Housing crisis: The alternatives

igloo3In 2014 we celebrate, in Belgium, 125 years of public housing and 20 years since the right to adequate housing was incorporated into the constitution, yet for many this has remained a mirage. In a climate where it is increasingly hard to find suitable housing, and where space, in any case in big cities, is decreasing alarmingly, Géraldine Vessière explores the alternatives to traditional ways of buying or renting a property.
A series written by Géraldine Vessière and published in Le Soir, January 23rd 2014. All the articles are in French.

Housing crisis: The current situation
More and more people are having difficulty finding housing. The State cannot cope with the demands of social housing. The middle class is also affected. The consequence: individuals and organisations are redoubling their inventiveness to try and tackle the problem. Ideas vary from yurts to squatting, as well as other different forms of communal housing.

Savings and solidarity: Some advantages of group settlement
Unity creates strength. And that goes the same for housing. Pooling a portion of your resources allows you to buy better quality goods but it also revives our social fabric.

Squatting, an official solution to the lack of housing?
‘Squatting’ and contracts for temporary occupation can sometimes alleviate the shortage of housing. In Brussels, this possibility is even beginning to be incorporated into law.

Unoccupied buildings: Beware of sanctions
In Brussels there are between 15,000 and 30,000 private, unoccupied properties, at least 1 million m² of vacant offices, that’s 8% of office space in the capital. There are numerous idle spaces above shops and between 2500 and 3000 unused social houses because they are unsanitary or don’t meet the rules of the Housing Code.

Property Guardianship: A short term but criticised solution – work for free, rent for less
Originating from the Netherlands, Property Guardian has grown in Belgium over the last decade. The idea is to rent properties for lower than the market price on a temporary basis, they are unoccupied buildings, apartments and houses but also less common lodgings such as chapels and castles.

Partly self-financed social housing
Dismemberment of ownership, that is to say separate the building from the land that it occupies, as well as limit the property speculation, allow housing to be more financially accessible. The concept is starting to gain ground in Belgium notably thanks to the work of a small number of people, brought together at the heart of the not for profit organisation CLT Bruxelles (Community Land Trust Brussels).

Maison de La Baraque - photo de Anaïs Angeras

Maison de La Baraque – photo de Anaïs Angeras

The Brussels municipality of Etterbeek is dividing its properties
CLT Brussels isn’t alone in separating land from buildings. For several years the municipality of Etterbeek has resorted to using surface rights to decrease the sales price of some of its housing.

Senior citizen seeks student to rent out to
Co-habitation between different generations is a simple solution to different, yet compatible needs. The not for profit organisation 1toit2âges (one roof two generations) has developed this solution in several Belgian towns. At first it was reserved for students and the elderly, yet it is slowly opening up to families.

When a hut is a castle
In the borrough of Louvain-La-Neuve, less conventional housing is starting to appear. Illegal for the last 40 years, the hut district is still an integral part of the landscape

Simple housing, legal conundrum
Yurts, caravans and huts are more and more popular in Belgium, as well as all over Europe. However, there is difficulty in placing them within the law.

Living in containers
Recycling shipping containers into accommodation is one found solution to construct, at little expense, homes for students or people in precarious situations. The town of Jambes, situated in Belgium, decided to decorate some garage roofs of these unusual dwellings.

House share, not only for students
Living together, sharing a kitchen and sanitary facilities, is no longer only for students. Other areas of the population are starting to do house shares.

Life annuity
Often involving a gamble, life annuity is sometimes viewed with suspicion. This legal structure can however help some people to acquire a property.

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