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A Social Innovative Initiative to Invade the Private Rental Market: The Case of Social Rental Agencies in Belgium
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A Social Innovative Initiative to Invade the Private Rental Market: The Case of Social Rental Agencies in Belgium

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A presentation given by Pascal De Decker, BE at a FEANTSA Research Conference on "Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe", York, September 2012

A presentation given by Pascal De Decker, BE at a FEANTSA Research Conference on "Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe", York, September 2012


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  • 1. A Social Innovative Initiative to Invade the Private Rental Market:The Case of Social Rental Agencies in Belgium Pascal De Decker Sint-Lucas Architecture Ghent/BrusselsEuropean Research Conference Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe York, 21st September 2012 European Research Conference Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe York, 21st September 2012
  • 2. Content SRA: what? Goals Regulation History, context, roots State of affairs Allocation of dwelling Recognition/basis European Research Conference Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe York, 21st September 2012
  • 3. What? SRA’s are  non-profit organisations  dealing with housing problems of poor & vulnerable people  rooted in services dealing with the homeless persons Rent from private landlords and sublet to tenants  securing the payment of the rent (event in periods of vacancy)  securing housing quality  affordable rent to the subtenant  organising support if necessary ‘try to socialize’ the private rented sector – withdraw renting from free market mechanisms European Research Conference Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe York, 21st September 2012
  • 4. Fig.2: Overview of the partnership between an SRA and Landlord: Landlord Requests: Accepts Prompt payment of the rent Below market/”social”rent Maintenance of the house Quality standards Rational occupation Rental contract for a period of 9 years Judicial support No say in the profile of the subtenant Administrative support SRA Offers: Requests: Guaranteed monthly payment of the rent Affordable housing Rental mediation High-quality houses Handyman‟s service Housing certainty Legal occupation standard To be open to all candidate-tenants Professional counsellingSource: Adapted from OCMW Gent Presentation, 2012 HABITACT Peer Review European Research Conference Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe York, 21st September 2012
  • 5. Fig 3. Overview of the relationship an SRA and its tenants SRA Tenant Requests: Agrees to provide Appropriate accommodation Participation in rental counselling Affordable rent Maintenance of the house/being a good tenant Security of tenure Prompt payment Support Open communication SRA Offers: Agrees to provide: High-quality housing Professional rental counselor „‟Social‟‟/affordable rent Support: “chore” team, link to welfare services Rental subsidy Follow-up of the rent 9-year rental agreement Mediation in case of arrears Rental counselling General assistance with enquiries etcSource: Adapted from OCMW Gent Presentation, 2012 HABITACT Peer Review European Research Conference Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe York, 21st September 2012
  • 6. Goals Enlarge the number of available dwellings for vulnerable people Improve the quality of the accommodation at the bottom end of the housing market Use a socially correct rent European Research Conference Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe York, 21st September 2012
  • 7. Regulation Belgium=federal state, with ‘split responsibilties’ Changes underway (all housing responsibilities will be transfered) Private renting=federal matter  new rents are free  length of the lease is regulated  some subsidies (tax exempations) SRA’s=matter of the regions (Flanders, Brussels, Wallonia)  subsidies for staff & working  rent allowance (under certain conditins)  renovation subsidies European Research Conference Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe York, 21st September 2012
  • 8. History – context - roots Housing activism (1970s)  General: legal advise shops  tenant’s association (UK model)  Labour migrant discrimination  SRA avant la lettre Woonfonds Gent (idem in Antwerp & Brussels) Housing ‘crisis’  Economic crisis  drop new house construction (private & social)  Squeezed market  Freeing of private renting in times of crisis  New housing times (demographics)  more houses needed  Filtering up  filtering down: renting becomes more & more unaffordable (queeing for advertisers)  Cfr def social innovation: compensate for the market, which cannot address social needs De-institutionalisation  Welfare Work: experience increasing housing problems of its clients  De-institutionalisation (elimination of the ‘total institutions’/ideology of the small scale)  need ‘housing’ for the services itself European Research Conference Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe York, 21st September 2012
  • 9. Homeless service sector in general Growth after 1975  Due to the de-institutionalisation ideology  Professionalisation  passing through philosophy – client has to become independent as soon as possible  theory vs reality: lots of failures  small scale ideology  need for ordinary houses  Idea of emancipation European Research Conference Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe York, 21st September 2012
  • 10. Consequence Welfare work ‘invades’ the housing market  SRA’s  Tenant’s associations Cfr: social innovation is a bottom-up proces European Research Conference Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe York, 21st September 2012
  • 11. Devepment of the SRA model Social innovations create new structures & methods  1985: the umbrella organisations of homeless organisations (VDVO) presents the SRA model  1993: foundation of the umbrella organisation of ‘new housing initiatives’ (VOB)  1993: 9 SRAs & VOB get subsidies as ‘experiments’  VOB has to develop a workable model  1997: integration of ‘rent services’ in the Flemish housing law = SRAs become a housing institution  Since then: different regulations aiming at making SRA’s stronger/bigger  2007: assessment through the eyes of the landlords European Research Conference Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe York, 21st September 2012
  • 12. State of affairs (Flanders)Number of recognised SRAs 2003 2006 2009 subsidized 24 32 44Not subsidized 10 14 7 total 34 46 51 European Research Conference Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe York, 21st September 2012
  • 13. State of affairsNumber of dwellingsAverage number of dwellings per SRA rose from 54.8 in 1999, over 77 in 2006 to 96.3in 2009 – largest: +500 dwellings 2004 2006 2009 subsidized 2,385 2,905 4,600Not subsidized 407 638 313 total 2,792 3,543 4,913 European Research Conference Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe York, 21st September 2012
  • 14. State of affairsNumber of applications New Total number of Candidates/ applications candidates dwelling 2006 6,739 11,100 3.1 2007 7,608 12,795 3.3 2008 7,164 13,718 3.1 2009 9,425 13,332 2.7 End 2011 -23,635 households on waiting list -5,750 dwellings New applications in 2011: 10,910 European Research Conference Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe York, 21st September 2012
  • 15. State of affairs Work situation new tenants, 2009, %  unemployed 17.6  subsistence income 34.3  part-time job 0.7  disability/illness 10  work 19.4  pension 3.2  other 5  no info 9.3 European Research Conference Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe York, 21st September 2012
  • 16. State of affairs 33% were homeless at the moment of allocation  Homeless= living in a caravan, uninhabitable dwelling, living on the street, living in a service for homeless persons European Research Conference Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe York, 21st September 2012
  • 17. Allocation Allocation  Flemish regulation for all social rental dwellings, but differentiated, so SRAs can and do use a point system in order to fit with housing need (e.g. living on the street=higher score than someone living in an institution)  local municipalities can develop a local allocation system that refines the Flemish one, but they hardly do (avoid the risk)  there was the possibility to work besides this regulation in order to house very difficult ‘housable’ persons in a co- operation with welfare work European Research Conference Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe York, 21st September 2012
  • 18. Recognition/basis Recognition  political support in policy notes of political parties & policy notes of ministers and aldermen  support from the representatives of landlords  high satisfaction on landlords working with SRAs  But: difficult to enter the ‘crowded’ housing field European Research Conference Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe York, 21st September 2012
  • 19. Further reading De Decker, P. (2002): On the rise of social rental agencies in Belgium, in: Urban Studies, vol. 39, nr. 2, p. 297-326. De Decker, P. (2009): Social rental agencies : still a splendid idea?, in: European Journal of Homelessness, vol 3, December, p. 217-232. Feantsa Office (2012): Social rental agencies: an innovative housing-led response to homelessness, Feantsa, Brussels. European Research Conference Access to Housing for Homeless People in Europe York, 21st September 2012