Search form

menu menu
  • Daily & Weekly newsletters
  • Buy & download The Bulletin
  • Comment on our articles

Soaring costs and diminishing options: Brussels students struggle to find housing

09:54 20/12/2023

The average monthly rent for a student dorm room in Belgium has risen by almost €100 in three years, according to the results of the Kotkompass study conducted by student accommodation organisation Diggit Studentlife and independent property expert Stadim.

The average student rent in 2023 was €565 this year (including €95 in fees) compared with €520 in 2022 and €469 in 2020.

It is fixed costs that are driving up the price, especially when it comes to energy, whose average cost rose 38% from €69 in 2020 to €95 this year, with one in three students saying they are struggling to pay their utility bills.

Student housing shortages – not only in Brussels but across all of Belgium – are also responsible for the rise in prices.

In three years, rent (excluding fees and bills) for a room with a shared bathroom in Belgium has risen 17% from €400 to €475 per month. A room with a private bathroom costs an average of €545 a month and a private studio runs to €665.

But Brussels students looking for such a studio can expect to pay on average €785.

The price pressure is forcing many students to make difficult decisions about where they live and study, with one in four saying they had consider forgoing university housing in favour of a car commute to save money – assuming they were able to find housing in the first place.

“We get three emails daily from students who are still looking for a room,” said student services organisation Brik.

Bart Geelen, the head of student housing at Vrije Universiteit Brussel (VUB), said: “Over the past two years, due to the energy crisis and indexations, the price for a VUB dormitory has risen from €321 to €408 euros We can keep that price.”

Even if VUB can keep costs relatively low, it is dealing with the same limited supply of housing that other universities face. More than 3,000 VUB students each year are unable to be accommodated in Brussels.

“We are working hard to expand our offer,” Geelen said. “Think, for example, of the 500 planned units on the Usquare site. We’re also looking at other options, including fallback options to the private market. But then in terms of timing, we are talking about 2027 or 2028.”

Maarten Matthijs of Brik said these future offerings were largely in the higher price range, meaning many students will be priced out just as their numbers are growing.

“We know that the number of students will only increase,” Matthijs said. “Ten years ago, the VUB was still at 10,000 students. Since then, that number has doubled. About half of them are in low-cost housing.”

With 122,500 students, Brussels is still by far the largest Belgian student city, ahead of Ghent (81,000) and Leuven (54,500). Together with Liège, Brussels is also the Belgian city with the biggest increase in students compared to last year, up by 3,000.

Written by Helen Lyons