"Tax benefits for those who choose to live in the city centre"

Cities and municipalities should be able to reduce the tax you pay for owning a house. That should allow them to make certain districts or boroughs, more precisely in the centre of larger municipalities and cities, more attractive for potential house buyers. The aim is to have people return to the cities, as open space is getting scarce, with specialists underlining we will have to live in smaller dwellings in the future.

The Flemish coalition parties (the liberals of Open VLD, the Flemish nationalists of N-VA and the Christian democrats of CD&V) have prepared a bill to make this possible, Het Laatste Nieuws reports.

Local taxes for owning a house or an apartment in the city centre are often relatively high. "At the same time, we are seeing an increase in the number of single people, couples without children or small families. This will put an extra burden on the real estate market", says Rik Daems of Open VLD.

"Save between 500 and 1,000 euros per year"

Building a new home in an open space, on a big piece of land, is becoming something of the past, experts have warned already. There is no space left in Flanders, and the Flemish government also wants to encourage what it calls "compact living", in smaller homes and closer to one another, which would also reduce heating costs.

Daems estimates a tax cut could earn potential buyers "a few hundred euros each year, possibly between 500 and 1,000 euros per year." This could convince people to take the step, the Flemish parties argue. Under the proposal, the local authority would get the powers to decide where and when, and how much tax benefits are being applied.

Encouraging people to live in the centre, could also boost life in 'forgotten' boroughs.