Demand for affordable housing is extremely high, and Centr’Habitat is working hard to support socially less well-situated people. “As a public institution, we provide living space in three municipalities in Wallonia in close cooperation with public authorities. We currently manage 5,600 housing units of various sizes, but this number is not enough, as we have inquiries from 2,200 potential tenants who are desperately looking for a new home. Unfortunately we have to turn down most of them due to a shortage of housing,” points out Deputy Manager Sergio Spoto.
The institution’s most essential activities are managing, maintaining and renting housing units. “The repair and renovation of old flats and houses as well as new construction projects and the creation of additional space are key. We fulfil a social task and support our tenants in all kind of matters,” explains Mr. Spoto. “When it comes to the aspect of renovation, saving energy and insulation feature high on our agenda. Most important for us is the best possible service for our tenants to ease their hard lives.”
We are always looking into new ways of finding adequate housing for people in need. Sergio SpotoDeputy Manager
While in the past Centr’Habitat could rely on financial support from local authorities, it has had to manage its activities on its own in the past four years. “This really is a bitter development for us, as we have not been able to build desperately needed living space. The number of people who rely on our support has risen sharply. In former years we were approached by unemployed people, but now pensioners and single households also face immense difficulties in finding affordable housing. As demand far exceeds supply, we have waiting lists and offer housing based on a ranking system,” says Mr. Spoto. “Every applicant has to wait an average of two and a half years to find a new home here in Wallonia.”
In Belgium, rents are based on the tenants’ income, and tenants have to meet certain regulatory conditions. “The flats and houses are awarded on a first-come-first-served basis, but waiting lists are becoming longer and longer all the time,” stresses Mr. Spoto. “The whole situation is not ideal, but we are working hard to make the best of it. Any budget surplus is used to maintain existing housing and to help finance new homes.”
Centr’Habitat is looking for new solutions to earn profits for future reinvestment. “We are also thinking of selling land to real estate developers and to forge new cooperations, if they are willing to invest in new housing projects. We have lots of ideas. The local authorities have no money, so we have to rely on our initiatives to give the socially deprived a home and a real future.”