Journal of Housing and the Built Environment

, Volume 31, Issue 3, pp 495–512 | Cite as

Housing quality as environmental inequality: the case of Wallonia, Belgium

  • Zoé Lejeune
  • Guillaume Xhignesse
  • Marko Kryvobokov
  • Jacques Teller


First in the USA and then in many other countries, scholarship on environmental inequality has sought to shed light on the unequal environmental conditions borne by poor people and ethnic minorities, and to challenge public policies and their unjust impacts on those target groups. Housing quality, especially the indoor characteristics of homes, offers an innovative perspective in this field of research. In previous research on environmental inequality in the Walloon context, housing quality has been proven to be a major determinant of quality of life and environmental well-being. This paper analyses housing quality through a twofold approach: indoor characteristics on the one hand, and outdoor subjective and objective externalities on the other. It reveals the disparities between the most deprived and the wealthiest segments of the population. The evidence for this study is based on a housing quality survey carried out in 2012 and 2013 on 6018 households in Wallonia (Belgium). The key findings are that poor people are found to live in housing of lower quality, in densely populated neighbourhoods and those with mixed use, with compensating amenities provided at the local level. Moreover, consistent with environmental inequality scholarship, deprived households are found to bear the burden of environmental degradation outside the home. People live in areas with poorer air quality, but are found to benefit from greater access to green spaces. The results of the survey reveal an interesting point concerning the environmental inequality literature; the interior features of housing are found to differ more widely between deprived and wealthier people than the surrounding environment does.


Environmental inequality Housing conditions Spatial discrepancies Wallonia, Belgium 


  1. Adamkiewicz, G., Zota, A. R., Fabian, M. P., Chahine, T., Julien, R., Spengler, J. D., & Levy, J. I. (2011). Moving environmental justice indoors: Understanding structural influences on residential exposure patterns in low-income communities. American Journal of Public Health, 101(S1), S238–S245.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  2. Agyeman, J. (2002). Constructing environmental (In)justice: Transatlantic tales. Environmental Politics, 11(3), 31–53.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  3. Barbosa, O., Tratalos, J. A., Armsworth, P. R., Davies, R. G., Fuller, R. A., Johnson, P., & Gaston, K. J. (2007). Who benefits from access to green space? A case study from Sheffield, UK. Landscape and Urban Planning, 83(2–3), 187–195.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  4. Been, V. (1995). Analyzing evidence of environmental justice. Journal of Land Use and Environmental Law, 11(1), 1–28.Google Scholar
  5. Bocquier, A., Cortaredona, S., Boutin, C., David, A., Bigot, A., Chaix, B., et al. (2013). Small-area analysis of social inequalities in residential exposure to road traffic noise in Marseilles, France. The European Journal of Public Health, 23(4), 540–546.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  6. Boniver, V., Castiau, E., Chevau, T., Cremasco, V., Harou, R., & Picart, L. (2009). Expertise Politique de la ville—Annexes au rapport final Subvention 2008–2009. Namur: Conférence Permanente du Développement Territorial.Google Scholar
  7. Bowen, W. (2002). Forum/An analytical review of environmental justice research: What do we really know? Environmental Management, 29(1), 3–15.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  8. Bowen, W. M., & Wells, M. V. (2002). The politics and reality of environmental justice: A history and considerations for public administrators and policy makers. Public Administration Review, 62(6), 688–698.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  9. Braubach, M., & Fairburn, J. (2010). Social inequities in environmental risks associated with housing and residential location—a review of evidence. European Journal of Public Health, 20(1), 36–42.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  10. Bullard, R. (2000). Dumping in dixie: Race, class, and environmental quality. London: Westview Press Boulder, CO.Google Scholar
  11. Bullard, R., & Johnson, G. (2000). Environmental justice: Grassroots activism and its impact on public policy decision making. Journal of Social Issues, 56, 555–578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  12. Cailly, L. (2007). Capital spatial, stratégies résidentielles et processus d’individualisation. Presented at the Annales de géographie (pp. 169–187). Armand Colin: Paris.Google Scholar
  13. Chaumel, M., & La Branche, S. (2008). Inégalités écologiques: Vers quelle définition? Espace populations sociétés, 1, 101–110.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  14. Corburn, J. (2005). Street science: Community knowledge and environmental health justice. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  15. Cornet, Y., Daxhelet, D., Halleux, J. M., Klinkenberg, A. C., & Lambotte, J. M. (2005). Cartographie de l’accessibilité par les alternatives à la voiture. In F. Witlox & V. Van Acker (Eds.), Les Journées géographiques belges. Mobilité, société et environnement en cartes (pp. 355–364). Zelzate: DCL Print & Sign.Google Scholar
  16. Cornut, P., Bauler, T., & Zaccai, E. (2007). Environnement et inégalités sociales. Bruxelles: Editions de l’Université de Bruxelles.Google Scholar
  17. De Decker, P. (2008). Facets of housing and housing policies in Belgium. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, 23(3), 155–171.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  18. De Decker, P., & Dewilde, C. (2010). Home-ownership and asset-based welfare: The case of Belgium. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, 25(2), 243–262.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  19. Dietz, R., & Haurin, D. (2003). The social and private micro-level consequences of homeownership. Journal of Urban Economics, 54(3), 401–450.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  20. Dozzi, J., Lennert, M., & Wallenborn, G. (2008). Inégalités écologiques : Analyse spatiale des impacts générés et subis par les ménages belges. Espace, Populations, Sociétés, 1, 127–143.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  21. Dubois, O. (2005). Le rôle des politiques publiques dans l’éclatement urbain: l’exemple de la Belgique. Développement durable et territoires. Dossier 4, [en ligne]:
  22. Dujardin, S., Marique, A.-F., & Teller, J. (2014). Spatial planning as a driver of change in mobility and residential energy consumption. Energy and Buildings, 68, 779–785.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  23. Emelianoff, C. (2006). Connaître ou reconnaître les inégalités environnementales? Travaux et Documents ESO, 25, 35–43.Google Scholar
  24. Engelhardt, G. V., Eriksen, M. D., Gale, W. G., & Mills, G. B. (2010). What are the social benefits of homeownership? Experimental evidence for low-income households. Journal of Urban Economics, 67(3), 249–258.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  25. Eurostat. (2013). Distribution of population by tenure status. Source: EU SILC. Online:
  26. Faburel, G. (2012). The environment as a factor of spatial injustice: A new challenge for the sustainable development of European Regions? In C. Ghenai (Ed.), Sustainable development handbookpolicy and urban developmenttourism, life science, management and environment (pp. 431–478). Intech Online Ed. Elsevier.Google Scholar
  27. Fairburn, J., Butler, B., & Smith, G. (2009). Environmental justice in South Yorkshire: Locating social deprivation and poor environments using multiple indicators. Local Environment, 14(2), 139–154.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  28. Galster, G. C. (1983). Empirical evidence on cross-tenure differences in home maintenance and conditions. Land Economics, 59(1), 107–113.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  29. Gatzlaff, D. H., Green, R. K., & Ling, D. C. (1998). Cross-tenure differences in home maintenance and appreciation. Land Economics, 74(3), 328–342.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  30. Gen, S., Shafer, H., & Nakagawa, M. (2012). Perceptions of environmental justice: The case of a US urban wastewater system. Sustainable Development, 20(4), 239–250.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  31. Gueymard, S. (2004). Le rôle des espaces verts dans les arbitrages résidentiels des ménages. Une étude exploratoire menée dans trois communes du Val-de-Marne. Crétei, IUP Université Paris-12Val-de-Marne.Google Scholar
  32. Guio, A.-C., & Mahy, C. (2013). Regards sur la pauvreté et les inégalités en Wallonie. Working Paper de l’IWEPS, n°16.Google Scholar
  33. Halleux, J.-M., & De Keersmaecker, M.-L. (2002). Les coûts de la désurbanisation: pour qui, comment, pourquoi? (pp. 123–128). Wallonie, Namur: Les coûts de la désurbanisation, Etudes et Documents CPDT.Google Scholar
  34. Holifield, R. (2004). Neoliberalism and environmental justice in the United States environmental protection agency: Translating policy into managerial practice in hazardous waste remediation. Geoforum, 35(3), 285–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  35. Holifield, R. (2012). The elusive environmental justice area: Three waves of policy in the US environmental protection agency. Environmental Justice, 5(6), 293–297.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  36. Index of ambient air quality (sources: FPMs, AwAC, ISSeP: 2012–2014; published on by the IWEPS).
  37. IWEPS. (2007). Rapport sur la cohésion sociale en Région wallonne: Volet Statistique. Namur: IWEPS.Google Scholar
  38. Jurion, B. (2005). Le financement des communes centres: Éclairages de la théorie économique et problèmes fiscaux. Bulletin de Documentation, Service Public Fédéral Finances.Google Scholar
  39. Keller-Olaman, S. J., Eyles, J. D., Elliott, S. J., Wilson, K., Dostrovsky, N., & Jerrett, M. (2005). Individual and neighborhood characteristics associated with environmental exposure: Exploring relationships at home and work in a Canadian City. Environment and Behavior, 37(4), 441–464.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  40. Kohlhuber, M., Mielck, A., Weiland, S. K., & Bolte, G. (2006). Social inequality in perceived environmental exposures in relation to housing conditions in Germany. Environmental Research, 101(2), 246–255.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  41. Krieg, E. J., & Faber, D. R. (2004). Not so black and white: Environmental justice and cumulative impact assessments. Environmental Impact Assessment Review, 24(7–8), 667–694.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  42. Kurtz, H. E. (2003). Scale frames and counter-scale frames: Constructing the problem of environmental injustice. Political Geography, 22(8), 887–916.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  43. Lejeune, Z., Chevau, T., & Teller, J. (2012). La qualité du logement comme variable environnementale: l’exemple de la région urbaine de Liège (Wallonie). Flux Cahiers scientifiques internationaux Réseaux et Territoires, 89–90, 30–45.Google Scholar
  44. Lin, B. B., Fuller, R. A., Bush, R., Gaston, K. J., & Shanahan, D. F. (2014). Opportunity or orientation? Who uses urban parks and why. PLoS One, 9(1), e87422.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  45. Loopmans, M. P., De Decker, P., & Kesteloot, C. (2010). Social mix and passive revolution. A neo-gramscian analysis of the social mix rhetoric in Flanders, Belgium. Housing Studies, 25(2), 181–200.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  46. Maantay, J. (2002). Mapping environmental injustices: Pitfalls and potential of geographic information systems in assessing environmental health and equity. Environmental Health Perspectives, 110(2), 161.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  47. Mohai, P., & Bryant, B. (1992). Environmental injustice: Weighing race and class as factors in the distribution of environmental hazards. University of Colorado Law Review, 63, 921–932.Google Scholar
  48. Morello-Frosch, R., Pastor, M., & Sadd, J. (2001). Environmental justice and Southern California’s “riskscape” the distribution of air toxics exposures and health risks among diverse communities. Urban Affairs Review, 36(4), 551–578.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  49. Novotny, P. (2000). Where we live, work, and play: the environmental justice movement and the struggle for a new environmentalism. London: Preager.Google Scholar
  50. OECD. (n.d.). What are equivalence scales? OECD.
  51. O’Neill, M. S., Jerrett, M., Kawachi, I., Levy, J. I., Cohen, A. J., Gouveia, N., et al. (2003). Health, wealth, and air pollution: Advancing theory and methods. Environmental Health Perspectives, 111(16), 1861–1870.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  52. Pearce, J. R., Richardson, E. A., Mitchell, R. J., & Shortt, N. K. (2010). Environmental justice and health: The implications of the socio-spatial distribution of multiple environmental deprivation for health inequalities in the United Kingdom. Transactions—Institute of British Geographers, 35, 522–539.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  53. Pellow, D. N. (2000). Environmental inequality formation: Toward a theory of environmental injustice. American Behavioral Scientist, 43(4), 581–601.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  54. Pellow, D. N., Weinberg, A., & Schnaiberg, A. (2001). The environmental justice movement: Equitable allocation of the costs and benefits of environmental management outcomes. Social Justice Research, 14(4), 423–439.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  55. Pulido, L. (2000). Rethinking environmental racism: White privilege and urban development in Southern California. Annals of the Association of American Geographers, 90(1), 12–40.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  56. Riedel, N., Scheiner, J., Müller, G., & Köckler, H. (2014). Assessing the relationship between objective and subjective indicators of residential exposure to road traffic noise in the context of environmental justice. Journal of Environmental Planning and Management, 57(9), 1398–1421.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  57. Schlosberg, D. (2004). Reconceiving environmental justice: Global movements and political theories. Environmental Politics, 13(3), 517–540.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  58. Schlosberg, D. (2007). Defining environmental justice: Theories, movements, and nature. New York: Oxford University Press.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  59. Schuermans, N., Meeus, B., & De Decker, P. (2014). Geographies of whiteness and wealth: White, middle class discourses on segregation and social mix in Flanders, Belgium. Journal of Urban Affairs, 1–18. doi: 10.1111/juaf.12155.
  60. Sister, C., Wolch, J., & Wilson, J. (2010). Got green? Addressing environmental justice in park provision. GeoJournal, 75(3), 229–248.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  61. Sze, J. (2006). Noxious New York: The racial politics of urban health and environmental justice. Urban and industrial environments. Cambridge: The MIT Press.Google Scholar
  62. Taylor, D. E. (2000). The rise of the environmental justice paradigm injustice framing and the social construction of environmental discourses. American Behavioral Scientist, 43(4), 508–580.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  63. Taylor, D. E. (2011). Introduction: The evolution of environmental justice activism, research, and scholarship. Environmental Practice, 13(4), 280–301.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  64. Teller, J. (2010). Développement de l’entre-soi communautaire dans les espaces résidentiels périurbains. Déviance et société, 33(4), 547–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  65. United Church Of Christ Commission for Racial Justice. (1987). Toxic wastes and race in the United States: A national report on the racial and socio-economic characteristics of communities with hazardous waste sites. New York: Public Data Access.Google Scholar
  66. Van Dam, R., Geurts, V., & Pannecoucke, I. (2003). Housing tenure, housing costs and poverty in Flanders (Belgium). Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, 18(1), 1–23.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  67. Van Hecke, E., & Savenberg, S. (2002). Suburbanisation et développement durable. Espace, populations, sociétés, 20(1–2), 25–36.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  68. Vandermotten, C., Marissal, P., Van Hamme, G., Kesteloot, C., Slegers, K., Vandenbroucke, A., et al. (2006). Analyse dynamique des quartiers en difficulté dans les régions urbaines belges. Bruxelles: Politique des grandes villes.Google Scholar
  69. Vanneste, D., Thomas, I., & Vanderstraeten, L. (2008). The spatial structure(s) of the Belgian housing stock. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, 23(3), 173–198.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  70. Walker, G. (2009). Beyond distribution and proximity: Exploring the multiple spatialities of environmental justice. Antipode, 41(4), 614–636.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  71. Walker, G. (2012). Environmental justice: Concepts, evidence and politics. London: Routledge.Google Scholar
  72. Wenz, P. S. (1988). Environmental justice. NewYork: SUNY Press.Google Scholar
  73. Wiesel, I. (2014). Mobilities of disadvantage: The housing pathways of low-income Australians. Urban Studies, 51(2), 319–334.CrossRefGoogle Scholar
  74. Winters, S., & Heylen, K. (2014). How housing outcomes vary between the Belgian regions. Journal of Housing and the Built Environment, 29(3), 541–556.CrossRefGoogle Scholar

Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media Dordrecht 2015

Authors and Affiliations

  • Zoé Lejeune
    • 1
  • Guillaume Xhignesse
    • 2
  • Marko Kryvobokov
    • 3
  • Jacques Teller
    • 4
  1. 1.Political Science - University of LiègeLiègeBelgium
  2. 2.HEC Management School – University of LiègeLiègeBelgium
  3. 3.Centre for Sustainable Housing Studies (CEHD)CharleroiBelgium
  4. 4.University of Liège, LEMA-ArGenCoLiègeBelgium

Personalised recommendations