July 22, 2024

Taylor Daily Press

Complete News World

The real estate and construction sector warns of an unprecedented housing crisis: “Affordable housing will soon become impossible.”

The real estate and construction sector warns of an unprecedented housing crisis: “Affordable housing will soon become impossible.”

Full text of the open letter

A paradigm shift is necessary to stop the impending housing crisis

“We are heading towards an unprecedented housing crisis. Only: Wetstraat doesn’t want to see it yet, and Dorpstraat doesn’t know what to do. The right to (affordable) housing will collapse if no action is taken.”

This urgent warning comes from dozens of experts from the real estate and construction sectors, the social housing sector and the private rental market spread across the country. When it comes to housing, the debate remains substandard, even weak, and hardly goes beyond the story of allowances and subsidies.

To find solutions, experts are asking to replace old prescriptions with an approach that transcends boundaries. A housing revolution, a paradigm shift, is needed now, say Lorenzo van Turnhout, project developer and visiting professor at the University of Leuven, Björn Mallants, managing director of the housing company Woontrots and figurehead of the social housing sector, and sociologist and spatial planner Pascal de Decker (University of Leuven) . Several experts share their insights in this open letter.

Whether from the private or social housing sector, from the rental or purchase market, from Brussels, Flanders or Wallonia, there is a common interest. This is important. Each of us usually comes up with our own solutions. Sometimes we find each other as experts and there is common ground, but sometimes our viewpoints are also conflicting.

But what is striking is that the analysis we are currently making is the same across the board: things are going in the wrong direction. We do better than many other countries in terms of ownership. But that’s where it ends. In the Netherlands, things may be more serious, where the housing crisis is complete, with some people living in containers. But do we want that here?

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Let’s open our eyes. We urgently need to do the debate – and the policy – ​​differently. Today in our country there are about 75% landlords, 20% private sector, and 5% social tenants. But the first category is slowly but surely eroding. Private renters are affected by increased affordability and quality issues. Prospective social tenants are burdened by endless waiting lists.

The problem: The overview is dead. Housing policy is often compressed into insurance premiums and filing fees. It hardly goes any further than that. Whereas the housing debate is all-encompassing: it should be about spatial planning, mobility, construction costs, sanitation costs, biodiversity, affordability, space for farming, anti-poverty, ageing, etc.

The private rental market, the purchasing market, and the social housing market suffer from slow procedures, shrinking supply, rules that do not fit today’s society, etc. And our cities – which have long been sources of innovation – are increasingly in a state of rural spasm, equating themselves with the countryside. the pressure? Yes, but not with us. High-rise buildings? Yes, but not with us.

Today, the housing debate is stuck in Flemish, Walloon and Brussels mud, and we cannot find a solution. Even when it is said that supply should increase – whether in the private sector or in the social sector – it is easy to point to the problem of migration or the fear of urbanisation. This does not help anything or anyone, but pushes housing policy into ideology.

There is momentum coming: 2024 is an election year. So let’s gather our heads from all over the world. Whether through a task force or another way, it is time to put an ambitious, large-scale housing policy into action. Otherwise, many will soon become victims: the young, the single, the elderly, and especially those who are already at the bottom of the housing ladder.

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Our politicians must dare to experiment when it comes to housing. As they did at the time with Louvain-la-Neuve, where they built a city from scratch. Or better yet, as in the United States, where a thousand apartments, a hundred houses, social housing, offices, hotels, etc. can be built in just two city blocks within a short period of time.

To this end, a framework must be created that includes few regulations and pilot projects. To learn from successes, but also from the mistakes that occur. This is something politics cannot do. Dare to act radically. It dares to build much higher and denser, of course with attention to the right sites and to public ownership and high-quality green spaces. Dare to go to social housing, from a social point of view and not just a financial one. Dare to create additional breathing room through taxes.

Instead of continuing to rely on old recipes, because we have chosen not a housing development but a housing revolution that must continue to ensure that every Belgian has one of the most basic needs – a high-quality roof over our heads. Rest assured, almost every Belgian is concerned about this.

Signed by

Olivier Carette, Managing Director of UPSI-BVS
Pascal De Decker, sociologist Cole
Veronique de Mesmaecker, UWAIS Coordinator
Charlotte de Thay, Phederia
Kateline Dawiers, Director, United Owners
Nico Demeester, CEO of Embuild
Marc Delin, Managing Director of Embuild Flanders
Hughes Kempeneers, General Manager Embuild Wallonie
Steven Lano, NAV Director
Björn Malents, Managing Director of housing company Woontrots
Lorenzo van Turnhout, project developer and guest lecturer at KUL
Jean-Christophe Vanderhagen, Director General of Embild Brussels
Joy Verstichel, Coordinator of the Flemish Tenants Platform
Hugo Berzmann Wonzack

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