Nearly half the buildings Belgium rents are standing empty

It has emerged that nearly half of all the buildings rented by Belgium's federal authorities are largely empty. Home minister Jambon with whom the buck ends says the situation is unacceptable.

Government lawmaker Franky Demon collected the official figures: 256 of the 590 buildings that the federal authorities rent are half empty; 293 buildings are one quarter empty. In all 40% of government buildings are rented landing the federal government with a bill of nearly a billion euros. Franky Demon: "Tenancy agreements are often long, the amount of space used often low."

An example: nearly 32 million euros has to be paid annually in rent for the administrative centre on the Kruidtuinlaan in Brussels. The tenancy agreement runs until 2034, but only just over half the building is used. The lawmaker isn't per sé a supporter of the government owning the properties it uses but says greater efficiency is needed. Agreements for buildings no longer used should be cancelled, while the government should also sublet.

Home minister Jambon, who is responsible, has announced reforms and blames previous governments for an unacceptable state of affairs. The buildings agency that manages such buildings is to become an autonomous company.