Access to affordable housing proves difficult, if not impossible, for Brussels’ poorest residents

All signs indicate that the gap is widening between income and rent prices. In Brussels, rents rise as incomes fall…while residents foot the bill.

The cost of housing is at the heart of the matter. For years, wage increases have not kept pace with steadily rising rents. That poorer households suffer most in this context is obvious. Yet less is known about the scale of problems facing these households. Indeed, our understanding of the housing crisis in Brussels is ultimately based on imprecise data about poverty and the difficulties facing renters. What’s important to remember, from the few statistics available, is the fact that wages in Brussels tend to fall. Today, around one third of Brussels residents (32.5%) are at or near the poverty line. [1]

Yet rent prices continue to rise in the capital. In 2012, 60% of Brussels renters paid a median rent of 650 euros. Between 2004 and 2013, adjusted rent prices increased, on average, 2% each year; rent prices therefore jumped 2% above indexed wage increases.

An inevitable consequence of high rents is that a non-negligible part of the population either lives in overcrowded, poor quality homes, or is forced to move away from the region.

In line with an approaching demographic boom, during which the population is expected to grow 10.5% between 2012-2020, there is a risk that housing conditions will worsen. Provisions will have to be made in order to welcome an increasing number of low-income households and newcomers in Brussels.


Baromètre social 2014 de l’Observatoire du social et de la santé en Région de Bruxelles-Capitale

Observatoire des Loyers 2013, Marie-Laurence De Keersmaecker

Marché du travail et revenus des ménages à Bruxelles : quelle évolution à moyen terme ? Pierre-François Michiels, février 2014, IBSA

Direction générale Statistique, communiqué de presse « Stagnation des prix des maisons, mais appartements toujours orientés à la hausse », août 2014

BEM n°261 – Novembre 2012, dossier « Démographie ? »


[1In Belgium in 2011 (based on 2010 incomes), the poverty line is set at 12,005€ euros per year, in other words, 1,000€ per month for an individual. For a single parent with two children, the poverty line is fixed at 1,600€ per month. For a couple with children, it is 2,101€ per month.