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20 June 2017 Comments (0) Other, Real Estate

District councils reticent about following developers

More compact, higher and bigger residential buildings? Most property developers are seeing their projects rejected by local authorities.

While the different housing policies in the three Regions, just like the hopes of the Brussels and Flemish Bouwmeesters are encouraging the building of more compact, taller and more centralised residential buildings, the district councils themselves appear to be much more reticent when it comes to applying these precepts.

Seven out of ten developers (74%) consider, for example, that the district councils are not enthusiastic about the idea of developing high-rise projects. Six out of ten real estate developers (58%) also find it hard to find support from the local authorities to build in a more compact manner. And one out of three feel they are reticent about innovative (intergenerational, technological, sustainable, etc.) projects. A real paradox because, in practice, 81% of developers are finding that most district councils know very well which neighbours are in need of redevelopment. So they are not lacking vision… This is what UPSI, the property sector union, recorded in its latest opinion survey conducted on 150 of the country’s developers.

“Snail’s-pace procedures”

So where are they getting stuck? “Current policy prioritises demolition-reconstruction and the activation of plots on the edges of cities, rather than greenfield sites, the building land far from city centres”, notes Olivier Carrette, CEO of UPSI-BVS. But higher and denser projects, adapted to the city, scare them at election time….However it is possible to build more densely and conserve quality. Our neighbouring countries are doing it, without necessarily building 30-storey towers.”

UPSI also points its finger at the permit granting procedures, which it judges too slow and too procedural. Six out of ten developers in Wallonia and Brussels consider it a problem, compared to one out of three in Flanders. Olivier Carrette continues: “The sixth State reform transferred these matters to the Regions, which passed them onto the local authorities. But this legislation is highly complex and, beyond the fact that the district councils often lack the means, we note that there are too few local officials and they are not sufficiently educated to these matters.” The result is that too often, local authorities are reluctant to do things differently.

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