Geraardsbergen. Due to a combination of circumstances, the family with five children is evicted from their home by a bailiff. Stephanie and Johan are looking for an affordable home, but currently have no solution. They have put themselves on the waiting list of a social housing company for a rental home. They are on the 69ste Place. If all goes well, the ailing family will have to wait ‘only’ eight years. Meanwhile, Stephanie, Johan and the children threaten to sink into poverty.
For example, the Social Housing Company Denderstreek has 7,500 candidate tenants on their waiting list. ‘The housing shortage is great,’ says Tiffany Van Ransbeek of the Registration Service. ‘Certainly when you know that the average waiting time for Aalst, for example, is 8.5 years, and then only for those who already live in Aalst. It should therefore be clear that the message we have to deliver to many candidates every day is anything but rosy. Disastrous even in certain situations. Frustrating very often, not only for the candidates but also for us because we can’t help people.’ This leaves nothing to be desired in terms of clarity. Stephanie, Johan and the kids have to find a place to rent on the much more expensive private rental market.
There is an ‘immense’ shortage of affordable housing and apartments. The property of the Sociale HuisvestingsMaatschappij Denderstreek consists of 2300 houses and apartments that are inhabited. ‘And even though we are still building new projects – there are 312 new houses and apartments on our schedule – they are not enough to meet the high demand. The deadline to start up new projects is also getting longer due to regulations and protests. A problem that does not only arise in our region’, adds Tiffany Van Ransbeek.
If you put yourself on a list of the Sociale HuisvestingsMaatschappij Denderstreek for a rental property, a number of rules apply. The place on the waiting list depends on the date of registration. Waiters regularly call to find out how many places they have moved up, but in a number of cases they are told the unpleasant news that they have dropped places. This is due to the fact that absolute priority rules also apply. For example, people with disabilities and people over 65 are given absolute priority.
In addition, the local priority rules per municipality apply. For Geraardsbergen you must have been a resident of the municipality for at least three years for six years prior to the assignment. ‘The local rules, together with the rules of the Flemish government, therefore determine how quickly someone is allocated social housing. If the rules change, the candidate’s place on the waiting list will also change. And that is difficult to explain to people who have been waiting for years’, concludes Tiffany Van Ransbeek.
Sinking into poverty
Stephanie, Johan and the children had to leave the transitional home because they can stay there for a maximum of six months. The family can still go to the OCMW for a meal and a shower, but for a house they will have to turn to the private market in the coming years, where a house for such a family will become almost unaffordable. Add to that the derailed energy bills and the family is faced with an impossible task. After all, Stephanie, Johan and the children have to get by on one wage. Fortunately, they can turn to friends who have helped them move and house their household effects.
Don’t let the family languish before our eyes. If you have a concrete proposal, you can always contact Johan (0456/01 28 62) and Stephanie (0472/70 38 38).