New measures to improve rental housing market

Summary

The first step towards improving the supply of affordable rental properties in Flanders is a new fund that will allow renters to pay their deposits in instalments

Proposal to shift tax break from second home to rentals

Flanders’ housing minister Freya Van den Bossche has announced new measures aimed at helping renters find affordable accommodation. Based on the first results of the Groot Woononderzoek, or Housing Survey, the government, said Van den Bossche, has to do more to assist people in the rental sector. As a first step, a new regulation from 1 July will allow low-income families to pay off the two-month deposit in instalments.

Two-thirds of those questioned in the 2013 Housing Survey said that they had difficulties when it came to paying the deposit. “People have to pay two months’ rent on top of the first month,” said Van den Bossche. “For many, that’s too much all at once.”

The new regulation establishes a central deposit fund, which will accept renters’ deposits in instalments and pay landlords if the property is damaged in the meantime.

The survey also showed that rents have risen in Flanders in recent years, from an average of €512 per month in 2005 (at the time of the last Housing Survey) to €581 in 2013. The number of families that experience difficulties paying the monthly rent has gone up from 9.7% in 2005 to 11.3% in 2013.

Van den Bossche is also looking at new ways to improve the supply of rental housing now that housing policy has been devolved to the regions. One proposal is to introduce a tax incentive for landlords who rent out decent accommodation at an affordable rate.

According to the survey, landlords in Flanders are increasingly elderly, with one-third over the age of 65, compared with one-quarter in 2005, while 83% said that they did not intend to invest in their properties. Van den Bossche wants to encourage people to rent out properties by shifting the tax break from second homes to places that are rented.

There are also problems in the rental market based on attitudes that are more difficult to tackle, such as landlords’ attitudes to foreigners, with 27% stating in the survey that they would not rent their property to a foreigner, while a further 21% said it was “not ideal, but they would do it”.