Students, families, the elderly, local and international professionals… all profiles converge today in Belval. And in a global context of rising housing costs and intense demographic pressure in Luxembourg…
Would the property equation then be insoluble? Jean-Xavier Foidart, Development Manager at AGORA explains to us that it is not the case and how an innovative housing provision responds to this problem.
How is the property market today?
“Property prices are rising by an average of 8 to 10% a year,” explains Jean-Xavier Foidart. In 2019, the market even showed an increase of 11.4%! This situation can be explained by the demographic boom that the Grand Duchy is experiencing. With the highest population growth in Europe, this small country saw its population grow by 65% between 1981 and 2018. This has resulted in an additional number of inhabitants needing to be housed, driving up prices and reducing access to home ownership by the same amount.
What impact does this have on the housing supply?
“Prices are constantly rising, but people’s pockets are not elastic. New homes are inevitably smaller and people are buying more apartments than before. The single-family house is becoming very expensive, it is no longer the standard,” explains AGORA’s Development Manager. We are therefore witnessing urban densification. “The Belval quarter, located some twenty kilometres from Luxembourg City, is at the heart of this problem and is intended to provide solutions,” he assures.
What innovative housing solutions do you offer in Belval?
Social innovations in apartment blocks:
Individual apartment block projects tend to be enhanced by sharing the costs of a lot of the services,” describes Jean-Xavier Foidart. “We have received submissions offering shared roof gardens, collective barbecues, tool facilities available to all, bikes or electric cars for the block, a fitness area or even a spa,” explains the development manager. Pooling these uses gains space, which is the icing on the cake, creating social ties. These various services are now clearly part of the purchasing criteria of future residents.
The rise of coliving
This is a new trend that is developing rapidly in many countries. “It ranges from simple furnished studio apartments with a communal relaxation room to premium provision almost like a hotel. A room with very elaborate services can cost around €1,000 per month. It’s a mid-range price between a hotel and a studio apartment, for a mid-range service,” he adds. This concept is particularly aimed at young workers and is therefore oriented towards their needs and lifestyles.
Accommodation for nomadic professionals
In Luxembourg, among the people recruited in 2019, 42% were cross-border commuters, 19% Luxembourg residents and 38% residents of foreign nationality. Most cross-border workers go home every night, but some may be required to stay at their place of employment for a few days or even the whole week. However, residents of foreign nationality are forced to stay for several months, for the duration of a contract, before potentially leaving for other horizons. “This professional nomadic way of life has generated new needs that we are trying to meet,” stresses Jean-Xavier Foidart. “In the Square Mile area, for example, we have provided traditional hotels as well as long-stay hotels with kitchenettes for employees who stay longer.”
With the rise in property prices, it is difficult for “home workers” to rent a personal apartment and also an office. However, the self-employed potentially need to have professional premises in which to receive their clients. “We have made the most of our ground floor with 6 meter high ceilings to host home offices. The zero level of this accommodation is thus designed as a professional zone, while a large mezzanine is occupied by private space,” explains the development manager. A two-in-one formula that offers some living comfort and allows you to save money.
Belval is a student quarter that was highlighted by the arrival of the University of the Grand Duchy. It is home to 4,500 students and asistants each year. There are a lot of them who have to live on limited budgets. “The junior blocks” are devoted to students, offering a variety of furnished rooms at lower prices than the other housing provision,” says Jean-Xavier Foidart. These blocks also have a proportion of larger accommodation for university research assistants perhaps already living as a couple.
An urban space for everyone
The basic aim of Belval is to be able to accommodate different populations thanks to several habitat typologies. Well aware of the demand for green spaces, AGORA has devised a new concept under the gentle name of “Public Green”: the buildings in the Belval Nord quarter are thus nestled in the heart of a green setting. The housing is private, of course, but all the green space surrounding it is public and shared. “I’ve always lived in the country. If I lived in Belval, I would go to the Belval Nord quarter,” confides Jean-Xavier Foidart.
The elderly, inhabitants with special needs
“For older people, we offer ground-floor accommodation, as well as a 130-bed rest home,” says the AGORA development manager. “The least able-bodied can rely on a care home, with studio apartments nearby for relatives”. Thus, the spouse of a person requiring nursing care can live right next door, without being directly in the nursing home.
While employees, students and the elderly can find what is right for them in Belval, AGORA also focuses on families. “In Belval Sud, a residential quarter will be created with various types of housing, for families with a single child as well as for large families,” says Jean-Xavier Foidart. With a low density, it consists of narrow streets, houses, green areas, small shops, services, schools and transport networks.
Faced with the challenge of a surging population and soaring property prices, urban projects such as the Belval project are aiming at innovative housing solutions.
AGORA is also looking ahead to future challenges, such as the Esch-Schifflange site, its next flagship project. “For the Esch-Schifflange site, we’re thinking of a car-free district,” says Jean-Xavier Foidart. “If this concept develops, then we’ll have to be innovative about everything else, including housing!” A new challenge for these specialists who are thinking about the urban planning of tomorrow.
Urban gardens, smart cities, eco-neighbourhoods or temporary occupation of urban space, Through the voice of experts, “Tell me more! ” is a series that explores new trends.
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