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Danish parliament passes contentious 'ghetto plan'

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Danish parliament passes contentious 'ghetto plan'
Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen in Mjølnerparken, Copenhagen in March this year. Photo: Liselotte Sabroe/Scanpix 2018
09:27 CET+01:00
A majority in the Danish parliament on Thursday voted through a bill that could see sweeping physical changes made to underprivileged areas defined by the state as ‘ghettos’.

The programme, which was announced by Prime Minister Lars Løkke Rasmussen in his New Year’s speech and formally presented by ministers in March this year, has been the subject of passionate opposition and debate in Danish media and society.

READ ALSO: 'Ghettos must go': Government presents plan in Copenhagen underprivileged area

The plan passed by parliament Thursday also sets out preventive measures against the development of underprivileged areas into ghettos in future, Ritzau reports.

A maximum of 40 percent of housing may be allocated to a form of social housing known in Danish as almene familieboliger (normal family housing) in areas encompassed by the plan. That is likely to require demolition of some housing where it is not economically viable to convert it into other forms, it was reported earlier this week.

Critics of the programme say that the reforms will move social problems associated with the areas to other locations, rather than provide real solutions.

“How do you provide a helping hand by either selling or demolishing housing? There are people in this country who can’t just go out and buy themselves an apartment,” lead political spokesperson Pernille Skipper of the leftwing Red-Green Alliance party said.

“Nobody has answered the question of where these people are to live,” Skipper added.

The bill was tabled in parliament in October and subsequently amended to address the issue of potential unnecessary demolitions, but the changes did not go far enough, according to Skipper’s party, which says that up to 16 suburbs in Denmark could see demolition of housing under the terms of the plan.

Minister for Transport, Construction and Housing Ole Birk Olesen submitted the bill, which was voted for by the coalition government, the rightwing Danish People’s Party and two opposition parties, the Social Democrats and the Socialist People’s Party.

Kaare Dybvad, housing spokesperson with the Social Democrats, was during Thursday’s parliamentary session engaged in a long discussion with MPs from the Red-Green Alliance and Alternative parties, who were opposed to the bill, Ritzau writes.

Dybvad argued that Social Democrat support for the plan was in line with the party’s policies on social housing dating back to the 1930s.

“We take the basic view that concentrating social problems increases social problems,” Dybvad said.

“We do not believe it’s advantageous to grow up in a neighbourhood where there are many social and integration-related problems,” he added.

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