Agora Brussels works to translate the objectives of the Citizens' Assemblies into a legal framework. Member of Parliament, Pepijn Kennis, examines the pros and cons of the draft ordinance on amendments to the Brussels Housing Code. Are these changes in line with the demands and objectives of the citizens' resolution on housing? How could things be better?
The project of ordinance
In this project, the Brussels Government proposes to make some changes to the Housing Code. This is the collection of rules that apply to housing within the Brussels Region. The Government proposes four changes in this ordinance project:
1. To facilitate the purchase of private housing to turn it into social housing.
2. To make renovations easier by granting loans to owners through the Housing Fund.
3. Strengthening the Regional Land Alliance by better framing Community Land Trust.
4. Increase the number of people who can rent at a social rental rate through the socialization of public housing.
Let's take a critical look at how these four changes support the Brussels citizens based on the objectives defined in the Citizens' Housing Resolution.
The representative of the Brussels Citizens' Assembly in the Brussels Parliament, Pepijn Kennis, states that this ordinance generally meets the expectations of the Citizens' Assembly in terms of broadening the legal arsenal to ensure the right to housing for all, although there are also missed opportunities.
The SLRB: more social, but not social enough
The first chapter deals with the Brussels Regional Housing Companies, better known as the SLRB (regional social housing company). They are responsible for managing social housing in the Brussels Region. They allocate housing, calculate rents and support the social housing companies.
This chapter advocates a simplification of the procedures to be followed by the BGHM. Thanks to this change, the SLRB can now more easily purchase housing on the private market, which will provide more social housing.
Agora's MP notes that this ordinance will facilitate the purchase of property on the private market. We may wonder, however, if it is interesting to finance private promoters in this way, since the social housing companies could also build housing themselves. We are, of course, satisfied with the new social housing. It meets the objective of the Citizens' Housing Resolution which states that "the Brussels-Capital Region must play a specific role" in guaranteeing the right to housing.
The housing fund: don't forget the rent!
The second chapter of the ordinance treats on the Housing Fund and deals with speeding up the process of renovating buildings. A new credit loan is installed, which would make it easier for prospective renovators to apply for financial assistance to renovate their property.
According to Agora, these "green loans" do indeed allow owners of rental properties to carry out their renovations. While this is a good thing, we argue that it is also important to link this to the rental prices. After all, the Brussels Citizens' Assembly asks that it is important to meet the minimum requirements in terms of habitability and energy performance through renovations, but also that the housing should remain qualitative and affordable.
Owners who are committed to ensuring sustainable and affordable rents should have greater access to this financial support. To ensure that housing remains affordable in the long term, the Community Land Trust (CLT) formula can be a tool for urban development in the Brussels Region. This formula proposes a separation of the price of the land from the price of the building itself. It will ensure that housing remains affordable in the long term.
Land and brick separation - only for social housing?
The third chapter of this draft also deals with the Regional Land Alliances. Here the Brussels-Capital government wants to promote the existing CLT mechanism. This is in line with the objectives of the citizens' resolution, namely to combat speculation and to provide affordable housing. This objective pursues a broader legal arsenal for the right to housing.
Currently, however, this is only offered within social housing. We wonder if the same principle could not be applied to non-social projects in order to lower the price of housing throughout Brussels.