“Anyone who knows Claude Meisch knows that he’s the right person in the right place!” After closing his last cabinet meeting “with a twinge of regret,” the outgoing prime minister, Xavier Bettel, paid a heartfelt tribute to his “former” minister for education, higher education and research. “Today, Claude Meisch brings together housing and spatial planning, which were the responsibility of two ministers in the previous coalition,” he said. “Housing is one of this government’s priorities.”
The new housing minister has energy and ideas, Meisch confirmed a few seconds later.
Is it a big challenge, housing and spatial planning, in addition to national education, children and youth?
Claude Meisch: It’s a challenge! For the whole government, not just the minister for housing. For all the players. We have to work together to get things done. There are skills within the housing ministry, there are others in the ministry of finance, the ministry of home affairs or among other ministerial colleagues. There will be a great deal of collaboration within the government to ensure that, in the medium term, everyone in our country will once again be able to find accommodation at a reasonable price.
This is important from a social point of view, but also from the point of view of economic development, in order to maintain a certain attractiveness and to attract people to work in Luxembourg. It’s a very important dimension of social cohesion.
I am minister for education and minister for housing. I’m the father of three children. When I talk to other parents, they have two concerns in Luxembourg. First, that their children should be able to benefit from a good education, to have a good diploma so that they can succeed in life. And secondly, housing. Being able to buy a home. That’s a priority for all families. It’s more or less the same battle on both sides.
How are you going to tackle it? Are you going to go back on decisions taken by the previous coalition, to which you belonged? The whole market is waiting for the government to bring all the players together.
There are two important things. The housing market has very acute problems at the moment, with rising interest rates, delivery problems... which have eased a little... The government needs to launch an immediate package to support the property and construction sector and keep our productive capacity to build, which will be very important.
On the other hand, as the programme states, we will be moving towards a model that requires even greater investment in social, affordable and public housing, managed by the state or public bodies, to give us the capacity to pursue a real housing policy. This will be the priority! Strong action in the short term...
How much is the package?
We can discuss this with my colleagues. It won’t be a package from the ministry of housing. We’ll be looking mainly at taxation... of acquisitions. To give a very strong impetus. To invest now. Both for people who want to live in these homes and for people who are looking for an investment with an attractive rate of return.
What do you need to do all this? Bills?
What’s the timeline?
We’ll see. First, we’ll be sworn in. Then there will be the handover of powers. After that, we will commit ourselves from the outset to pursuing a policy that will relaunch and create a dynamic in the housing and construction market, but also a medium- and long-term policy so that we have the means to pursue this policy.
And how do you feel after these ten years and with this big new portfolio?
If one accepts a second portfolio like this... I gave up higher education and research, I’m taking on another, which, at least in terms of public importance, is crucial. If we don’t manage to revive this sector, we’ll have problems with competitiveness, social problems and so on. It’s a crucial issue for the future of our country. It’s a responsibility, but it shows that I still have energy and ideas.
This article was first published in French on Paperjam. It has been translated and edited for Delano.