Redistributing wealth across Brussels

DISCLAIMER: All opinions in this column reflect the views of the author(s), not of EURACTIV Media network.

“There [has been] a growing disparity between the highest and lowest incomes [in Brussels] since the end of the 1980s,” argue Christian Kesteloot, a professor at the Katholieke Universiteit Leuven, and Maarten Loopmans, a lecturer at the Erasmus University College Brussels, in a Brussels Studies e-journal.

To alleviate this problem, “wealth should be fairly distributed across the population,” the March paper suggests. 

One way of achieving this could be to “increase the size of the [Brussels] region,” the authors believe. This would hold wealthier Brussels citizens, who tend to live on the periphery of Brussels, “partly responsible for the city’s future,” they maintain. 

Extending the Brussels boundaries would oblige suburban city users “to contribute to the costs of the collective consumption that they benefit from in the city [and they would be compensated] with a vote in the matters that concern them in the city,” the authors assert. 

Another option could be the “preservation or even contraction of the [Brussels] region in order to create a really urban region,” the paper suggests. 

According to the authors, this could “enable redistribution from the Brussels suburbs to the Brussels region to be enforced […] through local taxes that are partly paid at the place of work instead of at the place of residence”. 

Kestelmoot and Loopmans are also concerned that many young people in Brussels are “poor, receive insufficient schooling, are not able to find work and live in impoverished conditions”. 

The paper argues that everyone should receive “sufficient chances for personal development and for climbing up the social ladder” and that “training, employment and housing are the key sectors” that need most attention. 

Kestelmoot and Loopmans urge Brussels politicians to focus more on the “quality of jobs” rather than the number of jobs that are created, as well as to invest in the “affordability of housing”. 

Gentrification “should be the basis of a redistributive policy on a regional level,” they insist. 

Ensuring equal opportunities for all citizens is “essential for guaranteeing the openness of Brussels in the future,” Kesteloot and Loopmans conclude. 

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