Young families leaving town for suburbs
The number of young families leaving the city centre of Antwerp has slightly gone up in 2017. Last year almost 200 families, usually singles or couples with children of which the oldest is younger than six, left town. Also in Ghent they see a similar phenomenon: each year the city looses some 500 young children.
Houses too expensive
Most important reason for the exodus is the price for houses. Houses in the city centre are too expensive for young people and there are not enough houses to rent. “People in their twenties like the city but as soon as they start looking for a house they move to the suburbs”, says Sofie Bracke (Open Vld), Alderman for Civil Affairs in Ghent.
The same is happening in Antwerp. Another explanation is the lack of facilities like nurseries, youth movements, schools, sports centres and nature.
A remarkable phenomenon is that in Antwerp they used to talk about ‘the white city exodus’, meaning that the more citizens with exotic origins came to the city, the more the white people moved to the outskirts. “Today we see a ‘prosperity exodus'”, explains Antwerp mayor Bart De Wever’s spokesman (N-VA). “The higher people climb on the social scale, native or not native, the more they move to the suburbs.”
The people staying in the city are less affluent: students, young professionals and older people, returning to the city for social needs. “A situation we need to turn around, otherwise the city’s financial strength is in danger”, De Wever says.
Neighbouring suburbs cheaper
“A majority of people moves to the suburbs but they keep on working in the city or using the city’s facilities”, city planner De Decker (KU Leuven) explains. “Sometimes they just move to a neighbouring suburb because it’s cheaper over there, with the suburbs urbanizing and becoming more expensive as a result.”
Loosing a lot of inhabitants is a problem for a city because city’s revenues go down while the people who left, keep on using the city’s facilities.
According to city planners Eric Corijn (VUB) and Pascal De Decker it would be better to unite all suburbs in one bigger metropolitan district to collect taxes. “it would improve urban solidarity whether people live in the city centre or in one of the suburbs.” But this is a purely political matter. Most cities don’t want a fusion.
“Politicians want to keep up the idea of ‘city versus countryside'”, Corijn concludes. “But this idea doesn’t correspond with reality: some groups are moving from the city to the suburbs that in their turn are becoming more and more urban and more expensive.”