Every month we introduce you to one of the people leading the work of our member organisations. In this edition, we took the train to nearby Antwerp to welcome the Director of our newest member, VVH, Björn Mallants to the Housing Europe family. Björn introduces the organisation, gives us information about the perception of housing in Flanders and shares some thoughts about the current challenges at national and regional level. Plus, as usual, he presents his own way to strike a good life-work balance.
- I would describe VVH in 10 words as the representative umbrella organisation of the Flemish social housing companies. Our members manage 99.5% of the social rental stock, about 150.000 dwellings.
- Our key objective is to facilitate the Flemish social housing companies- our members- in their daily activities, developing and providing affordable social housing of good quality for those who have difficulties on the private housing market. VVH is as an active members-based organisation, existing for and through their participation.
- Apart from housing provision, our mission is to create a platform for our members to share experiences. We also represent the social housing sector internally and externally, in media, towards the government and the parliament, the Flemish administration, lots of working committees on all kind of topics ranging from homelessness, welfare and health to spatial planning, housing quality norms, energy, funding etc. trying to change things this way in the interest of social housing.
- We joined Housing Europe because we believe that housing is -and will be more and more- also shaped at European level, through financial regulations, energy requirements etc. Also, as VVH believes a lot in sharing experiences between our members, we are also convinced that it is very interesting to do this with colleagues from other countries, too.
- Housing is considered to be in Flanders mainly 'the acquisition of one's own house'. We say that Flemish people are born with 'a brick in their stomach'. 70% of the market is owner-occupied. At the same moment, we have a small social housing market, 6%. The last couple of years policy is more focused on enlarging the social housing stock with a target to produce 50.000 new dwellings by 2025 as well as on refurbishment, as the demand is very high. The budget for social housing has increased substantially. Still, the main financial subsidies in Flanders are directed to ownership.
- Our key partners in the region are the VMSW, Wonen Vlaanderen, which are both Flemish administrative entities, the minister of Housing and her cabinet, the Flemish parliament, VHP and VIVAS, the representative body of Flemish - social and other - tenants, private building and real estate sector and academic researches on housing and poverty.
- Our main housing policy priority at the moment is increasing the social housing stock and bringing the existing stock to higher quality standards. At the same time, VVH tries very hard to stabilize the legislative framework for the social housing companies, so that they can focus on their main task.
- The major challenge for the region today is to try to get the economy up and running again while fighting against the rise of poverty, in which housing plays an important role.
- I start my working day reading three or four Flemish newspapers, as a general background of what's happening in Flanders, but also, of course, regarding our own sector. I try to look for interesting topics about (social) housing, poverty, to react with a tweet or an email. After reading more in detail developments in legislation or research we consider if a press release is needed.
- After leaving the office I cook for my wife and my daughter.
- Currently I am reading Purity by Jonathan Franzen,
- while listening to the new album of Bon Iver.
- I move around by car.
- I prefer having on my table a nice glass of red Italian wine.