Second residents in Belgium : how many are we actually with?

As far as we know, nobody knows the number of second homes in Belgium. For the Flemish Region, the Study Service of the Flemish Government mapped out the number of second homes in the Flemish Region for the last time in 2016. The study distinguishes between second homes in private camping sites and holiday parks, and second homes in open residential zones (houses and apartments).

The authors of the study counted for the first category (second stays in campsites, etc.) in the whole of Flanders 53.262 second stays or (at that time) or 1.7% of all residences. The highest number of second homes in residential parks was of course found on the coast and more specifically in Middelkerke, De Haan and Bredene, where between 6.000 and 7.000 second homes of this type were counted. This was followed by Koksijde with more than 2.000 of these second residences. Nieuwpoort, Knokke-Heist and De Panne followed with between 700 and 735. Eight non-coastal municipalities also had between 700 and 1.000 second homes on holiday parks, namely Kasterlee, Lille, Berlare, Herselt and Lanaken, Bocholt, Stekene and Maaseik.

For the second category – second residences in ordinary buildings, i.e. houses and apartments – the authors counted (after numerous corrections, e.g. to exclude student rooms)161.647 second residences in absolute figures for the entire Flemish Region. At 18.000, Knokke-Heist had the highest number of second homes in ordinary buildings, i.e. houses or apartments. Also in Koksijde and Middelkerke the 2016 study counted about 12.000 “ordinary” second homes, in Ostend more than 10,000. In the other coastal municipalities their number fluctuated between 5.700 and 7.600. At that time Bredene was just out of the top fifteen with 1.056 second homes in ordinary buildings. In addition to the coast, the authors also discovered large absolute numbers of second homes in a few cities: Antwerp came top with almost 18.000; Ghent, Bruges, Kortrijk, Hasselt and Mechelen followed with between 2.400 and 6.000 second residences. The fact that these cities are on this list is partly due to the fact that people living in Antwerp or other Flemish cities register their domicile in Knokke-Heist or another coastal municipality (e.g. incited by the favourable local tax regime for “official” permanent residents).

For the complete study (in Dutch): click here. We do not know whether a similar study has ever been carried out for the Walloon or Brussels Capital Region.

Barometer of the second residence: interesting figures but take them with a grain of salt.

BNP Paribas Fortis Bank regularly reveals the figures of its “second home barometer”. The 4th and last barometer refers to 2019. The figures relate to second homes bought by Belgians and located in Belgium and abroad. However, the figures also include second homes purchased for rental purposes (including student rooms in university towns, for example). Click here for a presentation of the barometer.