Looking after tenants

By Audrey SomnardLex Kleren Switch to French for original article

Moving into a new home takes some getting used to. When you've had a bumpy ride and come from a different culture, it can be even more difficult. At the Agence immobilière sociale, a housing coach visits tenants to give them tips and tricks on how to make the most of their home. It's an activity that has only been running for a few months, but it's already bearing fruit.

It's 10am and coach Frederik Noel is already at the front door to meet Mohammad Al Dahi and his interpreter. The Syrian arrived in Luxembourg three years ago with his wife and three children. Until then, the small family had been living in the cramped conditions of a refugee centre. Thanks to the Agence immobilière sociale (AIS), they found a beautiful three-bedroom house in Capellen, for a rent of 900 euros. A three-year lease has been signed. We're a long way from private market prices, and the family know they're very lucky after years of hardship, and this move is a breath of fresh air. According to figures from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development (OECD) on affordable housing, the Grand Duchy has 6% of rented accommodation at subsidised or reduced rent, compared with only 7% in Germany, 9% in Belgium and 18% in France.

As a result, a number of alternatives have emerged, most notably the AIS, which has been offering private homes for rent for up to five years for the past 15 years. The principle is simple: the owner undertakes to make his home available at a rent below the private market price, but in turn receives tax benefits that allow a large proportion of the rent to be deducted from his income tax. For its part, the AIS takes care of everything – the tenant, the upkeep of the house, any repairs – and the owner has nothing to do. The concept is well known in Luxembourg, and it is often families who call on the AIS, for example an elderly person who has moved into a retirement home and has no idea what to do with their home. Or a house awaiting the return of a child who is currently studying and will take possession of the premises in a few years' time. The beneficiaries of these homes have often had a difficult life. Single-parent families, social problems, refugee families, people who could not find housing in the private sector. Because it's too expensive, or because they don't have the right profile for landlords.

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