People living in social housing in Flanders might have to prove they have a basic knowledge of Dutch. This is if a modification to the Flemish housing code, that minister Liesbeth Homans presented to the government on Friday, is passed. This made the Socialist and Green opposition react strongly.
The government program drawn up by the Bourgeois team (New Flemish Alliance, Flemish Christian Democrats, Open Vld) already applied language level conditions to social housing. In Flanders there is an “obligation to prove candidates have made an effort to achieve the required language skills, or prove they have them”.
The social housing candidate currently has to show they are willing to learn Dutch, a condition the government feels is not really enforced.
The Homans project (New Flemish Alliance) says the social housing resident must show they have a basic level of Dutch (level A1) within a year. Those that don’t comply could get a fine (up to 5,000 euros), after a caution and reminder from the administration.
The project has been submitted to the State Council and the Flemish Housing Council.
Within the opposition, the Socialists have criticised this modification, highlighting the fact that very few people actually want to learn Dutch. They also said the government doesn’t provide enough language courses. The Flemish socialists think the project breaches anti-discrimination legislation, and said a previous similar initiative regarding proof of the required language skills had been thrown out.
The Greens agree. They are worried that a large number of people in social housing, some of whom may be not very literate or well-educated, would not be able to reach the required level within the set time.
Questions have also been raised within the government itself. The Open Vld MP Mercedes Van Volcem said she preferred to focus on employment – through a “start-up process” – rather than language skills.