Rental accommodation is a settlement option that is more commonly used in urban settings. It is most feasible when displaced populations have the necessary resources available (funds, in-kind, etc.), and the host community has appropriate accommodation to rent.
When possible, displaced people may seek refuge in familiar areas where friends or relatives may be established and can provide informal support. Others prioritize economic opportunity when they decide where to settle.
Enabling refugees to reside in communities lawfully, peacefully and without harassment, whether in urban or in rural areas, supports their ability to take responsibility for their lives and for their families and communities.
Humanitarian support for this settlement option usually focuses on ensuring that rented accommodation is adequate and affordable. It needs to be affordable so that more households can obtain rented shelter; it should be adequate in terms of standards and quality. Strengthened protection outreach and monitoring will be required as with any alternative to camp approach.
Context characteristics and risks associated
To rent, an affected household needs to be able to acquire a short-term lease on a rural or urban property. Rent may be paid in cash or in-kind.
Conflicts and natural disaster often reduce the availability of land, housing or apartments to rent and households that are impoverished by conflicts and natural disasters are often unable to pay rent.
In a competitive market, persons of concern may be at risk of discrimination and exploitation by unscrupulous land lords. Frequently they do not have enough money for a deposit or lack necessary references. Regulations requiring proof of residence or citizenship may restrict their access to formal tenancy arrangements. Rental agreements may not be formal or enforced, leaving persons of concern lacking security of tenure and vulnerable to abuse.
Rent inflation and speculation may occur if the demand for rented property is high. Rental accommodation that is available and affordable is often substandard. It may take a long time to reach agreement with Government, local authorities, or property owners on the use of available land or property.
Context-specific protection objectives
- To provide safe and healthy living environment for persons of concern.
- To protect persons of concern from a range of risks, including eviction, exploitation and abuse, overcrowding, poor access to services, and unhygienic living conditions. To support self-reliance, allowing persons of concern to live constructive and dignified lives.
Principles and policy considerations for the emergency response strategy in this context
It is important to understand the opportunities and constraints for host populations who accommodate displaced populations in their dwellings or on their land. Income may be generated by renting a house or land to displaced people who want to settle. If the property rights of smallholders are protected, they are more likely to invest in the land and other productive assets.
Host governments may be reluctant to support rental accommodation as an alternative to camps for security reasons or concerns that refugees will compete with nationals for limited economic opportunities and scarce resources such as water or land. Host governments may also consider that allowing refugees to settle in communities and participate in the economy makes it less likely that they will return home in the future. A thorough analysis of the national laws, policies and practices in relation to the protection of refugees, including restrictions on the exercise of rights and freedoms should be conducted.
Shelter and housing programmes should also analyse the socio economic environment of residential areas to determine affordability and availability of rental accommodation.
Adequate accommodation in sufficient numbers may not be available from the outset. Upgrades or repairs to rental units may be needed and this may not happen quickly enough to respond to shelter needs early in the response. Consult relevant authorities, partners and persons of concern in order to establish a fair and coherent level of rent and rent support that will not disrupt the local rental market.
From the start, collaborate closely with the technical offices of local authorities, and study local rules and regulations concerning land tenure, public works and housing, in order to reduce the risk of conflicts over land and ensure compliance with local building regulations.
Priority operational delivery mode and responses in this context
- Explore cash support options to help refugees pay for rental accommodation.
- Technically assess the quality of rental accommodation to make sure it meets minimum standards.
- Facilitate access to basic services, including water, sanitation, health and education.
- When necessary and appropriate, support the upgrades of repairs to ensure that rental accommodation meets standards.
- Analyse the Housing, Land and Property (HLP) environment, laws and their enforcement, and identify practices that may render persons of concern in a position of vulnerability to discrimination, exploitation or abuse.
- Shelter assessments can include an analysis of the rental market, especially in urban displacements. This assessment should include and analysis of available rental stock, prices, conditions and needed rehabilitation, access to basic facilities, legal and protection issues, etc.
Priority actors and partners in this context
- Local or central Government authorities.
- Community and religious leaders.
- Host communities.
- National and international NGOs.
- IFRC and ICRC.
- Other UN and international organizations.
- National (particularly local language) and international news media.
Shelter and Settlement Section (SSS), Division of Programme Support and Management (DPSM). At: