For the first time, people buying private housing in several communities on the outskirts of Brussels may find their request refused if they can’t – or won’t – speak Dutch.
Officials say local builders have agreed to pass on details of potential buyers’ linguistic skills, an extension of the law which already applies to local authority housing.
One of those concerned, Marc Van Asch, the Mayor of Vilvoorde, said the aim is to preserve the Flemish character of the neighbourhood.
“We ask the building companies to supply information about the purchasers, so that we can contact them to find out if they are able to speak Dutch,” he added.
The districts of Vilvoorde, Overijse and Gooik are involved in this linguistic monitoring. Mayor Rudy Doomst explained why: “We come to an arrangement with the building companies, so we have an idea of where these people come from and where they live, so we know what their origins are. This way, we can encourage them to integrate.”
Using property to monitor and control residents’ ethnicity is not new in the area. In 2007, this land in Zaventem was put up for sale at a knock-down
price, provided the buyers could prove they spoke Dutch or were willing to learn.
“With this rule, we are trying to encourage people who come to live in Flanders to learn and become familiar with Dutch, because language is a factor in integration,” said Zaventem town councillor Eric Van Rompuy.
The battle lines between the majority French and minority Dutch speakers in Flemish territory remain clearly drawn.
Three French-speaking mayors, elected in 2006, have still not been officially invested. Their crime – to have transgressed the Flemish law forbidding the use of French in electoral campaigns.