Maintaining an efficient and equitable housing market

Housing conditions in Belgium are among the best in OECD countries according to the Better Life Index, as dwellings are of high quality and large, and housing costs are average. However, the steep increase in house prices since 2003 has put market access for first-time buyers under pressure. Housing affordability is also deteriorating for the poor, as demand for social housing has not been met while the private rental market has become expensive. As a result, access to housing is at risk of becoming less equitable if the young and poorer people are priced out. Affordability for poorer people could be improved by expanding the regional rental allowance schemes. In parallel, scaling down the disproportional support for homeownership would free up public resources and reduce the bias towards homeownership. Other challenges to the efficiency of the housing market are posed by the high level of greenhouse gas emissions due to the old age of the housing stock and the low residential mobility, which harms the labour market and contributes to congestion and air pollution. To maintain an efficient housing market, policies should aim at increasing building densities in residential areas. Tilting taxation from transaction to recurrent taxes would lower barriers for residential mobility and contribute to labour market flexibility.

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