Housing costs stretch 30% of Flemish households


Affordability is still a problem in housing in Flanders, survey finds, but quality and energy credentials are improving

A brick in the belly

A fifth of households in Flanders are spending more than 30% of their income on a mortgage or rent, a level considered an affordability risk by a housing survey released this week. Private renters are the most exposed, with 52% above the 30% level, compared to 27% of owners with a mortgage and 23% of renter of social housing.

One reassuring point is that the proportion of households at risk has not changed since Steunpunt Wonen last surveyed the region in 2013. Between 2005 and 2013, the number of households at risk rose slightly in all categories, but now the rising cost of housing and earnings appear to be cancelling each other out.

The Woonsurvey 2018 covered 3,000 households across the region. It found that 72% of households were owner-occupied, 19% were private tenants and 7% social tenants. Ownership remains the ideal in Flanders, with 98% of present owners planning to stay that way and half of the private tenants working towards ownership.

Dream homes

“The main reasons given are that people think rent is ‘money wasted’, and that owning a home is a good way of saving or a good investment,” the report’s authors say. Those not planning to buy mainly cite financial barriers as the reason.

Meanwhile, the average rental price for single-family homes and apartments rose by 1.4% and 1% a year, respectively, between 2013 and 2018, on top of inflation.

Flemish Housing minister Liesbeth Homans expressed her satisfaction with the survey results, but made no comment on the continuing problem of affordability. Instead she emphasised the survey’s positive findings.

Homes are better insulated and there is a strong increase in the use of renewable energy

- Housing minister Liesbeth Homans

“The quality of Flemish homes, including comfort and safety, has clearly improved in recent years,” she said in a statement. “Homes are better insulated, and there is a strong increase in the use of renewable energy.”

The survey found that the proportion of dwellings in good repair had risen from 70% to 77% between 2013 and 2018, while the proportion in poor to very poor condition fell from 14% to 11%. However, poor and very poor housing is more prevalent in the rental sector, with 16% of private rental homes and 17% of social housing in these lower categories.

Meanwhile, 16% of homes now have a renewable energy system. In 98% of cases this means solar panels.