The Public Welfare Centre had requested that the building, where the fatal explosion occurred last week, on Paardenmarkt in Antwerp be formally inspected. Unfortunately, the formal inspection requested had not been carried out, as is reported on Thursday by the Mediahuis publications. It appears that the Public Welfare Service opened a case file for the building in August 2017.
One inhabitant had applied for a form of housing benefit, benefit which could only be granted if the tenant was able to prove that the dwelling met the appropriate building standards. In this case, no certificate to this effect had been produced.
Moreover, social workers had visited a dweller on the third floor in both August and December, who was in receipt of income support. In their report, they indicated having observed that the house was in “a very poor state”, with damp stains, a ceiling containing holes and missing windows.
The spokesman for the Mayor, Bart De Wever (N-VA), confirmed that the city’s public services were concerned about the building. However, he indicated that it was not considered as a priority, as “reporting the state of the building to the city services does not equate to a formal request for action on its part.”
The staff restructuring of the competent department, having responsibility for inspecting the building intended for habitation, is also likely to have played a role. The number of department inspectors was reduced from 12 (in 2016) to 3 (in May 2017), a point these Flemish newspapers are today flagging up.