The parties of the majority in the Brussels parliament are to set up a new committee to look at the question of excessively-high rents for accommodation in the capital.
The joint rent committee would be made up of representatives of landlords and tenants, and would be a first for Belgium.
The problem of the lack of affordable rented accommodation in Brussels is a problem that has long been recognised, and has led to an exodus of young families in particular, no longer able to afford a place to stay in the city, to the periphery, leading to an increase in rents there.
The committee would work on the basis of the establishment of what is a fair rent – a reference rent would be set for each commune or in some cases a part of a commune, and any rent that exceeded the reference by 20% would be considered excessive.
In addition, any property that showed a lack of sufficient quality to merit any excess over the reference rent – even if less than 20% – would be considered excessive.
The provisions in the law will be submitted to the Council of State to ensure the rights of all parties are being respected, in an attempt to forestall legal objections later.
The aim is to have a legal text ready for approval in the summer of 2021.
Rents in Brussels are known to be high in relation to most other parts of the country. But while that is more or less normal for a capital city with a large international community, the problem of excessive rents is most critical not in the leafy avenues of Tervuren or Sint-Genesius-Rode, but in the low-cost sectors of the rental market.
High rents in poor areas for sub-standard properties badly maintained are where the most problems arise, tenant advocates point out.
“With the rent assessment committee, we are introducing a powerful tool to guarantee fair rents for both parties,” said Arnaud Verstraete (Groen), one of the promoters of the committee.
The fight against excessive rents is an old problem, according to Carla Dejonghe (Open VLD).
“This proposal provides for mediation and a clear legal framework when mediation does not help,” she said. “It is an important element, in addition to investments in the market itself, to improve the quality and accessibility of the Brussels housing market.”