Public land ownership as a lever for affordable housing in the Brussels region

Public land ownership as a lever for affordable housing in the Brussels region
Public land ownership as a lever for affordable housing in the Brussels region

About sixty civil society organizations with knowledge of housing problems in Brussels, united in the Brussels Association for the Right to Housing (BBRoW), call on all housing actors to build 100% public housing on public land.

“Instead of massively densifying these areas with private homes, we build public housing and community facilities and allow nature reserves to develop in the city,” the 2023 memorandum states. “The master plans for construction that have been or will be adopted by the Brussels government should focus on preserving public lands instead of playing into the hands of project developers.”

The housing crisis is acute in Brussels. Rents are rising and taking too big a bite out of families’ household budgets. More and more people are on the waiting list for social housing.

At the same time, building land is extremely scarce in Brussels. More than fifty public actors in the region still have a reserve of more than 1.2 million square meters of undeveloped land and vacant buildings for so-called soft functions such as housing. Examples from abroad show the importance of the joint use of public land for affordable housing.

Difficulty seeing prices

However, it is difficult to get a precise picture of the value of building land in Brussels. Publishing since 2014 Statbel, the Belgian statistical office, no more figures. “The reason for this is that a large part of the building plots actually sold are not correctly declared by the notaries to the Land Registry,” says spokesperson Wendy Schelfaut.

It is difficult to get a precise overview of the value of building land in Brussels, partly due to incorrect declarations by notaries

“The building plots sold are often assigned to a residual category of land that contains all kinds of things can be: agricultural land, industrial land, building land, and so on. This concerns more than 50% of all building plots. The result is that Statbel cannot identify the building plots actually sold in the database and therefore cannot create statistics about this.”

The FPS Finance does monitor real estate transactions for building plots, but only at the level of plots and not per square meter. “In addition, the Brussels region is a specific case: very few building plots are sold anyway and the price is dependent on what can be built on it (number of floors).”, say Paul De WaelCEO of real estate consultancy Stadim.

This is also stated in the annual reports of major residential project developers. “Consequently, developments usually involve the conversion of existing buildings for an alternative use, such as housing,” says Real estate, the largest listed real estate developer in Belgium. Immobel talks about stable land prices that run around 2,600 euros per square meter for the best locations. In other places, prices around 1,000 euros per square meter are common.

At the listed real estate developer Nextensawhich among other things Tour & Taxis developed, speaks CEO Michel Van Geyte about target prices that tend to be around 600 euros per square meter, with maximum prices of 2,200 euros per square meter in prime locations.

Real estate data platform Realo does not publish absolute figures for Brussels because the number of sources varies over time and is also limited. “We do have data on land in the Brussels Capital Region, including asking prices and surface area,” says Fabrice Luyckx, data analyst at Realo. “Very large project plots should normally not be included in this dataset, as they differ in size and pricing compared to other building plots.”

Realo has been keeping track of data on land for sale since 2014. That is since the year in which Statbel stopped publishing data on sales of building plots in Brussels.

The article is in Dutch

Tags: Public land ownership lever affordable housing Brussels region


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