Brussels social housing needs €300 million to continue building projects

Brussels social housing needs €300 million to continue building projects
A public housing estate in The Marolles district. Credit: The Brussels Times / Ugo Realfonzo

The Brussels-Capital Region has in recent years significantly increased the social housing that is in such high demand. But its efforts have depleted funding for social housing, which risks further exacerbating the current crisis.

A majority of Brussels residents rent their accommodation but this is becoming increasingly unaffordable. In addition, the share of the population suffering from severe housing deprivation is almost ten times higher than the national level. The need for social housing in the region is significant: more than 55,000 people are currently on waiting lists with some waiting for more than 10 years for a home.

As a result, the region has built more than 3,000 new social housing units over the past five years, as part of an emergency plan to tackle the problem. While this has not cleared the waiting list, it has helped relieve the pressure. But the cost of this has left the Brussels Regional Housing Company (BGHM) without funds for new social housing projects, De Standaard reported.

Zero euros

The BGHM's financial reserves have been drained by projects to build new social housing, renovate existing housing stock, and purchase new plots for future projects. The high level of spending now means that the public body has exhausted its cash reserves.

The BGHM normally finances new housing projects through its own funds (generated via the sale of completed houses to the various public real estate companies in Brussels) along with regional funds. But under the government of Brussels Minister-President Rudi Vervoort, its expenditure has become unsustainable.

An additional €300 million is needed this year alone to meet the commitments previously made by the Brussels government.

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The regional company has turned to the Brussels Region itself to borrow half of the outstanding cost; it hopes to receive the other half from Belfius bank. Complicating matters is the fact that the Brussels government has not yet given the green light to the €150 million sum, resulting in Belfius holding out too.

Brussels' Secretary of State for housing Nawal Ben Hamou (PS) has reportedly been pushing to free up this budget for months. But the file remains blocked in the Council of Ministers. Meanwhile, the BGHM is searching for other solutions (such as financing from the European Investment Bank) to prevent an unmanageable social housing crisis.

A possible increase in rents is also being considered, though this would impact tenants.

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