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Buying in Knokke will require you to be domiciled there

The new measure is scheduled for 2022 and will affect several districts of the famous Belgian seaside resort.

Max HELLEFF

Max HELLEFF

The new measure is scheduled for 2022 and will affect several districts of the famous Belgian seaside resort.

From our correspondent Max HELLEFF (Brussels) – Léopold Lippens is no more. On February 19, the emblematic mayor of Knokke-Heist (West Flanders) breathed his last on the eve of his 80th birthday. The man “reigned” since 1979 on his commune. He was known for his Belgian earthiness, his outings against day tourists guilty of brinquebaler a fridge-box (“frigoboxtouristen”) and for the ban on walking topless or in bikini outside the beach and the dike. Lippens wanted Knokke to be select and those who had property there could only rejoice. He also had every interest in seeing that the real estate in his town was doing well and sold at a high price.

His successor does not have the same conception of communal life. For his first interview in the national press, Piet De Groote declared “wanting to oblige the owners of housing located in the old districts to reside here …” He fears that all the goods purchased will become second homes, lively in the summer but dead in winter. Now in Knokke, “today, 21,000 of our 39,000 homes are second homes”.

The covid would accentuate this phenomenon, with an upward effect on prices which have already increased by 21% over the past five years. In 2020, you had to spend an average of 564,033 euros to buy a property. However, containment increases demand with the stubbornness of pandemic waves. Knokke, its beaches and the silvery light of the North Sea provide an ideal setting for those who want to resist the gloom.

However, those who are already owners should not panic. Domiciliation will only be required from future buyers and only in certain districts. Several thousand homes are nonetheless affected, with the hope that the obligation to reside there will eliminate investors for the benefit of locals. Social diversity depends on it.

Before the Council of State

The mayor Piet De Groote further explains that he launched the process “hoping to be able to apply the measure next year”. Note: the rule will not apply to Zoute and its luxury real estate. “In the tourist area, everyone can do what they want.”

Under Belgian law, it is compulsory to be domiciled in the place where you actually live, which guarantees a certain number of rights but on the other hand implies taxes and obligations. Newspapers Echo and From Tijd who published the interview with mayor De Groote therefore wonder if the new measure is legally acceptable. The intention is laudable, but I fear that this project will not pass the ramp of the Council of State ”, answers Steve Ronse, professor of real estate law at the University of Louvain.

“It seems difficult from the point of view of property rights.” Response from the lawyer for Knokke-Heist: the future device is “not obvious, but defensible”. “The Council of State has already accepted in two opinions that a public authority imposes this obligation of main residence to meet a social need,” he adds.

Leopold Lippens was betting on a chic and expensive clientele to enhance the standing of his town and make his real estate prosper. Today, professionals in the sector fear that the arrival of less fortunate owners will lower prices in areas subject to the domiciliation obligation. “It is a cut in the wallet of those who have invested here,” said one of them in the business press.


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