Flanders reintroduces possibility of preferential sales of suburban housing

The Flemish parliament has approved a new variant of the "Wonen in eigen streek" ("Living in your own region") decree that had been partially annulled in 2013 by the Constitutional Court following appeals by francophone parties. The new law allows municipalities with high property prices to reserve land or homes for people with a connection to the area.

Under the decree, certain local authorities will be able to intervene in the housing market. According to the Flemish government, the new scheme should be sufficiently robust in legal terms.

Opposition parties Vlaams Belang (far right) and Vooruit (social democrats) voted with the majority on Wednesday, while Groen abstained and the far-left PVDA voted against.

'Barrier against social evictions'

The aim, according to Flemish minister for the Periphery Ben Weyts and Housing minister Matthias Diependaele (both N-VA), is to "erect a barrier against social evictions" in expensive municipalities where people who were born and raised there find it difficult to buy their own homes. They say this is an "urgent and real problem" that occurs particularly in the Flemish periphery of Brussels.

Only the most expensive Flemish municipalities and a few towns will be allowed to adopt the priority policy. According to Diependaele, some 90 municipalities would be eligible for the scheme, which only applies to new subdivisions or total renovations comprising at least five residential units.

Income threshold

Buyers must meet three conditions to be eligible: they must have been registered in the municipality concerned or in a neighbouring Flemish municipality for at least five consecutive years within the last 10 years; they must not own any other property, and they must have a salary below a threshold still to be determined. Diependaele ​ mentioned a ceiling of 45,000 euros for a single person and 70,000 euros for a couple.

If a property has been for sale for more than nine months, the criteria will lapse, and the property will become generally available again. People who buy a house through the system must occupy it for the first 20 years. Buyers who pass on their land or home acquired through the scheme will have to repay the financial intervention to the local authorities.

Weyts has predicted legal challenges to the decree from francophone parties.


#FlandersNewsService | Flemish minister of Housing Matthias Diependaele (left) and minister of the Periphery Ben Weyts (right) © BELGA PHOTO ERIC LALMAND

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