First-buyers should get priority on housing market, socialist party says

First-buyers should get priority on housing market, socialist party says
Credit: Belga

Young people and first-buyers need to be protected in the housing market, as the rising price of a property, as well as the number of investors, is making it impossible for them to buy, the Flemish socialist party Vooruit argued.

The price of property across Flanders increased by a median of 10% in the last year, resulting in it being impossible for many (young) people to buy a property.

"Currently, we see two types of buyers dominating the market. The young starters who are looking for their own home and investors who are looking for a second or third home to rent out. The number of investors has been increasing for years and this group also has more capital than young couples or singles," Vooruit's leader Connor Rousseau said in a statement.

"Young starters, therefore, have to go to their parents for financial help. Almost half of the starters receive a budget from their parents to buy a house. On average, this is €58,000. Not everyone can cough up that kind of money just like that."

Rousseau explained that often, even if people do manage to buy a property, it is oftentimes sold to investors "who can pay the expensive asking prices and then rent out the property." The large influx of investors in the real estate market has further pushed up prices.

Putting first-buyers first

To tackle this issue, the party has proposed a Purchase Protection system, which states that in residential areas where demand is high, a property can only be bought by those who are going to live in it themselves for at least four years, essentially giving priority to those who don't own their own property.

The party is looking at the example of a similar system that was recently implemented in several Dutch cities, but is including the reduction of high rent prices in high-demand areas as well to ensure affordable housing.

"Investors will therefore only be able to buy in these neighbourhoods if they are prepared to rent out the property at an affordable rent. In this way, we can also reduce rents and give starting families and singles a fair chance of finding affordable rental housing."

As part of the proposed plan, a Flemish decree would give local municipalities the possibility to intervene if necessary.

On a regional level, the party is also proposing a system to identify discrimination on the market, to lower the rent guarantee from three to two months, as well as reduce the notary fees and abolish the registration duties for the purchase of a first home.

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Meanwhile, on a federal level, it argued against housing bonuses for second and third residences on tax returns, which have doubled in five years. "It is an unjust system and we will put it on the table again every budget discussion," Rousseau said.

Flemish Housing Minister Matthias Diependaele has spoken out against Vooruit's proposed plan, arguing that the government determining the value of a house is "a fundamental attack on the right of ownership."

"I too want to offer an affordable roof over the head of as many Flemish people as possible. So I share the concern. We all know that we have a shortage of housing, but the plan from Vooruit does not change that," he said.

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