Housing Ex-Offenders in the Netherlands: Balancing Neighbourhood Safety and Human Rights

J. H. S. van Tongeren*

*Corresponding author for this work

Research output: Contribution to journalArticleAcademicpeer-review


The Universal Declaration of Human Rights recognises stable housing as a prerequisite for an adequate standard of living. A home provides shelter and enables personal development, thus contributing to the individual’s well-being. Despite this, however, many struggle to find a place to live. In the Netherlands, people with a history of criminal or anti-social behaviour (‘ex-offenders’) are among those whose search for housing is most problematic. They are sometimes viewed as unreliable tenants or denied access to housing out of fear for recidivism. At the same time, Dutch local authorities—responsible for maintaining public order—may (aim to) prevent an ex-offender from (re) settling in their municipality. Recent legislation in the Netherlands furthermore allows local authorities to screen and exclude people from certain urban areas based on their past behaviour. How do Dutch private and administrative actors decide between ex-offenders’ housing rights on the one hand and other persons’ (feelings of) safety and public order on the other? And how do the laws and policies in the Netherlands concerning the housing of ex-offenders relate to the state’s human rights obligations? Using doctrinal legal research methods and applying a normative, human rights framework, this paper concludes that while there are no out-right violations of fundamental rights and freedoms, several approaches in the Netherlands do appear to be problematic and at odds with international obligations.
Original languageEnglish
JournalEuropean Journal on Criminal Policy and Research
Publication statusE-pub ahead of print - 23-Apr-2020

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