Anti-poverty network calls for urgent changes to Flemish housing policy

Anti-poverty network calls for urgent changes to Flemish housing policy

The Network against Poverty is calling for urgent changes to Flemish housing policy, following the announcement on Friday that more than 182,000 Flemish households were on waiting lists in 2021.

Heidi Degerickx, the network’s general coordinator, said the pace of housing construction needed to be increased, a binding social objective should be set, and the private rental market must be made more social.

Flemish Minister of Housing Mathias Diependaele pointed out that the increase in the number of applicants on waiting lists was now smaller. In 2020 the increase was ten percent, in 2021 it will be eight percent.

Mathias Diependaele. Credit: Belga

However, according to the Network against Poverty, ambitions must be set “much higher”. Above all, the network denounces the “slow pace of construction” and points to the “unwillingness of many municipalities to provide space for social housing.”

Every Flemish municipality has a binding social objective and must therefore build a certain number of social housing units each year. However, many municipalities do not achieve that target, according to the Network, which argues, among other things, that a “social burden” must be incorporated into housing planning.

Additionally, a minimum number of social or budget rental homes should be included in new private allotments, it says. “In this way, every municipality will have to take responsibility in the fight against the Flemish housing crisis,” according to the network.

The group recalls that such a regulation was once introduced, but the Constitutional Court quashed it in 2013 because it had not been reported to the European Commission.

Finally, the network argues for a more social private rental market. The model whereby housing associations and social rental agencies rent out homes on the private market to low-income people needs “much more promotion and support,” it feels.

The Flemish government’s new measures “point in the right direction, but they still lack ambition and focus,” the Network against poverty opined.

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