Flemish wooncode to stay

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The Constitutional Court has rejected a petition by the Francophone community to overturn the Flemish wooncode.

11 July 2008

BELGIUM - The Constitutional Court has rejected a petition by the Francophone community to overturn the Flemish wooncode (housing code).

In the wooncode, speaking or agreeing to learn Flemish has become a condition to access social housing in Flanders.

The linguistic requirements in the wooncode were included by the Flemish Parliament in 2006. The reason was that a growing number of new renters did not have a basic knowledge of Dutch, giving rise to communication problems with other renters and the housing services.

Francophone parties saw the linguistic demands more as a measure to needle the Francophones. The Francophone communal government argued that the code was discriminatory because candidate social housing renters were required to learn Dutch.

The issue was taken to the Constitutional Court where the court rejected the petition of the Francophone community.

The court did however uphold an earlier ruling that the language requirements do not apply to the municipalities with linguistic facilities. These are the six municipalities around Brussels (which is an enclave in Flanders) and all the other municipalities with facilities along the linguistic border.

The Human Rights League and the Flemish Tenants" Consultative body had also requested the overturning of parts of the wooncode, including the linguistic requirements but was overruled by the court.

The two associations criticised the two-year trial period for candidate renters. The judge has upheld the trial period, but at the end of the period renters may not be evicted from their residence, even if it turns out that they do not satisfy the criteria. A justice of peace may be brought in to judge whether this is effectively the case.

The wooncode will have to be changed on this point; and on the exception of the municipalities with linguistic facilities to the requirement of learning Dutch.

Flemish Housing Minister Marino Keulen says he is pleased with the new changes to the wooncode and that the wooncode have withstood the test of scrutiny by the Constitutional Court.

[flandersnews.be / Expatica]

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