A plea for modernising the Brussels office market in times of teleworking

6 April 2021
Mathias Vanden Borre

Due to the coronavirus crisis, the need for office space in Brussels will decrease by 22% over the next five years. Brussels MP Mathias Vanden Borre says it is crucial for the Brussels government to react quickly to the changing office market. “First of all, the government must urgently make Brussels attractive to keep knowledge and capital in our city and to attract new investments.”

There is no doubt that the coronavirus crisis is having an unprecedented impact on our social fabric. However, one aspect that remains underexposed to this day is the impact on the economic situation in the Brussels-Capital Region. The prevalence of working from home is resulting in companies substantially reducing their office space. This can be seen in a survey by the Economic Risk Management Group (ERMG).

Companies and European institutions are committed to teleworking

Brussels MP Mathias Vanden Borre makes an important comment on these figures. “The government agencies have not yet been included. And they take up a very large amount of office space in Brussels. Proximus has already decided to keep only 40% of its office space, and the European institutions are also currently doing their calculations. The real impact in Brussels will therefore be much greater, because governments are also decentralising and are strongly committed to teleworking.”

The impact of office closures can be felt everywhere

We cannot build a social paradise in an economic desert, Mathias Vanden Borre emphasises. “It is crucial that the Brussels government now responds quickly to the rapidly changing office market to prevent further damage to the urban fabric of Brussels. The impact of teleworking and the closure of offices is immense for the metropolitan dynamic and extends across various different domains, such as catering, mobility, spatial development and taxes. The direct impact will be most apparent in the Brussels office districts, particularly the Northern Quarter and the European Quarter, but this shock wave will be felt throughout the city.”

Making Brussels attractive to keep knowledge and capital in the city

Mathias Vanden Borre is calling on the Brussels government to adapt Brussels to the changing reality. “First of all, the government must urgently make Brussels attractive to keep knowledge and capital in our city and to attract new investments.” In addition, the partial reconversion of the Brussels office districts must be stepped up considerably in order to compensate for the reduction in offices and avoid a socioeconomic backlash. It is necessary to schedule a consultation with the Region’s largest employers, such as the European Commission, to discuss plans for the reduction of office space.

Revenue from tax on office tax will decrease

Mathias Vanden Borre concludes: “Last but not least, we must take the financial consequences of teleworking into account. In 2019, the Brussels municipalities received approximately EUR 77.5 million in revenue from the municipal tax on office space. This is currently a Kafkaesque tangle of different tax regulations and tax rates. These revenues will inevitably decrease. The Region must centralise and standardise these office taxes and use the revenues to attract new economic players to the Region. Our group will shortly be submitting a resolution on this in parliament.”

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