Young families flee to Flemish cities
The thirteen biggest Flemish cities are growing, as more residents arrive than leave.An average of six in 1000 new residents move into these cities each year, according to the city monitoring service of the government of Flanders that studies the quality of life in these cities.
"The major urban exodus of the nineties is a thing of the past," says Freya Van den Bossche SP.A, the Flemish Minister for Cities.
"All cities are growing, and this growth is primarily caused by foreigners arriving in our cities. At the same time young families with a high income relocate to the suburbs or rural areas. This causes quite a problem as we need these families in our cities to create a healthy social mix.
We also notice that cities are attracting a large number of people in their twenties, as young adults prefer to live in urban centres which offer more social activities. On completion of their studies in Antwerp, Ghent or Mechelen, young graduates often remain in the city. Once they start a family, however, they leave again."
According to the city monitor, cities annually lose an average of four young families in 1000. Ghent and Louvain seem to suffer most from families with children younger than nine years leaving the city.
Ghent loses 13 young families in every 1000 each year and Louvain 29. This can all be attributed to the price of accommodation, Van den Bossche maintains.
Families prefer to buy a home, as it is financially more beneficial than renting. But these families struggle to find anything affordable in the cities, as house prices here have more than doubled during the past ten years.
Moreover the average price of a house or flat in the city used to be well below the average in the entire Flemish Region.
The reverse is now the case in many cities, with the increase in the price of flats most significant in Louvain, where an apartment now costs an average of EUR199,800. This is two and a half times the sale price recorded in 2000.
According to Jaak Brepoels SP.A, Louvain alderman for Housing, Louvain is the victim of its own success.
"Every year more and more students arrive. We also find that they prefer to live in apartments, thus competing for space with the growing number of young people who settle in the city after they've finished their studies."
The growing demand for accommodation has caused rentals and house prices to soar. The municipality finds it very hard to turn the tide, Brepoels admits.
"In Louvain we are currently seeking land to buy for more housing. These new homes may be less luxurious than the ones in the country, but will put us in a position to rent or sell living space to young families who would like to live here."