Private investigators to check if people have properties abroad to be hired by Flemish government
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    Private investigators to check if people have properties abroad to be hired by Flemish government

    Private investigator research firms are controversial as many people feel that the investigations carried out by private detectives are often not transparent. Credit: Belga

    The Flemish government wants to hire private investigators to check if people living in social housing own properties abroad.

    The new Flemish coalition agreement states that every form of fraud has to be excluded, and that both public and private partners of the government can check whether or not someone owns property abroad.

    “We want to make sure every social housing company in Flanders has the option to call on investigators that will be able to check whether or not someone owns a house in several countries within and outside Europe. Then it will be up to the individual housing companies to decide whether or not to call on these research agencies,” said Flemish Minister for Housing, Matthias Diependaele, in the VRT tv-programme Terzake.

    However, those research firms are controversial as many people feel that the investigations carried out by private detectives are often not transparent. Still, many people are in favour as the waiting lists for social housing are long, and a better filter of who is entitled and who is not will make them shorter, reports Het Laatste Nieuws.

    “Checking whether or not someone owns property is in the Flemish housing code. I think it is perfectly defensible that property abroad would be checked the same way as property in Flanders. However, we must ensure that there is a balance between the efforts and the revenues and, above all, that we will not start a witch hunt,” said Björn Mallants, the director of the Association of Flemish Housing Companies, reports VRT NWS.

    “It is not easy to monitor property in the European Union. For example, we cannot do it in Italy and Spain,” he said, adding that the association is not against the initiative, but asks the government to also create a transparent framework.

    “We have 150,000 social houses, and we have 150,000 more people on the waiting list. With this initiative, that list will not be eliminated. At most, it will concern a few hundred files. However, the initiative will perhaps create support for our sector. This support may make it possible to invest more in social housing, so that we can work on the waiting lists in the longer term,” Mallants added.

    Maïthé Chini
    The Brussels Times