Brussels' tool-kit for the reactivation of unoccupied buildings
Underused buildings | Activating
Source: City of Brussels
Source: City of Brussels
Keywords: Abandoned Spaces | Culture and Heritage | City Planning | Housing


Brussels has developed a global strategy of actions with a gradual system of tools to first incite and then force the rehabilitation and reuse of vacant buildings. The strategy functions as a cascade. If the 1st tool has not the desired effect, the next one in the cascade will be applied till the reactivation and reuse of the building is achieved.



To incite and enforce the rehabilitation and reuse of vacant buildings Brussels has developed following gradual system of tools:

  • Tool 1: Incentive actions OR right of first option

To incentive the reuse Brussels offers different tools to help the owner with the occupation of their buildings (subsidies, consultations, mediation for temporary use, etc.). Another option for a well-defined perimeter and if accompanied by a valid argumentation is that authorities can have a right of first option to buy a building on sale.

If these incentive tools do not resolve the issue, repressive and financial tools are applied varying from relatively “light” to “severe”, defined by legal framework.

  • Tool 2: Tax fines & others

The municipality of Brussels has developed a tax on abandoned and unoccupied buildings/lands. This tax is charged according to running meters façade * the number of floors. It is due on yearly basis, for every past year of vacancy.

If the building/site is still problematic despite the municipal taxes, following measures are possible, either for protected buildings (tool 4.1) or a building that is intended for a residential development.

  • Tool for protected buildings

The city of Brussels can request the region of Brussels to deploy a regional fine for neglected heritage on top of the municipal tax. In addition the city of Brussels can go to court to force the owner to renovate the protected building.

  • Tool for residential buildings

The city of Brussels can request the region of Brussels to deploy a regional fine for unoccupied building on top of the city tax fine. In addition it can go to court to force the owner to renovate AND to resolve the vacancy of the building. Further options of the city are that the owner keeps the ownership of the building but is obliged to transfer the management to the city of Brussels. The city renovates the building and rents the property out to people in precarious living situations. The city can also apply at regional level for a subsidy to buy or expropriate an unoccupied building in order to create housing.



The application of the different tools depends strongly on the political support. The tools cannot be applied automatically. The tax fines and other tools need the approval of the city council.


City information

Population size: Above 1 m
Population development dynamics within the city administrative limits (at the time of the project): Growing
Population development dynamics of the functional urban area (at the time of the project): Growing
Website of the city:

Project information

Project territorial scale: Municipality (city/town/suburb)
Project geographical area: No data/not applicable
Project/building proportions: No data/not applicable; Project Area: No data/not applicable
Project main actors: City Government; Owners; Regional/provincial Government
Project dominant property ownership: Private
Project development stage (at the time of description): No data/not applicable
Project duration: No data/not applicable
Project starting date: No data/not applicable

Project references (web pages, social media or press publications)


Contact Person

City of Brussels, Strategies of Development Unit; Milena Vleminckx,