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Our house: The state of Brussels’ short-term property market

ShareHomeBrussels (c) Dana Khoudari
02:02 20/10/2020
Housing young professionals is a booming business. So how does Brussels’ property sector live with the constant stream of international newcomers in search of short-term housing – and what’s it like to be one of them?

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Every European capital attracts young people. But Brussels is different. Its influx of young professionals is institutionalised, periodic and ceaseless. If you only count EU institution trainees, it amounts to hundreds of people incoming twice a year. Overall, the EU bubble draws in thousands. Which raises two main questions: Where do they all live? And how does such an amount of people coming for a short time affect housing in the Belgian capital?

Spot your home

Let’s start with the first question. Accommodating young professionals is a booming business. The internet abounds with offers. There are pages listing new rooms, studios and apartments every day. Since it is cheaper, most young people coming toBrusselstend to prefer flat- or house-sharing. And you can find a future housemate just by asking on Facebook.

“I found my accommodation on Facebook, through a friend of a friend, and stayed with a family in Uccle,” says Diana from Czechia who came to Brussels last year for a European Parliament traineeship. As she is now starting a course at GhentUniversity, she can compare the two cities. “The dormitories were too expensive so I turned to Facebook again and found a shared house with one other person. I was lucky; I have heard that it is a bit more complicated in Ghent, because the fluctuation of students and interns is way lower.”

ShareHomeBrussels (c) Dana Khoudari

When Facebook fails, there are various booking platforms to use. Appartager lists rooms, Spotahome can get you a flat and Airbnb is for both. It is not uncommon for a young professional to rent a place before they are able to visit it physically, just based on pictures, videos or reviews.

“I rented my room through Spotahome,” says Eleni, a Cypriot and another former European Parliament trainee. After moving in, she found out that half of her flat was rented out via Airbnb. “I assumed it would only be rented long-term. In the eight months I was there, three residents were long-term and at least one was short-term. Given that there are shared rooms with the other tenant, that was definitely not OK.”

Young and co-living

There are a lot more things that can surprise a person coming to anew city or country. For this reason, plenty of young professionals look for a way to share more than just a kitchen. They want to share their experience, living with other young professionals and forming a community. In Brussels, more and more companies specialise in providing just that.

“I studied in Liège and finding accommodation in Brussels was way more complicated, although the offer is much higher,” says Hynd, a Belgian who now works as a high school teacher. “Not only was it difficult to get selected among other candidates, the city was also more expensive. Luckily, I came across the very first house of ShareHomeBrussels.”

Similarly to other companies (like Colive, Coliving or Cohabs), ShareHomeBrussels offers young professionals a room with en suite bathroom in a fully furnished and equipped house, shared with up to 10 other young professionals. “I moved into a city where I knew no one and straight away had six new international friends,” says Hynd who now works for ShareHomeBrussels as a community manager. Established in July 2017, the company owns 36 houses and has 283 tenants from all over the world, typically people in their 20s or early 30s. The average stay is between 12 and 18 months – which brings us back to our introductory questions…

The tight city

It is a fact that some of the young professionals leave the city after a few months. Yet even without this temporary demand, experts describe the housing market in Brussels as tight, saturated and expensive. “The population of the region is growing by about 15,000 people each year without the housing supply following the demand,” says Nicolas Bernard, professor at Saint-Louis University in Brussels.

ShareHomeBrussels (c) Dana Khoudari

While most of the Belgian population owns a house, more dwellings inBrusselsare rented than owner-occupied. And the rent is rising. In 2019, the average rent was €1,106 for an apartment, 5.74% higher than the year before. Together with long periods of non-letting of certain dwellings, the higher rental prices are one of the possible negative effects that the limited period residents (such as trainees) could have on the market. And there is of course the division of single-family homes into multiple units which – according to Bernard – “degrades the region’s built heritage and takes whole swathes of traditional housing out of the residential segment”. On the other hand, young professionals can be linked to the revitalisation of certain neighbourhoods.

“That people live in Brussels only for a limited period is not in itself a problem,” says Christian Dessouroux. With Bernard and others, the ULB professor co-wrote a publication – Housing in Brussels: Diagnosis and Challenges – for the Brussels Studies Institute in 2016. “What is necessary is to ensure that the negative effects this phenomenon could have on the housing market are not disproportionate. It is up to the regional authorities to put in place the appropriate measures if these prove necessary.”

About the author

Tomáš Miklica was born in Liberec, Czech Republic. He holds a master’s degree in journalism from the Charles University in Prague and spent a semester at the Danish School of Media and Journalism in Aarhus, Denmark. Focusing on arts, entertainment and technologies, Tomáš has been writing for media outlets (print, online and TV) in Czech and in English since 2010. He added WAB and The Bulletin to the list in 2019 when he came to Brussels to work in communications.

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