Social housing providers see increase in missed rental payments after years of decline
Tenants of social housing corporations have been falling behind on their rental payments more often since the beginning of this year. This is the situation for about 40 percent of the hosing firms, said Aedes. The association represents the interests of social housing organizations, and conducts an annual survey of it 250 members. Half of the housing associations said that more tenants are asking for tailor-made solutions to pay their rent, such as payment arrangements.
This threatens to reverse a long-term trend of a reduction of rent arrears and evictions. Just last year, the total amount of money in rent arrears fell to 205 million euros from 226 million euros a year earlier. About 113,000 tenants were in rent arrears compared to the end of 2020, when over 150,000 tenants who were in arrears.
Last year, 1,400 tenants were evicted, a figure which fell by more than half since 2018, when 3,000 households were evicted per year. In almost 60 percent of the cases, rent arrears was the cause of eviction. A housing association can also evict tenants for other reasons, including creating a nuisance, drug possession, drug trafficking, and illegal subletting.
Aedes and the organization's members said they are concerned about the increase in the first months of this year, even if it can be explained by the worsening economic conditions, especially high inflation. They are also afraid that the increase will continue in the second half of the year, and they are already planning for that specific scenario to happen.
Some of the housing associations said they have already developed new policies this year to combat payment problems, and others are planning to do so. For example, the corporations will offer the services of budget coaches, and they can also temporarily stop direct debits.
In addition, housing associations will continue to focus on preventing rent arrears by contacting tenants quickly as they show signs of falling behind. Agreements have also been made to limit annual rent increases, and to even offer a one-time rent reduction for households with the lowest income levels. Aedes did state that the development of income and pricing have a greater influence on rent arrears than the increase of rental prices. The Cabinet has a "great responsibility" with regard to policy in this regard, according to Aedes.
Tenant association Woonbond also stated that it is concerned about the increasing cases of rent arrears. The director of Woonbond, Zeno Winkels, denounced Housing Minister Hugo de Jonge's plans to overhaul the housing benefits system. "It is a very bad idea to cut tenants' rent allowance, while rent arrears figures are rising again, and people are seeing their fixed costs rise sharply," Winkels said.
Reporting by ANP