problem area


January 26, 2022

Problem neighborhood or deprived neighborhood are generally used terms for residential areas with various infrastructural and social shortcomings.

Problems and stigmatization

A problem neighborhood is a neighborhood where several problems occur at the same time: unemployment, (nighttime) noise pollution, violence, crime, addiction problems and medical problems such as overweight and diabetes and a higher than average death rate, including an increased child mortality. The Netherlands has a large number of neighbourhoods, in particular post-war neighbourhoods, which can be characterized as problem neighbourhoods. The reason why post-war neighborhoods in particular are problem neighborhoods is due to the low variety of homes in these neighbourhoods. In problem neighborhoods, housing associations often have a monopoly position, with a market share of 80 to 100%. The offer consists mainly of social housing. Groups of people with a lower education and a lower income more often live in these social housing units. Problem areas would arise due to the concentration of people with a lower education, lower income and other socially excluded groups. In problem neighborhoods there is also stigmatization when visible signs of deterioration in the neighborhood occur and the neighborhood is negatively in the news: the way in which outsiders view this neighborhood changes. One of the consequences is that the neighborhoods are becoming less popular as a possible place to live. The negative trend is causing those who can do so to move out of the neighbourhood. New people no longer come to live in the neighborhood of their own free will, the empty houses are increasingly occupied by people with a low income and other socially excluded groups. The geographical exclusion is thus increased.

Problem neighborhood versus disadvantaged neighborhood

Problem areas are also called deprived areas, even if they are not exactly the same. The term problem neighborhood mainly refers to the infrastructural, economic and social problems that prevail in the neighborhood and the term deprived neighborhood refers to the causes of the problems, which lie in the social disadvantage that the residents of the neighborhood have, as well as often existing backlogs in the maintenance of the homes and the decline in the level of facilities within the district. However, a problem neighborhood will almost always be a deprived neighbourhood. In principle, a deprived neighborhood does not have to be or become a problem neighbourhood, but if one defines social deprivation as a problem, then deprived neighborhood is synonymous with problem neighbourhood. A problem neighborhood should not be confused with a slum: there are no longer any slums in the Netherlands and Belgium.


The Ministry for Housing, Neighborhoods and Integration defines problem neighborhoods as neighborhoods with outdated houses and with serious problems related to living, working, learning, integration and safety. In urban areas (such as Amsterdam, The Hague, Rotterdam and Utrecht) there are neighborhoods where many of these problems converge and where there is sometimes a 'downward spiral'. There are also problems in some suburbs. Examples of this are Spijkenisse near Rotterdam and Nieuwegein near Utrecht, two developed suburbs where deterioration is being signaled. Similar problems exist in a number of provincial towns. In administrative and official circles, in addition to the term 'problem district', the euphemism 'attention district' has also been used for these districts for some time, and later the visionary terms 'power district' and 'beautiful district' were also used. According to the Ministry of Housing, Neighborhoods and Integration, there were 140 such priority neighborhoods in the Netherlands in 2007.

From slum to deprived area

Deprived neighborhood is a fairly new word: until the eighties of the 20th century, these neighborhoods were called 'slums'. That indicated a neighborhood where I

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