Government plans blacklist for social housing tenants

Government plans blacklist for social housing tenants
© Anne Deknock

The Flemish government is planning to compile a blacklist of antisocial tenants of so-called social housing, according to housing minister Matthias Diependaele (N-VA).

The idea is that anyone renting social accommodation – financed ultimately by the government but administered by housing associations and social renting agencies – who behaves in an antisocial way, can be placed on a blacklist and evicted, as well as being prevented from being able to take another apartment or house.

Antisocial behaviour would include seriously disturbing neighbours and causing damage to the accommodation occupied.

From 1 January 2023, anyone evicted from a social home will automatically be placed on the blacklist, and thus be prevented from taking up new social accommodation. The only alternative at that point would be the private rental market, which would inevitably be more expensive, not to mention difficult to obtain.

Owners of private rental properties, however, complain that as a last resort antisocial tenants will turn to them, while they themselves have no right to consult the blacklist to get a view of the tenant’s record.

There is one judicial hurdle to overcome: a tenant can only be blacklisted if their eviction was ordered by a justice of the peace. In the first place, the offending tenant will be barred from signing up to the waiting list for new accommodation – a central registry is being planned for the whole region rather than the municipal lists kept now – for three years. Only after that period can the waiting begin.

Meanwhile Diependaele has been accused of using the eye-catching news of a blacklist for antisocial tenants to divert from the much more serious problem caused by owners of social housing.

They have been accused of defrauding local authorities and failing to maintain their properties, among other malpractices.

The social renting agencies and housing associations administer some 160,000 properties to house 150,000 families, in total some 375,000 people. Of those 150,000 official tenants, 58 were evicted in 2020 – each one a problem to their surroundings, but a minuscule number (0.032%) in total. And of course the official tenant is not alone in being evicted: the children have to go too.

The number of evictions due to a lack of maintenance and quality of life is therefore very limited,” Björn Mallants, director of the Association of Flemish Housing Associations (VVH), which represents 85 companies, told Apache.

At present, he said, housing associations have to give good solid reasons for refusing someone a place on the waiting list. The new approach will turn that responsibility on its head.

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