Housing crisis: regional policy outlook from 2014-2019

16/04/2015
The housing challenges facing Brussels are considerable. Regional sale and rent prices are growing far more rapidly than residents’ wages. Low-income households have been particularly hard hit.

Regardless, our elected officials ignore this reality. As a result, the Brussels government announced a deceptive policy outlook for 2014-2019: “The region must, without excluding any options, develop policies that stem the flight of the middle classes to the suburbs”.

It is true that the Regional Government intends to “launch” the construction of 3,900 public housing units. But the government is not specifying where and, more importantly, how it plans to implement this public housing policy, which is advancing at a snail’s pace.
The 44,000 households currently waiting on social housing attribution lists have no other choice but to continue renting at private-market prices, where rent controls and subsidies are neither mandatory nor scheduled for the immediate future.

Up until a short while ago, low-income households could still reasonably hold out hope to buy their family home. Today, such a move has become nearly impossible, except if the Housing Foundation (Fonds du Logement) intercedes, offering a below market-rate mortgage.
For families, the government’s policy outlook does not offer clear solutions. Instead, the Housing Foundation is expected to increase the number of households it helps, reduce access barriers, although not specifically for low-income households.

It’s probably clear already: for RBDH, the government’s 2014-2019 policy outlook is deceptive. Certain important policies, such as establishing rent controls or creating a fairer distribution of social housing in each of Brussels’ communities, do not seem to be forthcoming. The political proposals are often overly vague and propose only partial solutions. We have to ask: is the government actually planning to offer housing that is affordable for low-income Brussels residents?

For RBDH, this challenge can be met through different, complementary approaches: make sure that public land remains in the hands of public entities while at the same time, provide for the creation of more social rental and social rent-to-own housing units; establish rental guidelines that will ultimately lead to imposing rent controls; make a Fund for rental deposits available for Brussels residents; reform laws concerning rental agreements in order to facilitate house sharing and temporary occupations, and encourage the adoption of measures intended to rehabilitate empty retail spaces; create fiscal advantages for landlords and renters who renovate and improve the energy consumption of their buildings; transform housing bonuses into a form of direct aid that will help low- and middle-income households to become property owners.

SOURCES:

Accord de Gouvernement bruxellois 2014-2019

Art. 23 # 57 - La politique du logement annoncée par le nouveau Gouvernement bruxellois : trop peu sociale face à une crise du logement dramatique !