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Brussels rent commission will become a reality

Photo by Helen Lyons/The Brussels Times.

A commission to tackle exorbitant rents in Brussels will become a reality, now that the bill to establish its creation has been approved by Parliament.

The idea is that if a resident of Brussels feels they’re being overcharged for housing, they can bring the issue to the neutral commission composed of both tenants and landlords. The commission will then mediate and determine a more appropriate rent.

“A lot of people in Brussels have to pay a rent that is too high,” Green Party leader Arnaud Verstraete told The Brussels Times.

“The estimate is around 30,000 households – that’s ten percent of all the Brussels households that are renting. They’re paying excessive prices.”

Verstraete was among those who brought the matter to the table earlier this year, pointing out that rent prices in the Belgian capital have gotten exceptionally high.

“For the last 15 years in Brussels, the renting prices have gone up faster than the index,” explained Verstraete.

“This means that if a family ten years ago had a certain proportion of their income dedicated to rent, this percentage has been consistently going up because the cost is rising faster than their income.”

One of the reasons is that demand for housing is growing faster than offerings, meaning there are more people looking for housing in Brussels than there are places to live.

Verstraete says other reasons include a tendency for single housing and Brussels’ position as an international metropolis that consistently attracts new residents.

“All these things together create the situation that there’s more demand than there are offerings, and now with the rental commission we’ve created an instrument that can help calm these effects.”

He notes that the basic market dynamics are all still at play, but the idea is that a rental commission can help create fair prices and stop the excessive ones, and ideally cool down the market in the longer-run.

A rent is considered exorbitant when it’s 20 percent higher than the publicly-available reference rate for the same type of home. As part of this new legislation, those reference rates will be updated in collaboration with Université Libre de Bruxelles (ULB), which will conduct a study to refine the pricing.

Tenants will be able to report exorbitant rental prices to the rent commission and negotiate a more reasonable price.

“We will call a halt to landlords who charge excessive rents to their tenants with the rent assessment commission,” said Verstraete. “We’re going to ensure that the people of Brussels pay a fair rental price for their home.”

Now that the establishment of the commission has been approved by the Brussels Parliament, Verstraete hopes to see it formed as soon as possible in 2022.

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