite a bit (growing from 9 to 24 years old) she recognized me.
Now I live in social housing as well, in quite a nice apartment. There are two apartment blocks like this in the small city I live in, while the older apartment blocks from social housing are being replaced for new ones, ours will stick around for some time longer. They are built in the ’60’s and not perfect (we cannot have a dishwasher), but the half-a-million-costing houses around the corner do not have the marvellous sight we have when we roll out of our bed.
Here too, we have quite nice neighbours. Okay, I admit, the ones upstairs are a Somalian family, with three kinds who like to run around, so we hear them. The neighbours next door are not all Dutch either, and there are some Polish guest-workers somewhere in the block. We have been on visiting terms with the neighbours upstairs and downstairs, and they are all quite nice. Some people downstairs like to repair cars all day, and we can hear that all day. So what? I dare to bet that if my fiancé had his car-breakdown here instead of at his work, they’d have helped him right away.
I know social housing can be different than I am used to. Where my parents lived, and where I live now, it mostly are the neat people with just less money than average, who live here. The housing is cheap, but it is home, and we live between the rich, driving the same roads, shopping in the same supermarkets. I know it can be that way in the bigger cities too, although I know there are some more ghetto-like buroughs as well. My ex grew up in a social housing estate in Utrecht, one of our bigger cities. Where he is just a city boy, with a little bit too much experience with his bike being stolen when he was a kid, his area was not much unlike it is here. On the other hand, there is one burough in that city he does not want to live – ever – and when he heard my cousin lived there on her own, he told me that if he were my aunt and uncle, he would not sleep at night. But that is in the Netherlands, and it is not really as bad as I hear it to be in other countries.
How is social housing where you come from? Would you want to live there?