Finding affordable housing increasingly difficult, says National Bank

It is becoming increasingly difficult to find affordable housing in Belgium, said Geert Langenus, chief economist at the National Bank of Belgium (NBB), during the presentation of the bank's spring forecast on Friday. The desire to buy one's own home, however, remains as strong as ever, even among the younger generations. 

The Belgian housing market is doing less well than expected, the NBB says. For three quarters in a row there has been a decline in housing investment of 2 to 3 per cent. More expensive building materials and increased mortgage interest rates were a particular factor. At the same time, the number of households in Belgium is increasing, from 4 million in the year 2000 to just over 5 million today, putting housing market prices under pressure. 

Improvement must therefore come through better policies. According to the NBB, the next government should do more to increase supply, for instance by relaxing strict legislation on building permits and energy efficiency. According to data from the bank, more building permits are now being refused than before because of stricter regulations. More social housing is also needed, it says. 

Despite all political parties saying they are committed to affordable housing, the issue is largely absent from debates and election talks. In the Netherlands, by contrast, in 2022 the government pledged to build 900,000 houses in the coming years. The parties that will form the new government have already committed to continue on this path.

NBB governor Pierre Wunsch said housing affordability should feature more in the political discourse.


A construction worker in Namur © BELGA PHOTO BRUNO FAHY

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