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Brussels budget: Housing, mobility and climate are priorities

16:32 23/10/2020

The Brussels regional government has announced its budget for coming years as well as adjustments to this year’s budget in the face of the corona crisis. The priorities for the budget are housing and renovation, mobility and the climate crisis.

The region is already facing a deficit of €1 billion this year due to corona, half in extra expenditure and half in lost income. Together with the hole in last year’s budget, the region is now looking at a deficit of €1.5 billion in a budget of €6 billion.

But, said minister-president Rudi Vervoort “now is not the time to drastically economise”.

The government will spend €425 million a year on housing, which will include new housing and renovations. Any new developments will be 50% devoted to social housing. There are currently more than 49,000 families in Brussels waiting for social housing.

There will also be new subsidies for insulating and the installation of energy-efficient heating systems. The government is also making a priority of shelters and housing for the homeless and for transmigrants.

Covid fallout

It is expected that some 30,000 additional people will be unemployed following the Covid-19 pandemic, an increase of 30% in the capital. The government has earmarked €53 million for additional job training and will provide subsidies for the unemployed to embark on continuing education.

In keeping with EU goals, the capital wants to be climate neutral by 2050. In the first half of next year, a transition strategy will be proposed to prepare for the effects on the economy, and a climate ordinance will lay out legal ramifications of not meeting goals.

Public transport will become free next year for specific target groups, most likely people under the age of 25 and over the age of 65. Funds will also go to the extension of metro 3, tram lines to Neder-Over-Heembeek, Meiser and Tour & Taxis, and to increase the bus capacity by 30%.

Brussels minister-president Rudi Vervoort

More controversial is the plan to roll out a kilometre tax on motorists, which would shift taxes from simply owning a car to paying per kilometre driven. Rates per kilometre would be highest during rush hours.

“The Brussels government wants a new fiscal mobility system that is no longer based on owning a car but on using it,” said Vervoort (pictured above). “The idea is to that people pay less when they drive less and so will be encouraged to seek other forms of transport, such as public transport, car-sharing and cycling. In light of this, the region plans to make major investments in transport alternatives to offer everyone sufficient options in getting around Brussels.”

Photos, from top: ©Nicolas Maeterlinck/BELGA, ©Thierry Roge/BELGA

Written by Lisa Bradshaw