Advocacy for a more adapted public ruling for offices conversion


Converting office buildings into housings? Rikkert Leeman, in his capacity as President of the UPSI-BVS for the Brussels-Region, discusses the key challenges in that matter in a recent report. He underlines the necessity for a nuanced approach in each unique case. The conversion of an office building is considered wherever it is technically, fiscally, legally and economically viable.

Among the regulatory requirements in terms of town planning several key factors are involved. The too long period of time it takes to obtain final and enforceable planning permission has a financial impact on the feasibility of a conversion project. The real estate sector has long advocated simplified planning permission procedures and a more revisable legal framework, particularly in the case of converting offices into (social) housing.

Furthermore, today, the number of regulatory reforms around town planning is increasing, and the sector, which works on a long-term basis, is finding it difficult to absorb these multiple reforms in a real estate market that is already in difficulty. Especially the fact that the general imposition of a mix of uses regardless of the characteristics of the project always leads to more complex, more expensive, and less efficient construction.

On top of all that, the conversion of office space seems to be fiscally penalised. As taxes remain due throughout the permit procedure and the duration of the works, it weighs on profitability. The sector is calling for a system of tradable building rights or charges that would oblige developers to offset their impact in a certain urban district by ensuring housing development in another area.