In terms of real estate and in line with the competences now exercised by the Region, a large part of the new Brussels Government’s Program Statement deals with the residential sector. What are the main highlights ?
The Government wishes to encourage the acquisition of affordable owner-occupied housing that meets the highest environmental standards. To that end it envisages, among other things, to:
- make use of long-term lease right and building right mechanisms and to explore whether new mechanisms can be created to decouple the ground (owned by public authorities) from the houses (temporarily owned by inhabitants). Such mechanisms would allow a reduction of purchase prices (since those rights are subject to 2% transfer tax instead of 12.50%) and to maintain public land control.
- review the current system of transfer taxes (and inheritance taxes), in particular by (i) revising the transfer tax reduction system, (ii) abolishing the 1% registration duty for vesting a mortgage on a first dwelling, (iii) introducing, in general, a more favourable transfer tax regime for owners acquiring their one and only dwelling in Brussels and (iv) revising the current system of tax incentives to promote sustainable housing renovation works.
The key elements of the contemplated housing lease policy can be summarised as follows:
- a centralised database – for the Government, a better management of rental prices requires a better knowledge of the rental market. To that end, the Government intends to set up a database in which information relating to the lease agreements will have to be registered (e.g. rents, rental guarantees, inventory of fixtures, permits, EPB certificate).
- dimensions and unique identifier – to ensure a correct and identical registration of the housing in the new database, the Government intends to introduce a new regulation to clarify the precise dimensions of each property and to give it a unique identifier.
- rent reference table – on the basis of the information available in the database, and after consultation with landlords’ and tenants’ representatives, the Government intends to draw up a reference table for rents. This reference table will not be mandatory. However, the Government intends to reserve public support for private housing for those who comply with the reference table.
- public rental guarantee fund – as far as possible, the Government intends to create a public rental guarantee fund with which all rental guarantees, leases and inventories of fixtures, for each housing, private or public, will have to be deposited.
The Government’s objective is to offer 15% of social housing for the entire Brussels Region, spread by municipality and by area. To reach that goal, the Government intends, among other things, to:
- launch a public bid by the summer 2020 to acquire existing housing and housing under construction;
- install a general preemption perimeter for all existing buildings;
- review the current system of town planning charges in order to encourage the creation of public and social housing, it being understood that to reach the aforementioned 15% threshold, town-planning charges being mandatorily dedicated to social housing can be envisaged;
- review the regulation on social housing offices (sociale verhuurkantoren / agence immobilière sociale) (SVKs / AIS) and, with a view to combatting unhealthy and unoccupied housing, to create a mechanism to bring dwellings under forced management of a municipality or a SVK / AIS;
- include, for new dwellings, a purchase option at the end of the rental term.
Health real estate
The Government intends to work on the development of alternatives to retirement homes, with specific attention to financial accessibility and by supporting public investments. In addition, the Government intends to:
- draw up a new program related to home care and housing for the elderly;
- execute its 'moratorium ordinance' for nursing homes, rest and care homes and short stay centres and to adopt a decree authorising the conversion of beds for elderly people in retirement homes (the so-called “ROB-bedden”) into beds for care-needing elderly (the so-called 'RVT-bedden') and short stay-beds (the so-called 'KV-bedden');
- to adopt new rules related to the recognition, control, sanctions and follow-up of institutions for the elderly and to strengthen the inspection related thereto.
Finally, the Government will support a better framework and greater transparency of the prices in retirement homes with the setting of a daily price that includes all essential costs. The Government will continue to restore the balance between the public and non-profit sector on the one hand and the private commercial sector on the other hand.
The Government has announced a review of the existing regulation related to tourist accommodation with a view to tightening up its policy with a view to countering the competition between that sector and the housing sector. This objective is part of the fight that the Government is currently waging against, amongst others, the rental of accommodation through AirBnB.