How accommodation in host families works

 (Image: Pixabay CC0)
(Image: Pixabay CC0)

People in Switzerland have generously offered private accommodation for refugees from Ukraine as a result of the Russian war of aggression. The host families provide important support for the refugees’ arrival and promote integration, provided the conditions for successful integration are met. These are the findings of a new study by Bern University of Applied Sciences (BFH), Lucerne University of Applied Sciences and Arts (HSLU) and Swiss Refugee Council (SFH). For private accommodation to be sustainable, a certain degree of formalization and support is required, among other things.

In many cases, host families provided valuable support in everyday life, promoted language acquisition and made it easier to settle in Switzerland through emotional and organizational care work. "Host families offer protection and safety, security and support, especially during the initial period of arrival," says Eveline Ammann-Dula, co-director of studies at BFH. For private accommodation to be successful, both parties must guarantee each other’s privacy, which requires an appropriate room layout and communicative and organizational factors. It is important to have lockable rooms and common rules in order to promote opportunities for retreat and successful coexistence. This is particularly important for people who have fled from war zones, as they often have a greater need for peace and privacy.

The study results are based on an online survey of over 1,000 host families in 19 cantons and 24 qualitative interviews with refugees and host families. The study expands on the initial survey results published in February 2023 by underlining the great importance of official appreciation and support in relieving the burden on host families.

Support and clear tenancy agreements

The study concludes that professional preparation with comprehensive clarification of the housing situation and needs is crucial for both sides. In order to ensure a stable accommodation situation, continuous, professional support of the host family relationships is crucial. Further training opportunities and exchanges between host families support the continuity of host family accommodation.

"It is important that a formal contract regulates the tenancy," says HSLU co-director of studies Gesine Fuchs. That way, the host and the tenant can meet as equals. The accommodation costs must be covered by the responsible authorities. In addition, there needs to be an appropriate form of recognition for the emotional and organizational care work that host families provide. Last but not least, clear and reliable communication from the authorities and a central point of contact for host families are important.

The study emphasizes the opportunity to establish private accommodation as an integral part of state reception structures throughout Switzerland. The research results serve as the basis for a dialog between government agencies, civil society and refugees in order to ensure integration and support.