Every year in Flanders, thousands of households lose their homes. This applies to tenants who are no longer able to pay the rent. They are looking for accommodation elsewhere or on the street.
The Association of Flemish Cities and Municipalities (VVSG) has published the annual figures for evictions. The conclusions from the data collected from all local social services (OCMW) are striking.
Nathalie De Bast of VVSG is worried: “220 families a week are told that they will lose their homes and the figure has actually remained stable for years. There is no structural improvement, the figure remains around 12,000 households per year.”
What happens with them?
If landlords are confronted with someone who no longer pays the rent, they can go to the justice of the peace. They will contact the social services to seek a solution through mediation. This gives the OCMWs an idea of the number of evictions.
When the landlord goes to the justice of the peace, he contacts the OCMW and asks it to mediate. Sometimes a repayment plan is set up or guidance to recover financially is also provided. But in practice this usually proves to be unsuccessful. The conflict between tenant and landlord is already too high by then. Moreover, some of them leave the rented house even before the mediation takes shape. They are afraid of legal costs that could push them even further into debt.
After the eviction, they either end up with family or friends in an unenviable position of dependency. Others end up at the homeless shelter or literally on the street.
What do these figures tell us?
Poverty is a problem in Flanders and few structural measures are taken. The VVSG, poverty organisations and researchers have been complaining about this for years. From time to time the government makes promises (like to halve child poverty by 2020), but the implementation of the plan is still waiting.
The figures do not lie: the Chance Poverty Index of Kind en Gezin indicates 13.76% of children in the Flemish Region between 0 and 3 years grew up in poverty in 2017? It is an increase of 0.94% higher than in 2016.