'Alarming' discrimination against Moroccans in Walloon rental market: study

'Alarming' discrimination against Moroccans in Walloon rental market: study

Tenants with Moroccan ascendance in Belgium are more likely to be discriminated against in the Walloon rental market, according to sociologists at the Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB).

In their study, professors Pieter-Paul Verhaeghe and Abel Ghekiere of the VUB's Sociology department found that discrimination was the highest in the cities of Namur and Mons.

The researchers created two fake prospective tenant profiles, identical in all but the name, with each candidate given a last name suggesting Belgian and Moroccan ascendance.

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The results of the study showed that the tenant with a Moroccan last name was 28% less likely to get called back for a visit when responding to a rental listing.

In total, 1,109 applications were filed by the researchers in the cities of Liège, Charleroi, Mons and Namur, in the first study looking at the impact of ethnic discrimination in the Walloon rental market.

"The levels of ethnic discrimination are alarmingly high in Mons (64%) and Namur (39%). Much higher than in Brussels, Ghent, Mechelen and even Antwerp," Verhaeghe said.

The study found that landlords were far more likely to discriminate against tenants than rental agencies, with researchers finding that 43% of the former discriminated against the Moroccan applicant compared to around 20% of agencies.

The results stem from a wider study on the impact of the coronavirus crisis on discrimination in the rental market, which concluded that, overall, discrimination against Moroccan applicants doubled.

Moroccans were the most affected ethnic group in the study, which included candidates with Belgian and Congolese surnames.

Most commonly, a Belgian-sounding candidate would be given full details of the rental, while the others would be put off by being told the property had already been let.

Referring to the results of the study on the Walloon rental market, Verhaeghe said that their study only focused on the initial parts of the rental process leading only to a viewing of the property.

"We suspect that ethnic discrimination is even higher during the later stages of the rental process," he said.

Gabriela Galindo

The Brussels Times

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