Flemish cities are booming but are becoming unaffordable

The latest edition of the Flemish Government's City Monitor has painted an upbeat picture of our cities: populations are growing and our cities have become more attractive in recent years, though living in a city has become more and more expensive too: rent or mortgage are taking a larger and larger share of city dwellers' budget.

In recent years most of the 13 Flemish cities concerned in this study have made significant efforts to make life there more attractive. These cities are now reaping the fruits of these investments. Most city dwellers are proud of their own city. In places like Bruges, Ghent, Hasselt or Leuven this rises to over 80%. Flemish cities are growing, but maintaining a balanced social economic mix remains a challenge.

Mix is important as many new city dwellers hail from abroad. Contact with other cultures promotes openness and tolerance the researchers note. Half of all city dwellers are upbeat about ethnic diversity. The figure is highest in Leuven, Genk, Ghent and Antwerp and lowest in Aalst, but levels are rising everywhere.

The number of children and young people continues to rise. Cities are seen as trendy even by people with young children. In practically all cities more young people and young families are settling there than are leaving. This is especially the case in Leuven and Ghent. Half of the people who study in these cities stay there after they have completed their studies and start a family. However, in both cities but also in Antwerp a large number of people say that they want to move.

This phenomenon poses a challenge for the social mix because it's often families with a strong social-economic profile that leave. These families often leave because they are unhappy with traffic safety in their neighbourhood or want more space. Still, three-quarters of families with children are happy with their home, neighbourhood and city. The lion's share of city dwellers say that at present they are living in a large comfortable house with lots of space including a garden, a terrace, a yard or balcony.