17 - 18 september 2024 - Gare Maritime, Brussels

Stéphane Verbeeck, Président UPSI-BVI

UPSI – Ten years or more to obtain a permit

More than 5 million m2 of sites are waiting for permission to build because of a slow and complex building permission policy. Especially in Brussels. The health crisis has added another 6 months to the delay.

UPSI (the Belgian Federation for Real Estate) regularly repeats that obtaining the necessary permits to launch a real estate project has become a major problem in Belgium. But today, to back up its claim, it is using figures collected from a large majority of its members.

Members that carry weight since they represent 80% of the total construction market and 4 million square metres under development, currently awaiting permits. To understand their frustration, add to this another million square metres authorised by permit, but involved in interminable appeal processes.

The current malaise in the sector, as documented by UPSI, is not just about large and small office and commercial projects: more and more housing projects are also being held up in administrative and legal limbo – especially in cities where these ongoing projects are complex, mixed and intense.

Brussels, the bottleneck for delays

Appeal procedures for the permits issued are a problem in all three regions. But it is mainly in Brussels that the proportion is overwhelming. According to the recent survey launched by the UPSI, it takes an average of 2 years and 7 months to obtain a permit. But for a quarter of the cases in progress, this time rises to at least four years. And nowhere else are so many appeals registered: they affect 42% of projects. 

Since the processing of an appeal procedure takes as much time as the basic procedure itself, the time taken to process 42% of the dossiers must be doubled. And the recent health crisis has added a further 6.5 months to this timeframe.

In other words, in two out of five cases submitted to Brussels, it takes an average of five years and eight months to obtain a permit, with peaks of up to 11 years and more.

Urgent appeal reiterated to the future government

“Something must be done about this. The sterile impotence of the sector – further reinforced by the health crisis – requires an electroshock. Politicians keep complaining that housing is too expensive, but have they ever really calculated – for the State as well as for us – the additional costs caused by the length of the permit and appeal procedures, which, when the procedures drag on, are higher than the basic cost price of the housing concerned? By simplifying and accelerating these procedures, without circumventing them of course, everyone would win, starting with the buyer,” stresses Stéphane Verbeeck, the UPSI president.  He also mentions two figures: 120,000 jobs and 6 billion in revenue for the State, frozen by these unnecessary delays.

Photo: Stéphane Verbeeck, President UPSI-BVS

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