The Brussels region goes into overdrive on housing and the environment

  • The Brussels region government met in Liège on Friday and Saturday.
  • Two decisions were made regarding “capital” issues.

A little over three months following the “Ostend agreements,” the Brussels government (PS-CDH-Ecolo-VLD-CD&V-Green) promised to work on a series of issues vital to the city’s future. Now, it’s a done deal. The Brussel’s ministers finalized it as follows: the Regional Durable Development Plan (RDDP) will guide urban revitalization, the management contract with the Brussels Capital Region Development company, the outline for the Metro du Nord (stations are planned for Schaerbeek and Evere squares during 2022), the NEO plan to redesign the Heysel Plateau, Habitat Alliance, the Air, Climate Energy Plan (PACE) and PACT, the garbage collection and recycling program.

This flood of code words and acronyms raises eyebrows, especially those of the opposition. Among them, Vincent De Wolf (MR), speaks of a “public relations effort that resembles that of Ostend”. The minister-president candidate focuses on the 100,000 trees to be planted in Brussels as part of minister Evelyne Huytebroeck’s (Ecolo) Nature Plan. He asks, “since the government has failed to provide training or employment to the 110,000 unemployed citizens of Brussels, will it give them a tree instead?” His sarcasm is particularly annoying since minister-president Rudi Vervoort (PS) announced the creation of 6,000 new homes per year. Twenty percent of the cost will come from the regional budget under the RDDP heading. That amounts to 1,200 public housing units each year, 60% of them going to households on public assistance.

Roadmap or decision?

The government’s statement, seen by the liberal as a “smokescreen,” does seem confusing. At the same time, the secretary of state for housing, Christos Doulkeridis (Ecolo), announced the creation of 6,720 housing units, not per year, but by 2017, within the Habitat Alliance framework described by the budget minister (editor’s note: Guy Vanhengel, VLD) as the “greatest housing investment in the history of the region.”

Is this confusion deliberate? In any case, on Saturday, everyone seemed to think that the socialist partner had no intention of seeing Doulkeridis get all the glory. They recall that Laurette Onkelinx (Thursday’s Le Soir) committed the government of Brussels to go into “overdrive,” especially regarding housing.

The Doulkeridis plan is an essential part of the RDDP, but it’s the only “guaranteed” housing section of the plan. The budgets have been set and the work should begin in 2014. The 6,720 units equal 20% of all annual public housing planned by the RDDP until 2017. It’s clear that the government cannot force the private sector to build the other 80%. The government is not committing to the RDDP number. The text cannot be voted on with the elections approaching, but a vote can be taken for a recommendation that will meet the expected population increase for 124,000 more Brussels residents by 2020.

This did not stop Laurette Onkelinx, president of the Brussels socialist party, from celebrating the agreement regarding the construction of 6,000 housing units per year until 2020 in a press release. It feels a little like 1996 when, as education minister, she announced, “everyone will be bilingual by 2001.”

 

FABRICE VOOGT

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