Study uncovers discrimination on the private rental market

A study carried out by the anti-racisme organisation Kifkif’s Practicle Tests Platform and Brussels’ Dutch-Medium Free University VUB has found that people with North African or Turkish roots encounter discrimination when they try and find a home to rent in the private sector in Antwerp. In a reaction to the study the Chairman of Antwerp’s Local Social Services Council Fons Duchateau told VRT News that he has issues with the study and particularly with the timing of its publication coming as it does less than three weeks before we go to the polls in the municipal and provincial elections.  

The researchers sent 1,000 e-mails to landlords asking to visit flats that were up for rent. In the morning the mails were signed using a North African or Turkish names, while in the afternoon the same request was sent to the same landlords in e-mails signed using a typically Flemish name.  

In 40% of cases a different reply was sent to the e-mails signed using North African or Turkish names than to the e-mails that had been signed using typical Flemish names. With this in mind the Practical Tests Platform has asked the city authorities in Antwerp to follow the example of the East Flemish City of Ghent and to carry out regular checks to ensure that would-be tenants are not being discriminated against on the grounds of their ethnic background.  

The Platform’s Sarah Scheepers told VRT News that "This would work a bit like a roadside speed camera”, pointing to the deterrent effect the checks would have.

"People like to have a copy of themselves in their property. This is based on prejudices, but you can work on these prejudices. If we change the way in which we live together it will have an effect on the rental market”.   

The study found that private individuals letting out properties discriminate more than letting agents.

Awareness campaign rather than systematic checks

In a reaction to the study the Chairman of Antwerp Social Services Council Fons Duchateau (Flemish nationalist, photo below) told VRT News that “All discrimination that is provable is a problem”.

However, he is not in favour of so-called “particle tests”, random checks carried out by the municipal authorities. Mr Duchateau argues that the introduction of such a system would increase would-be tenants chances of find a house or flat.

Jonas Roosens

Mr Duchateau believes that it would simply drive the discrimination underground and adds that an awareness campaign would be far more effective.

He also has issues with the timing of the report’s publication and believes that it is no coincidence that has been published just before the local elections.  

Mr Duchateu describes the study as “electorally motivated” and “political marketing”. Given that several weeks ago he received questions on the issue of discrimination on the housing marking for this evening council meeting, Mr Duchateau concludes that “it is clear that the contents of the study were discussed with left-wing opposition weeks ago”.