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Couple campaign for law change to allow 'tiny houses'
A couple living in a tiny prefab house on land they own in Woluwe-Saint-Lambert have gathered 2,500 signatories on a petition after they were ordered to destroy their home by next month.
Maxime Bonaert and Sabine Daibes paid €30,000 to construct the 16m² split-level wood house - "a fraction of the cost of real estate in Brussels".
The couple said saving money was not their only motivation: "We wanted to have a reduced impact on the environment," said Bonaert. "We know that Brussels houses are polluting."
Unlike Wallonia, the Brussels region does not legally recognise such installations. Woluwe-Saint-Lambert's alderwoman for town planning, Delphine de Valkeneer, said the case of the tiny house had "dragged on" for more than a year.
She told RTBF: "The way the law currently stands, we cannot grant planning permission for something like this, nor can we approve it retroactively.
"Homes must comply with regional planning regulations, which set out a number of habitability standards in terms of surface area and ceiling height. The tiny house does not meet these standards."
The owners have until September to restore the land to its original state. They have gathered a 2,500-strong petition lobbying for the laws to be amended to allow for compact, affordable housing.
"It is true that we did not really wait for the legislation to catch up," said Bonaert. "We decided to go ahead and try to change the legislation along the way."
Brussels secretary of state for town planning, Pascal Smet, said a reform of regional planning regulations was under way and that the issue of compact housing "would be discussed over the coming months".
Nicolas Bernard, a professor of law and housing policy expert at UCLouvain Saint-Louis, told RTBF: "Brussels should catch up, in order to diversify housing solutions.
"We are living through a housing crisis and therefore we urgently need a wide range of solutions, including light housing."