People in Brussels facing up to 15 year wait for social housing

People in Brussels facing up to 15 year wait for social housing
Social housing in Saint-Gilles. Credit: Ugo Realfonzo / The Brussels Times

People in need of social housing in the Brussels-Capital Region can be left waiting up to nearly 12 years in some municipalities, according to Brussels N-VA member of parliament Mathias Vanden Borre.

An objective was defined by a Regional Policy Statement (PRSP) measure to ensure that 15% of all liveable properties in the region would be allocated to social housing, “distributed in a balanced way among the municipalities and neighbourhoods.” Recent figures have shown the region has not yet achieved this standard.

“The government’s objective of having 15% social housing in the whole Region in relation to the total number of residences, evenly distributed in the municipalities and neighbourhoods, has remained a pipe dream for decades,” Vanden Borre said on Twitter.

From the figures he requested from State Secretary for Housing Nawal Ben Hamou, it appeared just one Brussels municipality, Watermael-Boisfoirt, meets the target of 15% of all properties being social housing.

“Most of the other municipalities (17) do not even reach 10%, of which six even stay under the 5% of social housing (Schaarbeek, Ixelles, Saint-Gilles, Koekelberg, Sint-Pieters-Woluwe, and Uccle),” Vanden Borre said.

Differences per housing type

Waiting times differ per commune and are largely dependent on the size of the house. People who are looking for social housing in studio format are helped the fastest on average, namely after 8.8 years.

For a house with one or two bedrooms, the average wait is ten years. For social housing with more rooms, the wait is longer: 12.2 years for three bedrooms, 14 years for four rooms and 15.3 years for five rooms.

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In 2020, the region saw the number of social housing units delivered across all its programmes drop due to the Covid-19 pandemic, which slowed down and sometimes even halted the progress of several social housing projects, a report from last summer stated.

Ben Hamou wants to tackle this issue by imposing contractual obligations on the municipalities via the housing contract, however, only Etterbeek, Ixelles, Molenbeek and Saint-Gilles implement such housing contracts, according to Belga News Agency.

Vanden Borre regrets that those contracts do not provide for sanctions.

“With 19 municipalities, 19 OCMWs, as many land registry offices, 16 social housing companies and 24 social rental offices, which all have different properties at their disposal and all determine their own procedure, it is simply not possible to conduct an efficient policy,” he concluded.

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