Esch passes controversial development plan

The Esch-sur-Alzette council passed the controversial new development plan on 5 February Esch-sur-Alzette

The Esch-sur-Alzette council passed the controversial new development plan on 5 February Esch-sur-Alzette

Esch-sur-Alzette’s town council passed a controversial general development plan (PAG), which critics say will make flatshares and alternative forms of living impossible in Luxembourg’s second city. 

The PAG limits renting properties to so-called “domestic communities”, who must share a common budget. Although flatshares are mentioned in the PAG, they are only possible under a joint lease and home insurance as well as numerous other restrictions on the size of common areas and individual rooms.

An initiative so save co-housing in Esch in a press release said city officials were living in a dream world “where people live in a couple, or a family. We’re far from reality; many people don’t have access or would like to live differently.”

The new measures would make it nearly impossible for a flatshare to comply or raise rent for individual tenants by decreasing the number of people who can share a space, the group said.

Opposition members on the council criticised the PAG rules. “People who rely on these flats are being pushed out,” said Line Wies (déi Lénk) during a debate on 5 February.

Former Esch mayor Vera Spautz (LSAP) said the PAG made it impossible for students to form flatshares, and this despite the city being home to Luxembourg’s university. “You’re closing another door, and I think this is awful, for refugees,” Spautz said.

Mayor Georges Mischo (CSV) previously defended the new rules, saying they served to curb landlords cashing in on poorly maintained rooms, improve safety, and also help protect spaces for families who want to move to the city.

Mischo has argued that owners make more money off of renting out bedrooms in houses separately causing young families to lose out.

The mayor during the council meeting said he had recently authorised 50 flatshares for 250 people in total.

The PAG was adopted on 5 February with the votes by the CSV, the DP and déi Gréng.

A vote on the document had been delayed after protests in 2020.

An initial draft of the PAG had foreseen to limit co-living to family members or people sharing an “emotional bond”. The issue made headlines after a University of Luxembourg professor posted a letter online showing that a doctoral student had been refused to register at her new address because she would be sharing a home with people she wasn’t related to.

Interior minister Taina Bofferding and housing minister Henri Kox last year that the PAG wasn’t a tool designed to regulate co-housing and threatened to take legal action should the text voted by the Esch council violate national law.

A bill to reform lease contracts also including requirements for owners and tenants of shared housing is currently making its way through parliament.