Our CEO Michel Van Geyte was one of the top speakers during the Brussels Real Estate Academy 2023 and proudly announced that the Tour & Taxis site that Nextensa owns has now become the showpiece of Brussels and far beyond in terms of sustainable mixed-use 5 minute neighbourhood. From green management, solar panel parks, water management, geothermal energy and re-use of materials on the one hand to social governance in terms of inclusivity, event accessibility and mixity of recreation and activities… everything comes together here in one place. The Lake Side project will be the icing on the cake and the culmination of more than 20 years of development in this district. Nextensa has faith in a feasible permit process and hopes for the green light for the first spade in 2025.
David Vermeersch (Colliers) kicked off the debates in the RSCA lounge with EMEA figures on the office market and noted a reduced activity after the summer of 2022 with a depreciation of all assets. He expects stability after this summer. Fortunately, Belgium remains a desirable and stable market given its central location in Europe and its large logistic ports. Colliers strongly feels the tendency of “decide not to decide” and saw take-up drop by 17%. On a positive note for Brussels, the vacancy rate remains low and rents are increasing. There must be plenty of focus on high-quality ESG proof buildings because today a Breeam Good certification is not anymore good enough. His hint to the political players was to better regularize co-housing and co-living and transform neighbourhoods into 15 minute neighbourhoods where living, working and relaxing are possible within walking distance.
Kim Ruysen (Trevi) agreed with this vision for the residential market. “Access to housing becomes problematic, there is more demand for green and outdoor space and pricing for housing with A – B – C certificates have gone up with 7% “ – The number of residential transactions have decreased with 30 % in the first trimester of this year and yields have gone down due to higher interest rates. Investors are waiting. In Flanders, every unit under 350 K is gone in a week but these are generally older and energy inefficient constructions. Loans are becoming very expensive with an example of a monthly fee of 1600 € to cover a mortgage on 25 years of about 360 K. In the new built sector, prices have gone up by 21 % due to expensive building materials, indexation of staff cost and higher financial interest rates. Trevi sees a clear shift from a buyer’s market into a rental market. 71.3 % is owner in Belgium and about 30 % are rentalsbut in major cities this trend is quiet the opposite. There is a strong demand for co-living concepts for students and young starters but the offer is low. The need for social housing is well known but there is a lack of vision, the key question being: how can developers build sustainable housing at an affordable price? Who is to close the financial gap?
“The Lake Side project will be the icing on the cake and the culmination of more than 20 years of development in this district.” – MICHEL VAN GEYTE, CEO NEXTENSA
Antoine de Borman clarified the role of perspective.brussels. They give advice and vision for a more liveable city, through revitalising public spaces, and spreading ideas for more flexibility in urban programs. Where Perspective have an advisory role, Urban.brussels takes care of the administrative side for issuing permits.
Afterwards it was Benjamin Cadranel’s turn for Citydev. We got a look at Lioncity, the former Delhaize site that will be converted into a new mixed neighbourhood in Molenbeek. 40% will be residential buildings with the capacity to create work opportunities and dedensification by creating more green areas. They too draw the card of sustainability through upcycling, dismantling, reusing materials, rain water management and installing urban-scalled agriculture.
“If we want to be carbon free by 2040, then it is now all hands-on deck” – SVEN DE BONDT, ALIDES
The Josaphat site in Schaerbeek will also become a new leading district with 509 apartments from which 50% affordable living. Their challenge has been the long lead time period to sit around the table with various partners, public and private, to achieve a good and economically feasible program in co-creation, says Thierry Collard of Eiffage.
Sven De Bondt of Alides shook us up by pointing out that 39% of CO2 emissions are caused by the construction sector. Alides believes that the first steps in more consciousness can start within the company or within ourselves. “If we want to be carbon free by 2040, then it is now all hands-on deck”, he says. Upcycling strategies will become new business models. Noncompliant buildings are interesting if transformed into ESG proof buildings, preferably on top locations. Montoyer 34 is a perfect example of this. A building that dates back to the 90s can effectively become Breeam Outstanding with the necessary creativity of the design and construction teams.
“Measurability is essential” continued Frédéric Van der Planken of Whitewood. They created a fund to invest in projects that need to be transformed into exemplary green buildings so that partners create a real impact with their investment. They are open for partnerships to co-invest and transform brown into green. Their ambition is high and the reconverting strategy of a large part of the EU quarters is currently being shaped.
The debate was concluded by a panel of 3 top speakers. Kasper Deforche of JLL brought some interesting figures: 24% of the Brussels Office stock is more than 24 years old and regeneration is a must. Only 15% has a green certificate.
Sunita van Heers (SuReal) specified that additional certificates will make the difference, such as the Well certification or attestations that can demonstrate the carbon emissions. The sector needs advice on future projects: How resilient can a building become against drought, heat, flooding?
Adel Yahia reassures us that Belgium is already far ahead of other countries in terms of sustainability. “Rent smaller and better” is his motto for the office market and make working at the officemore attractive and pleasant again. He shares the opinion of many of us: the challenge will be to choose between all possible improvements and changes in terms of green-requirements and at the same time to keep the housing market affordable and the office market competitive. He underlines a contradiction between those two desires: greener and more affordable. How do we unite the two?
BY Sonja De Greef – Head of Residential Sales @ Nextensa