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Innovative Belgian funding scheme helps vulnerable homeowners renovate their houses

  • 20 September 2021

In Ghent, in Belgium’s Flemish Region, the ICCARus project is helping homeowners living in poor-quality housing who lack the means to renovate. ICCARus provides up to EUR 30 000 towards renovations per household. This amount – plus part of any increase in the value of the house – is only repaid when the house is alienated. The repayments finance new renovation projects. Residents do not supply financing themselves; rather a EUR 50 000 mortgage is taken out on each house as a guarantee.

‘The project uses an innovative recurring fund based on the principle of subsidy retention for the renovations. Unlike traditional grants, no pre-financing is expected. This allows families with limited financial resources to improve their living situation.’

Derkien De Baets, project manager, City of Ghent

So far, ICCARUS is aiming at making 100 houses safer, healthier and more energy efficient. Work includes installing triple or high-efficiency glazing, roof insulation or central heating, electrical upgrades, eliminating fire hazards and fitting new bathrooms and kitchens.

Homeowners receive guidance during the design and implementation phase, in which they play an active part. Experts help with technical, legal, social and administrative issues throughout the process.

Obstacles to renovation

Rates of home ownership in the Flemish Region are high, at over 70 %. However, around one-third of privately owned homes do not meet minimum safety, quality and energy-efficiency standards set by the region. The energy efficiency of Belgium’s housing stock is 72 % lower than the European average.

As the private rental market is small and as social housing waiting lists get longer, many people on low incomes have no choice but to buy a house in a poor state of repair. Although support tools like subsidies or tax-related incentives exist, renovations usually need to be finished and paid for before homeowners can access them. This is unaffordable for many households.

Furthermore, many residents feel embarrassed about their homes, which can lead them to withdraw from community life.

Diversity and inclusion

ICCARUS is a continuation of an experiment covering 10 houses that was launched in 2012 to find help solve Ghent’s lack of good, affordable housing. The project’s recurring fund allows public finance to be reused without increasing public debt, nor does it increase private debt, as beneficiaries can stay in their houses for the rest of their lives if they wish.

After the renovations, advisors help the homeowners apply for additional grants estimated at EUR 6 800 per house. The project is set to continue in Ghent until at least 2026, with a further 200 houses expected to be renovated in that time. For every 20 repayments made, a new series of renovations can be launched.


“Gent knapt op (ICCARUS) will make the upkeep of my house easier. I’m finally not cold anymore. The comfortable heat in my house encourages me to start organising things again. I’m looking forward to new windows and having my house flooded with light!”

– Project beneficiary who asked to remain anonymous

“I live in a nice neighbourhood, but the façade of my house is in a bad state. I noticed that it bothered the neighbours. That had an impact on me and made social interaction more difficult. After the summer my façade will be renovated. The prospect of seeing this problem solved gives me peace of mind.”

– Project beneficiary who asked to remain anonymous

Total investment and EU funding

Total investment for the project “ICCARus (Gent knapt op)” is EUR 4 799 546, with the EU’s European Regional Development Fund contributing EUR 4 799 546 through the “Urban Innovative Actions” initiative for the 2014-2020 programming period.