“Half the social housing tenants checked have property abroad”

The Flemish housing minister Matthias Diependaele (nationalist) has revealed that half the tenants of social housing checked had no right to the tenancy because they owned property abroad.  Mr Diependaele told VRT that it’s really important that scarce social housing is allotted to people who really need it.

Under Belgian rules people who own property, either in Belgium or abroad, don’t qualify for social housing.  When there is a suspicion abuse is occurring, checks are carried out.

In recent months 669 checks have been carried out on social housing tenants.  In 46% of cases it transpired that the tenant owned a property abroad.

“Our investigation caught out around 300 people, but towns like Antwerp, Hamme and Lier possess their own checking system.  They caught a further one hundred people flouting the rules.  That takes the total to around 400” says the minister.

“It’s really important that scarce social housing is allotted to people who really need it. These are not the people with property.  In cases like that we annul the contract and allot the property to somebody who qualifies.  Checks are carried out to find out how long the fraud has been going on.  The social housing company can claw back social benefits paid out to people who don’t qualify”.

“We’ve noticed many people who live in social housing without really qualifying are cancelling their contract.  In that way they avoid having to repay any benefits”.

“At present 32 of the 89 Flemish social housing companies and two social letting agencies are carrying out checks.  That’s not even half the total.  There’s room for a lot of improvement.  Ideally everybody should be checked”.

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