Housing

Belgium

Country Report: Housing Last updated: 16/05/24

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Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen Visit Website

When a person who is staying in a reception centre receives a decision granting a protection status, they start the transitional period. During this time they have the option to:

  • Move to an LRI for a maximum of 2 more months, where they will get assistance in finding a place to live, and generally in transitioning to financial assistance if needed. These 2 months can be prolonged for one month, or in exceptional cases to 4 months; or
  • Leave the shelter, for example to stay with family or friends. In this case Fedasil will provide them with food cheques worth € 240 per child and € 560 per adult. This covers the purchase of food for two months, the time limit within which the PCSW has to decide on the granting of financial assistance.

This is specified in internal instructions of Fedasil (see End of the right to reception).[1]

In case the asylum seeker receives a decision granting a protection status while they are already staying in an LRI or an individual place of an NGO, the 2-month transitional period takes place in this type of accommodation. Due to a lack of LRI places however, transitioning to housing is often done from collective reception centres.

In practice, the period of up to four months is usually too short to move on to housing. It is common that recognised refugees stay in the reception centre longer than that period, especially if they are vulnerable. This practice varies from centre to centre and can also depend on the organisation providing reception.

To make this transition easier for youngsters between 18- and 21-year-old, Fedasil has started pilot projects with the aim, among other things, to increase their autonomy. These projects run until the end of 2024 and will after evaluation be rolled out across the different centres.[2]

Since several years, the outflow of recognised refugees from reception centres is hindered by a shortage in housing supply. According to an article written by Fedasil, by the end of 2023 at least 3,352 recognised refugees were stuck in federal reception centres due to a shortage of housing in Flanders, Brussels and Wallonia.[3]

Several civil society organisations describe the current situation as a ‘housing crisis’. There is a not only a shortage in social housing, but there is also a general shortage of qualitative and affordable housing for vulnerable groups. Discrimination also plays an important role in the difficulties that beneficiaries of international protection experience in finding affordable housing.[4] Finding affordable and adequate housing is even more problematic for beneficiaries of international protection that are reunited with their family.[5] To illustrate the extent of this housing crisis in Flanders:

  • In July 2023, approximately 176,000 families were on the waiting list for social housing in Flanders[6].[7]
  • 47% of private housing is of insufficient quality.[8]
  • More than 1/3 of the income of 52% of private tenants is dedicated to cover rent expenses.[9]

The European Committee of Social Rights (ECSR), that monitors whether the provisions of the European Social Charter are observed, expressed particularly critical opinions regarding some elements of the housing policy of Belgium, among other countries. In 2021, 38 Flemish organisations, united in a coalition called the “Woonzaak” that advocates for a fair and just housing policy in Flanders,[10] started a procedure before the ECSR against the Flemish housing policy. This procedure can lead to a condemnation, which is not binding in itself, but can have a positive impact on national legislation, as was the case in France. The complaint was declared admissible on 13 July 2022. A decision is expected in 2024.[11]

Several civil society organisations and many volunteering groups offer support to refugees and beneficiaries of subsidiary protection by helping them to search a place to stay, such as Convivial and Caritas International.

On top of the housing crisis, a new allocation system in social renting applies from 2023. For 80% of allocations, a ‘local tie’ will be required. This means you will be given priority if you have lived continuously in the housing company’s municipality or operating area for at least 5 of the past 10 years. For newcomers, this implies entering the (social) housing market with unequal opportunities. The Council of State was very critical of this new allocation system. It pointed out that a priority scheme with long-term residence ties could be a serious obstacle to free movement and freedom of establishment within the European Union.[12]

From the start of 2024, new conditions for social renting apply in Flanders, including meeting conditions for Dutch language proficiency and being registered at the employment service if the applicant is not yet working.[13]

 

 

 

[1] Fedasil, Instructions on the transition from material reception to financial assistance: measures for residents of collective centres and the accompaniment in transition in the individual structures, 14 April 2020, available in Dutch at: https://tinyurl.com/3rr6j65r.

[2] Information provided by Fedasil on 10 October 2023.

[3] Information provided by Fedasil on 14 March 2024 and Fedasil,’Looking for housing’, 18 December 2023, available in Dutch at: https://tinyurl.com/3ypfyexm.

[4] To find more information on the housing issue (and recommendations) please see: ‘Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen, ‘Mensen voorop: de weg naar een echt asielbeleid. Voorstellen voor de verkiezingen 2019: Vlaams-Federaal-Europees, November 2018, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/2MNTL0o, 30.

[5] Vluchtelingenwerk Vlaanderen en Orbit VZW, Beleidsnota Gezinshereniging en Wonen, August 2019, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/2Rev4ht.

[6] Website of the Flemish regional minister for housing, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3vw9fAQ.

[7] Annual Report Flemish Parliament 2021-2022, available in Dutch at: http://bit.ly/404wewe

[8] Vanderstraeten L. & Ryckewaert M., Grote Woononderzoek 2013. Deel 3. Technische woningkwaliteit, Steunpunt Wonen, March 2015, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/40GZFFF.

[9] Heylen K. & Vanderstraeten L., Wonen in Vlaanderen anno 2018, Steunpunt Wonen, 2019, available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/3MdjhNg.

[10] De Woonzaak: https://www.woonzaak.be/.

[11] More information: https://bit.ly/3hYERou.

[12] Huurdersplatform, Lokale binding sinds geboorte, March 2022, available in Dutch at: http://bit.ly/3maMyNY

[13] Website of Flanders regional administration: conditions for social renting. Available in Dutch at: https://bit.ly/49cVDbC.

Table of contents

  • Statistics
  • Overview of the legal framework
  • Overview of the main changes since the previous report update
  • Asylum Procedure
  • Reception Conditions
  • Detention of Asylum Seekers
  • Content of International Protection
  • ANNEX I – Transposition of the CEAS in national legislation