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Belgium: new continuing measures against housing discrimination

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According to Unia (Federal Center for Equal Opportunities – Belgium’s independent public institution fighting discrimination): Despite being prohibited by law, discrimination is highly prevalent in the Belgian housing sector. Anti-discrimination checks will soon be carried out in the French-speaking Wallonia region to address this issue, as outlined in Unia’s 2022 report. Similar recent initiatives led by Unia have focused on advocating for comprehensive training for real estate agents and introducing “mystery checks” in 2024 to detect and punish instances of discrimination in residential rentals. I’m leaving it there.

For many years, efforts by the province of Flanders and the city of Brussels have aimed to expand protection against discrimination through the use of anti-discrimination tests. The Flemish region implemented an anti-discrimination test for the first time in 2020, when the Flemish parliament passed a resolution to combat discrimination in the real estate market. Furthermore, in May 2022, the Housing Committee of the Brussels Parliament approved a draft ordinance to combat housing discrimination, covering all aspects of the housing process and including specific protection measures for tenants with disabilities. .

In 2022, Unia received numerous reports of discrimination in housing, with 57% of housing-related cases in Wallonia related to income discrimination. To address this issue, the Wallonia government, led by Housing Minister Christophe Collignon, is currently finalizing a law on mystery shoppers, which is scheduled to start in 2024. These checks conducted by the government involve submitting fictitious housing applications by phone or email, each differing in one specific characteristic, such as: Evaluate visitation and rental refusals based on ethnic origin, disability, income, etc. and uncover discriminatory practices. Violators have a 30-day grace period to explain their case, and their cases may be referred to the public prosecutor’s office, and repeat offenders may be subject to administrative fines.

In parallel, UNIA emphasizes the urgency of implementing mandatory training programs to ensure that real estate agents and private owners understand and comply with anti-discrimination regulations. In collaboration with Wallonia Public Service, Fedelia (Belgium’s French-speaking federation of real estate agents) and the Institute for Gender Equality, we have developed a standard form to combat housing discrimination. Released on December 15, 2021, this tool allows real estate agents and landlords to select tenants without bias. This form addresses issues such as refusals based on factors such as social welfare payments, foreign origin, and disability, and establishes clear guidelines for fair tenant selection. Although currently optional, we provide a structured approach that respects privacy and minimizes the risk of discrimination.

The memorandum jointly submitted by Unia and its collaborators also highlights the following points: The need for local support for local governments fighting housing discriminationrecognizes the important role local governments play in addressing this issue.

Wallonia’s rental housing market is rife with ethnic discrimination that often affects third-country nationals, with applicants with Moroccan-sounding names receiving less property than those with Belgian-sounding names. Research has shown that people are 28% less likely to be invited to a preview. Sociologist Pieter-Paul Verhaeghe. The study, which conducted 1,109 matching tests in four Wallonia cities, found that private landlords (43%) were more discriminatory than real estate agents (20%). Mons and Namur showed the highest level of discrimination, reaching 64% and 39% respectively.

Discrimination also pervades a variety of other sectors, including education and employment, ranking second and third in the reported discrimination categories, and extends beyond Wallonia’s borders. A study conducted in Flanders found that while there was no discrimination at the initial selection stage, disparities emerged at later stages, including issues such as the denial of reasonable accommodation to students with disabilities. Prevalence of exclusion based on age and foreign origin in employment. This highlights the need for a comprehensive approach to tackling discrimination across all aspects of the recruitment and housing application process.

This joint effort, which combines training efforts, mystery checks, and a standardized approach to tenant selection, aims to address housing discrimination at its root. The organization of the 2024 Mystery Check represents an important step towards ensuring fair access to housing for all, complemented by a continued push for national adoption of a standard format. Masu.

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