Brussels to regularly screen for discrimination in the rental market
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Brussels to regularly screen for discrimination in the rental market

Photo from office of Nawal Ben Hamou.

The Brussels government will begin conducting proactive tests for possible discrimination in the rental market, it announced today.

Recent VUB research revealed structural discrimination in the Leuven rental market— findings they say match what’s been documented in cities all across Belgium, including the capital.

Brussels is hoping to tackle the matter with continuous screening for discrimination against tenants due to ethnicity, name, gender, or other factors, rather than limiting such tests to specific studies or allowing them only as part of an investigation into an official complaint.

“We are the first region to launch proactive tests to fight housing discrimination,” Secretary of State for Equal Opportunities and Housing Nawal Ben Hamou announced on Twitter.

“Too many Brussels residents are victims of discrimination when looking for accommodation,” Ben Hamou said in a press release.

“As a result, faced with unjustified refusals from landlords or real estate agents, victims of discrimination are forced to accept unsuitable or unsanitary housing for often excessive rents. These poor housing situations, in turn, lead to health problems, social isolation and academic or professional failure.”

The many pre-conditions that used to apply for anyone looking to conduct screenings for discrimination will be removed.

Green Party leader Arnaud Verstraete had already urged several times during this legislative session that the strict conditions be changed.

“Now that proactive practical tests are made possible, we are taking an important step towards a fair rental market,” Verstraete said.

Translation: Great victory for #Brussels: we are the first region to launch proactive tests to fight housing discrimination!

Until now, only reactive practical tests could be carried out after a complaint and a suspicion of discrimination.

That made the procedure too cumbersome, a fact said to be reflected in its lack of application: although field tests have been possible since 2019, zero have been carried out yet.

“From now on, certain conditions no longer have to be met before a practical test can be carried out on the rental market,” said Verstraete.

“Thanks to this modification, testing will be possible on a continuous basis and we are really tackling discrimination.”

Since practical testing was introduced in Ghent, Verstraete and others point out, discrimination rates on the rental market have dropped significantly.