Housing shortage: deal-breaker or question of expectations?

General manager of relocation company LuxRelo, Stéphane Compain Jan Hanrion/Maison Moderne

General manager of relocation company LuxRelo, Stéphane Compain Jan Hanrion/Maison Moderne

One of the most common difficulties Delano hears of when talking to business decision makers in Luxembourg is the issue of recruitment, how to get the best talent to come to Luxembourg.  Among the most commonly-cited reasons for this difficulty is the lack of affordable housing to buy or rent, with some CEOs claiming it can be a deal-breaker.

In order to see just how much this issue is impacting recruitment in Luxembourg, Delano talked to Stéphane Compain, general manager of the relocation company Luxrelo and Emilie Bavant, senior recruitment consultant at Badenoch and Clark Luxembourg.

In Stéphane Compain’s view, “Accommodation is not really an issue, but managing people’s expectations is.”  In his experience there is always a solution if new people coming to Luxembourg have a realistic view of what the country is like.

“For example, they need to know that property in Luxembourg moves very quickly, often going on the market and being sold or rented in as little as 24 hours. However, if people are prepared to compromise on price, location and size we can always find them a home. Perhaps not the brand new, high-end apartment they have been dreaming of, but why not an older property that has been renovated to a good standard?”

This requires that employers in Luxembourg provide potential new recruits with relevant local knowledge of the grand duchy. “We have found lack of knowledge of Luxembourg to be a huge problem that leads to unrealistic expectations.  Companies cannot expect to bring people here from abroad and then just leave them to fend for themselves.”

Badenoch and Clark, however, has had a different experience. According to Emilie Bavant, “Yes housing is an issue.  In fact, in some cases it can be a deal-breaker. It often means that companies need to consider offering new employees a higher salary, which not all them can or will do, although for niche roles, they sometimes do not have the choice.”

In her experience, when rents are too high, what happens is that people look to neighbouring countries like France or Belgium, to find cheaper accommodation, which then leads to increased cross-border travel, placing even more strain on the already over-burdened roads network.

Sometimes, however, “People just want to live in Luxembourg and accept that this means higher rents, which they trade-off against living closer to work and spending less time commuting.”

“But we have heard stories of people who have had horrendous experiences with landlords in Luxembourg, who seek to take advantage of the high demand for housing. Although it is true that the quality of property in Luxembourg is usually of a high standard, it still does not justify the rent charged, which can often be as much as 50% more than in France, for example.”

For Bavant, the solution lies in the hands of the politicians.  “If they want more people to come here, they are going to have to do something about this situation.  Perhaps a cap on rents or stricter rules for landlords?  Perhaps even a help-to-rent scheme as, currently, there is much more assistance available to buy.”