"This could be an enormous bonus for society"

The Flemish government is encouraging citizens to live closer together, in urban areas, and to live closer to work. Though living in the biggest city nearby (where the work is mostly concentrated) is mostly an expensive step to take, the bonus on an individual scale is a big one, and the gains for society as a whole are labelled as "enormous" by sociologist Pascal De Decker of Leuven University.
Boutersem town hall: we are being encouraged to live closer together in our towns, villages and cities, to preserve rural areas.

The VRT news desk did research on real estate prices across Flanders, comparing house prices in countryside towns to those in major cities. In most cases, it's an expensive step to take, if you move to the city to live close to your work.

An exception may be the areas immediately surrounding the bigger cities. These are often more expensive than the city, as they provide the best of both worlds: close to the city, but also the feeling of open space and the possibility of a garden.

What does a switch cost?

Let's take the concrete case a family of 4 that wants to switch from Boutersem (Flemish Brabant) to Leuven. The Belgian Notary Federation calculated an average real estate price (based on the first six months of the year) of some 271,000 euros in Boutersem and 334,000 euros in Leuven.

In this case, the family would have to cough up some 60,000 euros. This does not include taxes, which are 10 percent on existing real estate (except for smaller properties where it may be 5 percent if you're lucky). In this case this would be 33,400 euros tax in Leuven (though we should say you can take a maximum of 12,500 euros tax from your previous purchase, which would make it some 21,000 euros, expenses for the work of the notary etc. not included).

We should also add that Leuven is among Flanders' most expensive cities, together with Bruges and Ghent. Brussels is a different story as a lot depends on the district there.

"You simply have more leisure time"

Moving may often cost a pretty penny, but the benefits are certainly there, though they can't be expressed in euros. Sociologist Pascal De Decker takes the case of someone commuting to Brussels for 2 hours each day.

"This obligatory commuting time becomes leisure time, which you can spend as you wish. You gain time, and that makes you happier. You can spend this time on sports, on the family, on volunteer work or whatever. And it saves you a tiring and often irritating commute."

Apart from the individual bonus, there is a gigantic win for society as a whole, adds De Decker. "Fewer people on the roads means less congestion, more people gaining time, a bonus for the economy and the transport sector, fewer road accidents, less pollution, fewer costs for the health service etc. The effect on the quality of life is huge."

How to interpret the graphics below?

In white, you see the capitals of the respective Flemish provinces and Brussels. If a municipality is coloured in greenish, this means your area is cheaper, so you will pay more for the same kind of house in the capital city.

In red, it's the opposite. It means you are now living in an expensive area, and moving to your province capital would be cheaper. We are talking of general prices, it is of course impossible to compare individual houses.