With Brussels’ ongoing housing crisis, unaffordable prices and a major housing shortage, it appears social housing is not optimised for those living in it.
Whether too large or too small, more than one in three social homes are not adequately sized for its tenants, Bruzz reports.
Not only are waiting lists for social housing overrunning, but households qualifying for rent allowance have also been let down for eight years as the Brussels government fails to support them in renting on the private market while they await a social home.
In Belgium, public housing is a regional competence, and houses are owned by semi-private social housing corporations, regulated and mostly financed by the government.
Brussels had 40,000 social homes in 2020, of which more than 10% are vacant (4,200). In addition, 18.6% of the inhabited houses appear to be too large for the residents, while 18.8% of the houses are too small.
Mathias Vanden Borre, a Brussels Member of Parliament for the New Flemish Alliance (N-VA), pointed out that tenants living in a house that has more than one room have to pay a housing allowance, but that in practice this is hardly asked. “In short, the rules are hardly complied with and enforced in Brussels.”
Brussels Member of Parliament for the liberal party Mouvement Reformateur (MR), Bertin Mampaka, proposed to ease the process by encouraging people to change social housing companies, as Vanden Borre agrees that the rules regarding tenant transfers are too strict.
“One of those absurdly strict rules means that a move is only possible within the same municipality or within a radius of 5 km. That rule should be relaxed to, for example, allow social tenants to move between public real estate companies or from a public real estate company to another player,” he said.
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However, State Secretary Nawal Ben Hamou, from the Socialist Party (PS), argues that changes between housing companies are not a solution.
“Renters want to stay in their neighbourhood. Especially large families and the elderly who have organised their lives in the neighbourhood are not willing to move to a completely new area.”
Moreover, the companies already have their hands full with questions about relocations within their own population, Ben Hamou says.
Still, a working group has been set up to investigate the switching to other housing companies. According to the State Secretary, an earlier working group that had to investigate the same theme in the previous legislature never took action and therefore never presented any conclusions.